By BILL FOLEY
Central New York racing pioneers are disappearing, but one…Sam Carsta keeps on going.
For 72 years Sam Carsita has had a car on a local speedway in the Upstate New York area.
For the past several years he has been running his purple No. 30 Four-Cylinder at the Brewerton Speedway on Friday night, but there is much more to his story and there are still chapters that he needs to write.
Sam isn’t finished yet as he said, “I am 90-years-old and I haven’t stopped yet. I’m going to give it one more shot if we are able to go racing once again. I took a couple of years off as I was having difficulty with the radiation from cancer, but I’m not finished yet.”
The past couple of years cancer slowed him and he had a tough time not racing. Reflecting, he said, “It’s like your heart stopped with not being able to race. I have to get back out at least a few times.”
Sadly, the history of memories would fill a “War and Peace” size novel, but such is not the case with Sam.
His great grand daughter Stephanie Seeley explained, “His ability to have a (in depth) memory, was lost when he was around nine-years-old. He was working on the car with his dad in the garage and he had real bad carbon monoxide poisoning that has severely affected his memory.”
It all started on the asphalt at the Brewerton Speedway back in 1948 as Sam explained, “We were at Brewerton and I was the mechanic on the car. I use to warm it up. I had helped Bill Jennings build a car and he let me race it.”
Over the years he has raced at the Waterloo Fairgrounds, Weedsport, Lafayette, Oswego, Brewerton, Fulton, Utica-Rome and Oswego.
He’s run Flatheads, Late Models, Modifieds, Four-Cylinders and even Supermodifieds.
He started out on the asphalt and said jokingly, “I liked it better because it ain’t as dirty.”
Bill March had a sleek looking No. 37 Supermodified and ran at Oswego with Sam behind the wheel.
It was there where he had his biggest thrill and explained, “One of my best moments in racing was at Oswego. We won our heat and semi. In the feature, which was 75 laps long, we led for 73 laps and then lost our tires and fell back to third for my best finish ever.”
Nearly 500 drivers have competed in the Oswego International Classic and Sam ranks around 218 in the all time points list. Therefore he obviously had a level of success.
Many don’t realize that Sam had won numerous races and championships. In Oswego Speedway 50th Anniversary stats Carista ranked overall 47th in points among the 502 drivers who have competed there.
Sam also was in a pretty unique situation at Oswego as his son Ed, now 68 years of age, had two cars.
Sam said, “My son Eddie and I started together at Oswego and we were the first father and son to race there.”
And it was there that the two purple cars made their weekly appearance.
Family is important to Sam and not only on the track, but influencing his racing decisions.
Everyone knows that as unique shade of purple was present on his No. 30.
He noted, “My wife had a favorite color and it was purple and I had the number 30 because it was the number which was open at Weedsport when I started driving. Also I was born in 1930.”
Father and son combinations aren’t common, but the Carista racing tree blossoms much larger.
Sam explained, “I ran against my son-in-law Jerry Curcie Jr., my grandson Jerry Curcie Jr., my son Bill Carista as well as my other grandson Sam Carista, my great grand daughter Stephanie Seeley and my great grandson Dylan Curcie. I like racing against them and hopefully we can all do it again.”
Continuing he talked about his favorite moments and Sam said, “I had the most fun racing against my family and beating them all the time.”
Asked about drivers he raced against, Sam said, “I enjoyed racing against them all because they were good, clear drivers and I could race with them. There wasn’t anyone I didn’t enjoy racing against.”
Over the years Sam mentioned he has forgotten quite a bit about his racing career and even though there were problems when he was very young, there was an accident that might have added to his situation.
One of his hardest hits came at Fulton in a Sportsman. He had broken and spun. In those days guys bailed out of the car and as he was climbing out of the car. Another car came upon the sitting duck disabled car and hit it full bore. Unbuckled, Sam was thrown out of the back window of the car and was launched several feet into the air before his body slammed into the asphalt.
It might have been that type of situation that erased part of his memory of racing, and though he would like to remember everything that happened in his career, it simply isn’t possible.
However, he did say, “Yeah, I won a lot in Flatheads. I was track champion at Fulton at one time and second at Fulton and Brewerton three years in a row. Usually Jackie Naum was first.”
So as the 2021 season approaches there is hope that Sam Carista will get a least one more opportunity to go racing against his family.
Pioneers usually by the time they are 90 have long put away the helmet and firesuit, but Sam Carista is just one of those unique people.
He is a Central New York racing treasure and should be recognized for his dedication and the family involvement in the sport for over seven decades.