Racing community shaken by death of Hagerstown driver at Summit Point

November 14, 2008|By DAVE McMILLION and HEATHER KEELS

o Obituary

SUMMIT POINT, W.Va. -- Racing and flight enthusiasts packed the Douglas A. Fiery Funeral Home Thursday to say goodbye to a Hagerstown pilot and track instructor whose car crashed into a wall in a turn at Summit Point Raceway on Sunday.

Cale Mortensen Kastanek, 28, of 14262 Shelby Circle, died the day after the crash.

A racing official said Thursday it still was unclear what caused the crash. The National Auto Sport Association, which conducted the race, normally looks into those types of crashes, but sometimes it is difficult to arrive at a cause, said Chris Cobetto, regional director of the National Auto Sport Association.

The turn where Kastanek wrecked his two-seat Honda S2000 was at the end of a straightaway on the original Summit Point track, said Maria Orsini, director of operations at the track.


Medical crews stationed at the track immediately responded to the crash site, and a medical helicopter flew Kastanek directly to INOVA Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church, Va., where he died Monday, according to Orsini and other sources.

Orsini or Cobetto said they did not know how fast Kastanek was traveling when the crash occurred.

Kastanek was competing in a time trial event, meaning that participants were "not racing wheel to wheel," but were being judged on their best lap time, Orsini said. In the event, racers were given a specific amount of time to complete as many laps as they wanted, Orsini said.

"Of course, we're all saddened here," said Orsini, adding that the crash had shaken the racing community in general.

Kastanek was described Thursday as an experienced racer who also worked as an instructor to train people on how to control cars at high speeds.

"It was a freak accident," said longtime friend Dan Gielas, 27, of Los Angeles, who said Kastanek didn't take shortcuts with safety and paid good money for the right safety equipment.

Gielas, who also is a racer, said he probably would take a closer look at his own equipment before he gets back behind the wheel, and might invest in a head-and-neck restraint system.

Mani Alalasundaram, 35, of Baltimore, who described himself as a "friend, fan and protégé" of Kastanek, said while some drivers might be discouraged from racing by the accident, it made him want to stick with it even harder.

"I want to carry on his legacy," Alalasundaram said.

A native of Illinois, Kastanek worked for ING Direct, Rider Jet Center and UIltimate Jet Charters. He also was an airline transport pilot and flight instructor.

David Rider, owner of Rider Jet Center in Hagerstown, said he had known Kastanek for 11 years, ever since he had been the college roommate of Rider's son, Ben.

"He worked for me since 2002, when he came here to help with flight instruction," Rider said. Ben Rider manages his father's business in Hagerstown.

Although neither David nor Ben Rider were present during the weekend car racing events at Summit Point, they learned about what happened within 15 minutes.

"We immediately went to Fairfax Hospital," David Rider said. "There were about 20 family members and friends there."

David Rider said he understood that Kastanek won the championship event at the track on Saturday. The accident that took his life occurred during a time trial Sunday afternoon.

Gielas said he had heard that after winning the Saturday event, Kastanek was jumping up and down and pumping his fists.

"He was super happy," Gielas said.

In events such as Sunday's race, the National Auto Sport Association leases the track to conduct the event, Orsini said.

The organization holds four events at the track each year, Orsini said.

Kastanek's obituary, which ran in Thursday's edition of The Herald-Mail, noted that as an organ donor, he helped more than 50 people.

-- Staff writer Marlo Barnhart contributed to this story.

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