Mike Modeste works nearly nonstop as a Ford technician at Manhattan Auto Sports during the day at pace nearly as hectic as the New York sidewalk scene outside. But he doesn't get much of break after he gets home from work, either.
"Home" is the racing shop where the Brooklyn native torques and tunes the world's fastest ProCharger X275-class street-legal drag-racing car that Rich Bruder drives in competition up and down the East Coast. Together they just won a major race at Maryland's Cecil County Dragway for the second straight time and in the process earned their seventh consecutive victory.
With Rich's twin, Nick, helping prepare the car, Modeste and Bruder are eager to return Oct. 12-14 to The Shakedown Nationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park. They won the X275 trophy last year and said they hope to capture it again in this special 10th-anniversary season.
The team just might have an extra presence in the Drag Radial class. Modeste, the first African-American drag-racing champion with six National Street Car Association titles between 2000 and 2006, has been working on his own car. So he might wear two hats (and a helmet), as tuner for Bruder in the X275 class and driver in his own Ford Mustang in the Drag Radial class.
"I want to win it twice," Modeste said of The Shakedown, where he won in 2007. "It's the biggest thing in the fall to showcase our talents. Englishtown is one of the premier tracks in the country. It has the right altitude and great officials. Eddie Krawiec really knows how to prep the track. Even though he's on the NHRA tour, he still knows what the small-car tires need. Every class is growing in leaps and bounds [because of superior track preparation]."
Modeste was equally quick to credit Shakedown founder and promoter Dave Hance, who each fall for the past decade has made sure his New York Motorsports-orchestrated Shakedown Nationals -- formerly the "Shakedown at E-Town" -- has lived up to its billing as "a no-holds-barred feast of tire-shredding horsepower."
The versatile drag-racing driver and businessman has turned the Englishtown, N.J., heads-up racing showdown at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park into the Northeast's most dramatic, must-enter, high-horsepower, high-drama spectacle of speed and elapsed times. And this October he'll celebrate the 10th anniversary of his event that has gained worldwide attention.
"That's incredible," Modeste said. "There are organizations that haven't been around 10 years.
"Dave really puts his heart and soul into this race. He wants to make it bigger and bigger every year, and he does that. He adds different classes [that attract] racer from all over the country." Mentioning that drivers from Puerto Rico and Dubai have won at The Shakedown, he added, "It's really cool to see [The Shakedown's appeal] going abroad."
Florida-based Dominican Republic native Jose Gonzalez (aka "El General") and Puerto Rican racer Jorge Lazcano were 2012 Shakedown winners, respectively, in the Pro Modified Blown and Extreme Import classes. Dubai's Khalid al Balooshi, who races in the National Hot Rod Association's Top Fuel class now, was the 2010 Pro Nitrous Pro Modified winner. And drag-racing enthusiasts from around the globe follow The Shakedown Nationals on Face book (at www.facebook.com/ShakedownNationals) and online at www.ShakedownNationals.com.
"Another thing Dave does is look at the demographics of racing and how it has changed over the years," Modeste said. "Everything was quarter-mile. Now it has turned to the eighth-mile, primarily for the radial cars and the 10.5 cars. You still have your Pro Mods that go in the 5.80s [elapsed-time range] at 240 [mph]. The way small-tire race cars are going, the eighth-mile is cheaper on parts and it gives more of a competitive edge for all of the power-adders. You've got your nitrous, your supercharged, and your turbos. Going eight-mile gives everyone a chance.
"It happens so quick. It happens so fast," he said. If you get the rules right, you can have great parity within the classes. I think that's what drag racing is all about now. This whole industry is ever-changing, and Dave has embraced that."
He said Hance is not stuck in a single-formula presentation and that in his favor is his image as a "racer's promoter." Said Modeste, "You've got promoters out there who don't really race and just know how to promote, and that's all good. But sometimes you have to have a racer's mentality while you’re promoting. You need to know what the racers want and not just line your pockets. Dave is really good at knowing what the racers want and what the racers need. That's why he puts on a great race. His classes are always full."
Modeste will know soon if he's comfortable enough with his own car to compete at The Shakedown in the Drag Radial class, but at least he knows he's in for plenty of action with "the Bruder Brothers car." He said, "The one car is exciting. We've grown in leaps and bounds from last year. We're No. 1, and we've got the big bulls-eye on our back."
So Bruder will be back to try for a repeat victory and another $5,000 jackpot. The Pro Modified winner will earn $20,000, the Outlaw 10.5 winner will receive $10,000, and winners of the Top Sportsman, Limited Street, Heavy Street, X-275, 8.50 Index, Pro Import, and Pro Street Bike classes will pocket $5,000 each.
Tickets are available each day of the event at the Raceway Park box office.
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