The passing of Port Royal champion Eddie McCardle on March 18, 2015, brings back a feature story done for the Daily Item newspaper of Sunbury, Pa., back in 2009.  That story told the story of “Fast Eddie.”

By Shawn Brouse

For The Daily Item

 BEAVER SPRINGS – To say that 89-year old Eddie McCardle of Beaver Springs has seen and done a lot in his life would be an understatement.     But it is McCardle’s contribution to and involvement in area auto racing that he should be recognized for.

He graduated from the University of Southern Cal with a degree in aircraft structural engineering in 1939, fought the Germans in WWII, ran his own businesses, was married for 67-years and has lived to see Barack Obama be president.

It was in California during his college years that the Mifflin County native first got into the seat of a midget racer, and the legend that would become “Fast Eddie” was born.

Then came the bombing of Pearl Harbor and a four-year stint in the Navy in underwater demolition.

After the Navy, McCardle returned home to Burnham.

“I wanted something exciting to do and I knew about midgets and right away, I wanted to go racing,” McCardle says.

And so it was in the late 1940’s that McCardle and his brother Guy barnstormed around the East, midget racing at tracks in their home state like Philadelphia, Allentown, Langhorne, Ebensburg, Duncansville, Reedsville, Hatfield and Williams Grove. They hit Cleveland, Canfield and Akron, Oh.; Richmond and Winchester, Va.; Evansville, Ind.; and Trenton, Nj.

During those early days he met and raced against Mario Andretti and AJ Foyt.

But then, an injury and some intervention, that changed his course.

“It got to the point, you were living under the car, you might as well say. Then I broke my right leg and I had to take it easy and my wife was upset,” McCardle remembers of Rita.

“She wouldn’t go to the races. She didn’t like it. She wouldn’t even wash my dirty uniform when I come home – she says, ‘you’re gonna’ kill yourself.’”

“And I come out one day and there was a guy from New York and she sold him the car and the trailer and he left.”

“But my racing days weren’t over. I went to Ebensburg and one Sunday they had a stock car race and a guy said ‘hey, you wanna’ drive this,’ and I said, ‘yes,’ and I come home with $200 – my share. And I said, ‘I’m going stock car racing,’ and I got a 34 Ford out of the junkyard and put bracing in it and went racing for about $300 at the most,” says McCardle.

But the pressure to get out of racing remained, from both his wife and his parents.

He was forced to race under the assumed name of Jack McGurk for a time, trying to conceal his activities.

And from his parents who owned a service station and restaurant in Burnham, came an offer.

“My dad said he’d buy Port Royal and I could run it if I’d quit racing. We could have gotten it from the Agricultural Society for $25,000 but I didn’t want it.   That was a mistake. I shot myself in the foot. Dollar wise, we’d have made out like a bandit,” McCardle reveals.

It was during his first stock car days, between the 1949 and 1950 season that McCardle formed and ran the Penn Central Racing Association, an organization of racers formed to help promote and protect its racing and drivers, essentially a sanctioning body.

McCardle was president of Penn Central for several of those early years, during which time he piled up most of his victories in sanctioned races including 11 at Reedsville, five at Snow Shoe, two at Ebensburg and 14 at Port Royal, where he was track and Penn Central Champion in 1950, 1951 and in 1954. He also took a title at Reedsville.

“Fast Eddie” was helping to build what would become today’s sprint car division.

His favorite tracks were Williams Grove and Hatfield. He never had any success at Selinsgrove Speedway and admits he just never liked the track too much.

He quickly names Don Kimberling of Altoona, Carl Vogt of Lewistown and Pete Swarmer of Reedsville as his toughest competition over the years.

In 1954 McCardle raced with NASCAR during its formative years.

“I went to Darlington with NASCAR but I didn’t last long in that. When you’re young, it’s like Tony Stewart, they run anything that has wheels. And when you’re young you do that, you didn’t have the fear of Christ put in you yet. You’re foolish,” the veteran reflects.

McCardle drove locally for brothers Don and Marv Yetter of Beavertown and John Regester of Thompsontown, when he wasn’t fielding his own car.

It was in Yetter’s car that he had his most success and that he took his last ride, in 1958.

He was leading a 50-lapper with 30 down when under a caution McCardle was forced to wave Al Chamberlain by him, into the lead.   McCardle’s lungs were suffering from a Navy injury.

“I was losing my wind. I’d go into the first turn and my left hand would come off the steering wheel. That was it, I never got back in a car again.”

But that still wasn’t all the racing McCardle had in him.

After a fire that totally destroyed his garage, the Penn Central clubhouse and records and all his personal memorabilia, McCardle rebuilt.

In the early 1970’s, he and his father Ike purchased a country airstrip north of Beaver Springs and turned it into Beaver Springs Dragway, in the village of Benfer.

McCardle has long since retired and has turned operation of the strip over to his son Bob. He sold his automotive garage in Burnham and moved to the dragway.

Today, from his home just yards south of the lanes, he can still hear and feel the thrill of auto racing every weekend. And even at 89, he wouldn’t have it any other way.