Don Castro is an extraordinary dirt-tracker and roadracer who battled handlebar-to-handlebar with some of the greatest motorcycle racers of all time during the early 1970s, which was considered by many to be one of the greatest periods for dirt-track racing in the history of the sport.
Here are a dozen fun facts about Castro, who was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2010.
1. Born in 1949, Castro grew up in Hollister, Calif. When he was almost 16, he got a Honda 90 to get to work. But he began racing around town on it, drawing the attention of the police, who reported his shenanigans to his father.
2. His father made a deal with him to buy him a Triumph 500 if he would stop running around town on the Honda. So at the age of 16, Castro began racing in Sportsman TT races as well as competing in hillclimb.
3. At the age of 18, Castro transferred to the Expert Sportsman class. He turned pro novice in 1968, and then junior in 1969. That year he broke his leg at the Triumph factory while playing soccer with future AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famers Gary Nixon and Dick Mann.
4. In 1969, before breaking his leg, Castro was in the running for the title of Junior of the Year. That honor went to future AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famer Dave Aldana, who beat out Castro on points.
5. In 1970, Castro became a pro expert and got a Triumph factory ride. His first roadrace was at the famed Daytona track in Florida, where he finished third on a three-cylinder Triumph.
6. In 1971, Castro raced short track, TT, half-mile, mile and road races. He finished ninth that year aboard a Triumph.
7. In 1972, Castro was a privateer aboard Triumphs and had his van and equipment stolen. He asked K&N if the company had an extra bike he could ride. The company did so Castro rode for them the rest of the year.
8.1973 proved to be a good year for Castro. He got a factory contract with Yamaha, teaming with future AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famer Kenny Roberts. At the San Jose, Calif., half-mile during the time trials, five riders broke the old lap record. Roberts beat the record by a full half-second by turning a lap of 4:26:08. Hall of Famer Mark Brelsford turned a 4:26:43. Also coming in under the old record were Hall of Famers Cal Rayborn, Mert Lawwill and Gene Romero. Castro was the sixth fastest qualifier.
9. All but one of the 12 competitors in the 20-mile National final would be be future Hall of Famers: Kenny Roberts, Castro and Chuck Palmgren on Yamahas, Rex Beauchamp, Lawwill, Jim Rice and Brelsford on Harley-Davidsons, and Gary Scott, Mike Kidd, Eddie Mulder and Romero on Triumphs. Randy Scott was also on a Triumph.
10. Castro and Roberts took the lead at the start but Roberts was quickly sidelined on the first lap with ignition problems. Castro then held the lead from start to finish, unchallenged by any of the other racers.
11. In 1974, Castro earned another National win for Yamaha: the 250cc roadrace at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla., in a back-and-forth battle with teammate Roberts and Hall of Famer Gary Nixon. Castro finished fourth in the Daytona 200.
12. In 1975, Yamaha pulled out of racing and Castro teamed up with Hall of Fame tuner Erv Kanemoto to race Kawasakis. Castro says he got a hold of Kanemoto because he wanted to do the mile on a two-stroke. The 750 Kawasaki rode well but kept breaking the stator. Castro retired in 1976.