SUNDAY MORNING NOTEBOOK - WINNERS ARE CROWNED AT THE END OF A LONG DAY
It doesn't matter which side of the border he races on. Canadian Eric Latino is a winner.
The recently crowned PMRA champion and his Team Green hit the $20,000 Pro Modified jackpot Sunday at Englishtown, N.J.'s Old Bridge Township Raceway Park to cap the
10th edition of the SPEEDTECH Shakedown Nationals.
Latino, of Whitby, Ontario, plowed through a stout 32-car field and defeated Dwayne Wolfe with a 6.011-second, 243.24-mph pass in his '69 Camaro. Wolfe, of Moorefield, W.Va., gave him a 6.120, 231.64 in his '02 Firebird.
"But this time, it was the toughest field I've ever seen," Latino said. "I thought we were going to come here, hang out, and go home the first round. So it was pretty good to make it to the final."
He not only made it to the final round, but he won against a hungry Wolfe, the No. 16 qualifier who already had upset No. 1 qualifier and 2011 Shakedown champion Jose "El General" Gonzalez, then respected veteran racers Tim O'Hare and Gary Courtier.
In a loaded Pro Mod field, Todd Tutterow lost in the second round when he was timed out at the starting line. But he left his mark with a booming 262.49-mph speed from his opening-round victory over Sam Andracchi. That is considerably faster than the NHRA Pro Care Rx Pro Mod record that Melanie Troxel set here at Raceway Park in June 2011.
No one came close to the 5.738-second all-time E.T. mark that Scott Cannon Jr. set here in the 2008 Shakedown. Gonzalez came closest with a 5.785, which is just .013 of a second slower than Troxel's NHRA record from the 2011 Supernationals at Englishtown.
Joining him in the winners circle were Rob Wells (Largo, Fla.) in the Outlaw 10.5 class,
Wayne Horton (Smithfield, R.I.) in Top Sportsman, Scotty Guadagno (Brooklyn, N.Y.) in Limited Street, and Jeremy Teasley (Columbus, Ohio) in Pro Street Bike.
Those five classes crowned their champions as The Shakedown Nationals ran past the neighborhood noise curfew by about an hour. Then this milestone street-legal drag-racing classic that has grown exponentially in size and prestige since 2002 had to shut the engines off, with four classes left incomplete.
Unfinished were the X275, Heavy Street, 8.50 Index, and Pro Import classes. The finalists in each category agreed to split their respective $5,000 winners shares of the purses.
Left waiting were red-hot X275 driver Rich Bruder (Edison, N.J.) and his opponent Sean Ashe (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) in an all-Mustang final. Mitch George, the 2009 Heavy Street winner, was bidding for a second Shakedown trophy, against fellow Chevy driver Tony Presto (Oakville, Ontario, Canada).
Joe Albrecht (Bellmore, N.Y.) and Billy Moran Jr. (Hopelawn, N.J.) were set to go for the victory in the 8.50 Index class. In the Pro Import class, the final was set with Jorge Juarbe (Gurabo, Puerto Rico) and Jesus Melendez-Torr.
In accepting his $10,000 payout for the Outlaw 10.5 victory, Ron Wells called his turbo-powered '07 Mustang "a frickin' fickle piece." But the silver beauty behaved pretty much like he wanted it to and turned in a winning performance of 4.150 seconds, 189.20 mph.
Still, Wells didn't give the car all the credit. "We worked our butts off," he said of himself and his Florida-based team
Runner-up Charlie Dolbin (Quarryville, Pa.), driver of the '05 Mustang that's billed as the world's fastest nitrous-aided 10.5 car, didn't get the hefty check, but he probably felt like he had won, in a sense. He was the No. 31 qualifier going against the No. 4 starter in the final round, and he clocked a 5.557, 95.11 against Wells.
"We threw everything at it this morning," Dolbin said, reciting all the changes he made to his car.
Outlaw 10.5 legend Tim Lynch, the three-time Shakedown winner and this year's No. 1 qualifier, missed out on his chance to capture one more trophy in this return after a year's hiatus. Harry Jarvis, in his '69 Camaro, scored one of the weekend's biggest upsets with a 4.308-second, 180.91-mph pass. Lynch's Corvette ZR1 lost traction at about half-track.
Limited Street winner Scotty Guadagno used a 4.604-second elapsed time at 162.49 mph in his '02 Camaro to defeat Ray Royer Jr. (Bedford, Ohio). The '85 Camaro driver responded with a 4.690, 165.90.
"It came with a bunch of luck. We didn't run all that well," Guadagno said. "But we came to the final. I was hoping the curfew would hold up." Referring to Shakedown founder and promoter Dave Hance, he said, "I don't know what it [the curfew-violation fine] cost him, but I'll bet it cost him a lot."
The Limited Street class' top qualifier, Frank Soldridge, lost his quarterfinal match as he left late against No. 9 starter Scott Bitzer. But he wowed the crowd in his '04 Ford with a huge wheelstand early in the run.
The turbo-powered Pro Street Bike final went to Teasley, a 21-year-old with nerves of steel and a pink Suzuki he nicknamed "Rizzo." With a 6.970-second E.T. and 212.66-mph speed, he knocked off No. 1 qualifier Gladstone who rode his Suzuki to a 7.141, 211.06 showing.
Teasley posted the class' quickest and fastest run of the weekend in his 6.971-second, 212.23-mph semifinal victory over Danny Cox. That was the first sub-seven-second bike pass of the event. He repeated the 6.9, 212 performance in the final.
In front of Saturday and Sunday crowds that Hance said appeared to be the best in the race's 10-year history, 252 drivers competed.
SHAKEDOWN NATIONALS RESULTS:
Pro Modified - Eric Latino (Whitby, Ontario, Canada), '69 Camaro, 6.011 seconds, 243.24 mph def. Dwayne Wolfe (Moorefield, W.Va.), '02 Firebird, 6.120, 231.64
Outlaw 10.5 - Rob Wells (Largo, Fla.), '07 Mustang, 4.150 seconds, 189.20 mph def. Charlie Dolbin (Quarryville, Pa.), '05 Mustang, 5.557, 95.11
X275 - Last round completed: Semifinal. Sean Ashe (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.), '85 Mustang v. Rich Bruder (Edison, N.J.), '88 Mustang. They will split the purse.
Top Sportsman - Wayne Horton (Smithfield, R.I.), '98 Cutlass, 4.662 seconds, 145.17 mph def. Alan Prusiensky (Rockaway, N.J.), '07 Stratus, 4.489, 163.41
Limited Street - Scotty Guadagno (Brooklyn, N.Y.), '02 Camaro, 4.604 seconds, 162.49 mph def. Ray Royer Jr. (Bedford, Ohio), '85 Camaro, 4.690, 165.90
Heavy Street - Last round completed: Semifinal. Tony Presto (Oakville, Ontario, Canada), '67 Chevy II v. Mitch George (Hopatcong, N.J.), '84 Monte Carlo. They will split the purse.
8.50 Index - Last round completed: Semifinal. Joe Albrecht (Bellmore, N.Y.), Monte Carlo v. Billy Moran Jr. (Hopelawn, N.J.), '74 Vega. They will split the purse.
Pro Import - Last round completed: Semifinal. Jorge Juarbe (Gurabo, Puerto Rico) v. Jesus Melendez-Torr. They will split the purse.
Pro Street Bike - Jeremy Teasley (Columbus, Ohio), Suzuki, 6.970 seconds, 212.66 mph def. Joey Gladstone (Townsend, Del.), Suzuki , 7.141, 211.06.
WHO'S REPLACING FREY? - Lewis Bloom, "Stat Man" to Mike Dunn and Paul Page with the NHRA's ESPN2 broadcast, returned to the public-address announcing booth Saturday at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park during The Shakedown Nationals.
Of course, talk turned from the fact Bloom began his announcing career at Englishtown, N.J., to who is going to replace Bob Frey as lead announcer when the NHRA's Mello Yello era kicks off next February at the Winternationals at Pomona, Calif.
Shakedown P.A. announcer Al Tucci asked Bloom, "You probably know, but you won't tell, right?"
Bloom replied, "It's pretty obvious if you're paying attention."
That would mean longtime NHRA national-event announcer, Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series authority, and radio personality Alan Reinhart would get the nod. However, Joe Castello of WFO Radio has provided some on-mike work at several Full Throttle Drag Racing Series races this season.
Despite his comment, Bloom clarified that his remarks were his own, and he vowed that he has not heard any official decision about Frey's replacement.
He did say he's not in the mix of candidates.
"I want to see the cars go down the track. That's why I love drag racing. That's why I love my job," Bloom said.
The NHRA has neither named a replacement nor indicated when it will make that announcement.
Final eliminations got under way just after noon.
SATURDAY NOTEBOOK - LONG DAY AT THE TRACK BUT WORTH IT IN THE END
THE COMPUTER GLITCH - Jose Gonzalez (Pro Modified), Tim Lynch (Outlaw 10.5), Roger Sterling (Heavy Street), Jorge Juarbe (Pro Import), and Joey Gladstone (Pro Street Bike) will lead their fields in eliminations Sunday for the SPEEDTECH Corp. Shakedown Nationals at Englishtown, N.J.
The area's noise curfew forced the remainder of time trials into an early Sunday program that will preface eliminations at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park.
The 8.50 Index class will open Sunday's action with its final qualifier at 8 a.m. Three other classes -- in order the X275, Limited Street, and Top Sportsman -- will follow to complete qualifying.
Eliminations for the 10th anniversary edition of this outlaw, street-legal drag racing classic will begin after that.
Saturday afternoon's racing came to an abrupt halt for about six hours because of a mysterious and massive computer / electronics failure. Event and racetrack officials worked feverishly to restore power, and they restored power in the tower control room and on the track with a cooperative gesture from "neighbor" track Atco Raceway in South Jersey.
As officials scrambled to assess then fix the computer problem, they identified a part to the motherboard that needed replacement. Raceway Park co-owner Alex Napp took advantage of the small-plane airport next door to Raceway Park and flew to Atco, near Philadelphia, where Atco Raceway operator Joe Sway gave him the part he needed.
Racing resumed just before 6 p.m.
Lynch added to his Shakedown legend, setting the first 4.0-second pass in the Outlaw 10.5 class.
In the first Top Sportsman session in the history of this event, ADRL regular Chuck Mohn's 4.153-second elapsed time in his Camaro as quickest, while William Ahlas had fastest speed at 172.41mph in his '63 Corvette.
Roger Sterling staked an early claim to the top qualifying spot in the Heavy Street category at 4.387 seconds but crashed later in the evening and likely will not b able to compete Sunday. Thomas Haase took over the 8.50 Index lead Saturday morning.
The Pro Modified class ran several pairs before the system shut down entirely. When action resumed, a pair of California drivers -- Mike Maggio and Scott Oksas -- kicked off the remainder of the Pro Modified runs.
But the delays weren't over Saturday. The Christmas Tree experienced a glitch of some kind, and track-prep specialist Eddie Krawiec walked over and literally slapped the electronic starting device to get it to work.
Once the racing started to develop a rhythm, John Stanley's engine blew up and littered the track with debris, causing another lengthy delay. His incident came during an exhibition run against fellow ADRL Pro Extreme rival Chris Russo.
NO. 1 OPPORTUITY LOST - Heavy Street's Sterling likely squandered his chance to lead the field in Sunday's qualifying in a wickedly hard accident at the end of the quarter-mile course. With the clock reflecting a 164-mph speed, Sterling, of Sykesville, Md., got loose and his '06 GTO T-boned the left wall. He appeared to be unhurt, as he exited the car and walked away from the crash. His 4.387 from the morning session held up as the quickest in the class, but it's uncertain whether he'll be able to answer the bell against No. 16 Adam Cohen for the opening round of eliminations.
ATTENTION! - "El General" is in charge. Jose Gonzalez, known in the street-legal drag-racing ranks as "El General," leads the Pro Modified class that competitor Bill Lutz called "by far the best assembled field of Pro Mods in the country." At last year's Shakedown, when the class divided into the Nitrous and Blown factions, the Opa-Locka, Florida-based Gonzalez won in Blown and New York's Mike Castellana was the Nitrous winner. In Saturday qualifying, "El General" was the lone racer to run in the 5.7-second range. He registered a 5.785-second E.T. in his '69 Camaro, and his closest competitor was Californian Mike Maggio, of San Dimas, with a 5.847. Top speed honors went to Todd Tutterow at 253.37 mph in his '70 Plymouth Duster.
The second session didn't go as well as the first for Gonzalez, but he kept his lead. His crew -- including luminaries such as Steve Petty, Eric Dillard, and Tim Lynch -- saw something wrong before the run and had Gonzalez shut off the car. They pushed the Camaro from the starting line and took it back to the pits without the benefit of another run.
HANCE HIT TWICE - As if Shakedown founder/promoter Dave Hance weren't having a trying day already, he had concerns with his New York Motorsports '57 Chevy as it lined up in the left lane. It made a hard move to the right, killing his chances to qualify any higher than 25th on the provisional grid. He had a 11.769-second, 64.36-mph showing.
SOLDRIDGE SOLDIERS ON - Frank Soldridge's 4.279-second run at 185.13 mph that gave him provisional Limited Street class top-qualifying honors continued the Team ProTorque driver's roll. He won two Drag Radial finals at Maryland's Cecil County Drag way since August and more recently was runner-up to Kyle Heutell at Valdosta, Ga., at the No Mercy III Radial Vs The World. Soldridge is a drag-racing veteran from New Tripoli, Pa..
CAR COUNT SET RECORD - The 61-car count in the 8.50 Index category is the largest in the 10-year history of The Shakedown. And because of the unusually long interruption in Saturday qualifying, these drivers will have a extra round of time trials Sunday morning, starting at 9 o'clock.
LYNCH SHINES AGAIN - With the Outlaw 10.5 world eagerly awaiting the first three-second pass in the eighth-mile, Shakedown legend Tim Lynch teased with a still-sparkling class- and Shakedown-record 4.02-second elapsed time at 192.96 mph. With that, he rocketed to the provisional No. 1 position in the opening session for the class Saturday. It marked his triumphant return to Raceway Park after a year's absence.
The 4.02-second time lasted through the second session. But the biggest surprise of the class was veteran Craig Pio's leap from No. 24 in the order to No. 2 with a 4.079-second blast.
Anthony DiSomma, from nearby Bound Brook, N.J., impressed in the opening session with the top speed of 193.88 mph.
Lynch missed the 2011 Shakedown because of an accident at a previous event, opening the door for Larry Wood, who had taken a back seat while Lynch and the "Gil Mobley Militia" of Richie Sexton and Chuck Ulsch drew perennial raves with their gaudy numbers. Wood, who isn't entered this season, won that race.
"It definitely wasn't nearly as exciting watching last year," Lynch said, although he did admit, "I always liked to watch it, even when I was racing in it."
He promised to bring his turbocharged magic back to The Shakedown, certainly for this 10th anniversary edition of the race but also simply because it is The Shakedown.
"That's a milestone," he said. "I missed the very first one because I didn't know about it. And I made every one, except last year's. It'd be great to win at the 10th anniversary. The Shakedown is always our favorite race. It's a great racetrack. And Dave is a heck of a promoter." He was referring to New York Motorsports owner Dave Hance, founder and promoter of The Shakedown Nationals. "He always treats you right. As long as we have a car, we'll be there."
Lynch already had the reputation as the toughest driver to beat in all of outlaw drag racing, but his reputation boomed when he set performance records at The Shakedown at E-Town. He made his mark in 2004, as the first to cover the Raceway Park quarter-mile in less than seven seconds. Each year he added to his Shakedown legacy.
In 2007, he ignited a pre-race buzz with a Saturday afternoon warm-up pass of 6.57 seconds at 232 miles an hour. The following year he rewrote the E.T. record at 6.49 seconds. The 2009 Shakedown dealt Lynch a second straight semifinal finish as his car broke against eventual winner Tommy Deez Fernick -- particularly surprising, for he was the Outlaw 10.5 class' No. 1 qualifier with a 6.400-second blast that no one touched for the rest of the weekend.
Then in 2010, the engine-builder from Woodstock, Ga., established himself as the undisputed Superman of outlaw-style doorslammer drag racing, winning his third Shakedown trophy in four final-round appearances. was quickest and fastest of the meet with a 6.263-second elapsed time and 232.51-mph speed.
CELEBRITY SIGHTINGS - Helping Top Sportsman racer John Pluchino are his brother-in-law and nephew, John and Vincent Nobile. John Nobile, an IHRA and NHRA Pro Stock regular, is the Shakedown 2007 Pro Outlaw winner. Vincent Nobile is driving Nick Mitsos' Mountain View Tire Dodge Avenger in the NHRA Pro Stock class for his second year. This is how the Nobiles, of Dix Hills, N.Y., are spending their first weekend off after six consecutive weekends of racing (criss-crossing the country from Indianapolis to Charlotte, Dallas, St. Louis, and Reading, Pa.).
Also observing Saturday was ADRL Pro Mod competitor Mike Janis, who won the 1/8-Mile Challenge at the 2009 Shakedown in his Jan-Cen Racing Pontiac Firebird. On hand, as well, were Shakedown faithful Vinnie Budano, who's recovering from health problems, and Mike Castellana, the Western Beef 8.50 Index class sponsor and 2011 Shakedown Pro Mod champion. He's preparing to compete for championships in both the ADRL and NHRA before the end of the month.
Carolyn Melendy, of Bayville, N.J., one of the first females to drive a Pro Modified car, returned to her home track to watch the class and all the racing this weekend. The legendary Pro Stock racer Joe Lepone Jr., who also has been a prominent figure in East Coast drag racing and has done it all in the doorslammer world, is back at Raceway Park.
RACING IS LIKE MEDICINE FOR PATRICK - Making one of the biggest personal sacrifices to attend The Shakedown Nationals this weekend was injured ADRL Pro Nitrous standout Robert Patrick. The Fredericksburg, Va., veteran driver is mending from a wall-banging crash during ADRL qualifying in late September at Summit Motorsports Park at Norwalk, Ohio. It left him with a torn ACL, broken foot, hyper-extended knee, and broken kneecap for which he'll undergo surgery Nov. 8.
"I was so ready to get out of the house after sitting around for two weeks," Patrick said. He teased that had been watching soap operas continually, but he wasn't joking when he said he drove himself from Virginia up to New Jersey in his Ford pick-up.
"I have cruise control. And it's my left leg, so I don't need that to drive," he said.
Hanging onto his trusty pair of crutches, Patrick said he's still in a lot of pain. But he said opting to hang out with his always-entertaining friend Pat Musi was worth the effort. Musi is sponsor of the Top Sportsman class this weekend and is racing in the Pro Modified class.
MUSI'S FAREWELL RACE IN NEW JERSEY - For Pat Musi, this race represents the last hurrah in New Jersey before he packs everything from his shop and home in nearby Carteret, N.J., and relocates to Mooresville, N.C. The outlaw-racing icon has immersed himself in the 10th edition of the SPEEDTECH Shakedown Nationals street-legal classic. His Pat Musi Performance business is the sponsor of the Top Sportsman class, but he will be consulting with his clients from a variety of categories. On top of that, Musi will be going for the $20,000 winner's share of the purse as he competes for the Pro Modified trophy.
The eight-time Pro Street class champion will drive his 2010 Dodge Stratus in the Pro Modified class, trying on Raceway Park's historic quarter-mile to qualify for the 32-car field. He said that in the process he'll use this opportunity to have a shakedown of his own, treating it as a test session for the American Drag Racing League finale Oct. 19-20 at the Texas Motorplex, near Dallas.
"We'll be trying some stuff," Musi, who's ranked No. 3 in the ADRL Pro Mod chase, said during Saturday's long delay. "Our motor needs going through, but we figured we'd make a few passes."
He used the first one to claim the No. 6 spot with a 6.109-second E.T. at 219.19 mph.
"I like the Shakedown deal," he said, adding that he's enthusiastic his schedule will permit him a chance to run once again at what he calls his home track. "I raced in The Shakedown one other time, but there always seemed to be a conflict. It should be a great race. I've raced at Raceway Park for about 40 years. I'm glad to be back."
Musi last competed at Raceway Park at the 2010 NHRA Supernationals, qualifying in the top half of the field and posting a quarterfinal finish. However, during the years, he has driven Pro Modifieds and Pro Street cars. "We did a lot of match-racing there, too," he said fondly.
In recent years, Musi has taken his brand of drag racing to the Caribbean island nation of Curacao, and he'll return there for events in November and December. So The Shakedown Nationals will serve as his special test against some of the sport's top names before he takes on an international field.
He said he's impressed with Shakedown Nationals founder / promoter Dave Hance and how he has built this event that bills itself as "a no-holds-barred feast of tire-shredding horsepower" but also has inherited a label of some curious blend of history and hysteria.
Said Musi, "Dave Hance is really trying hard, He's out there, working hard. And I've never heard him talk about anybody bad. So we'll try to support him and The Shakedown."
During the extraordinarily long afternoon wait in the staging lanes, he said, "I feel bad for Dave, but it's just one of those deals."
One of his more recent duties has become teaching 21-year-old daughter Lizzy Musi, a Top Sportsman racer and graduate of the Jr. Dragster ranks. With him racing in the ADRL Pro Mod class and her in Top Sportsman, they have dreamed about becoming drag racing's first father-daughter combo to win at the same ADRL race. The younger Musi will be lending support for her dad but isn't in the mix this weekend because her car is in Jacksonville, Fla., with its owner.
"It sucks that I'm not racing here," Lizzy Musi said. "This weather is really good. And the track looks really good."
She said since her attention-attracting accident at Bristol this year wasn't the way she had planned to let people know she was on the ADRL scene but that she is getting more and more comfortable in the machine that she has driven to a 4.06-second E.T.
"She learned a lot form that accident," her father said. "It's not a matter of IF you're going to crash but WHEN. We've all crashed. But she did exactly what we [longtime friend Rickie Smith and he] told her. We can feel it in the seat, but we can't explain exactly how it feels, how far you can push a car."
He said Robert Patrick, who's two weeks into his long recovery from that Norwalk, Ohio, wreck, is "a really, really good driver. So it's hard to explain that."
He added that he's teaching Lizzy not to be merely a passenger in her race car. "I always say we have drivers and passengers, and we've got a lot of passengers" in the sport.
KING OF THE IMPORTS - Puerto Rico's Jorge Juarbe was quickest and fastest Saturday night among the 14 Pro Import class entrants with a 6.790-second, 211.33-mph run in his '82 Toyota Corolla.
FRIDAY NOTEBOOK: MINESHAFT CONDITONS MAKE SHAKEDOWN OPENER EXCITING
Frank Soldridge (Limited Street), Dean Marinis (X275), Mark Barese (8.50 Index), and Joe Gladstone (Pro Street Bike) were the hot shoes in unusually cold conditions Friday night as The Shakedown Nationals street-legal fall classic opened at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park at Englishtown, N.J.
They were the early class leaders following a late qualifying session characterized by a double-digit number of outrageous wheelstands and capped with a fiery incident on the scheduled final run of the day.
Paul Major, of Fort Salonga, N.Y., saw his '01 Corvette go up in flames on the closing run of Limited Street action on the historic quarter-mile. Major, whose PM Construction Services company is the class sponsor this year, was unhurt after a mechanical breakage was the apparent cause of the fire. Emergency crews responded immediately, and Major exited the car on his own power.
Massachusetts-headquartered DMC Racing just two weeks ago completed a relocation of the turbochargers in Major's Corvette. They had been in the trunk area of the race car, and the mechanics moved them up front. All went well during a pre-Shakedown test at Maryland International Raceway, and today's two runs -- which netted Major a 12th then 13th spot in the line-up -- were his first since the modification.
It is unclear whether Major will be able to come back with another car for the rest of the weekend.
Otherwise, the oohs and aah from the spectators came from the wheelstands that race control officials attributed to an adjusted altitude of 1,200 feel below sea level. That resulted in a surprise but substantial horsepower increase for the four classes that raced Friday. A handful of drivers had their hands full with launches that lifted all four wheels off the ground and landed on the back bumpers.
Time trials will continue Saturday, beginning at 9:45 a.m. The remaining four categories -- Pro Modified, Top Sportsman, Outlaw 10.5, and Heavy Street -- will debut Saturday morning.
Eliminations will start at 9 a.m. Sunday.
NORTH-SOUTH BATTLE - New Yorker Dean Marinis set the bar in the X275 class Friday, posting low elapsed time (4.705 seconds) and top speed (152.74 mph) with his 2000 Ford Mustang -- in a field that contains record-holder and reigning Shakedown winner Rich Bruder.
But Bruder was not the one who raised that bar in the Friday night session with 4.702-second run at 160.50 mph that was quickest and fastest of this year's 10th anniversary edition. That distinction went to '85 Mustang driver Sean Ashe, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Bruder surprised observers Friday night by not making a full-power pass in the opening session with his '88 Mustang. A couple of weeks ago -- with tuning by twin brother Nick and Ford-technician-by-trade and multi-time National Street Car Association champion "Mustang Mike" Modeste -- this same care became the world's fastest ProCharger X275-class street-legal drag-racing car with a 4.55-second elapsed time at a race at Maryland's Cecil County Dragway. Bruder had to settle for 12th in that first attempt.
Announcer Al Tucci told the crowd about the Bruders, "The kid who drives that car, nicest kid. The brother, he's the one who'll take the lug wrench to your head. He's serious. He's here to race."
David Valora, in his '87 Grand National, was third at 4.781, 152.61. He was the only other racer in this division to produce a pass in the 4.7-second range. Rich Bruder improved from 12th to fourth in the night session with a 4.918, 152.21.
GLAD NUMBERS - This year Joey Gladstone has run in the six-second range at more than 213 mph in power-added motorcycle competition for the Winston-Salem, N.C.-based DME Racing. His 7.181-second pass at 204.01 mph in Friday's first session of Pro Street Bike qualifying might have seemed tame in comparison. But it was a tenth of a second quicker than anyone else in the class could run, giving him the early lead.
The Townsend, Del., native kept it overnight, picking up six-hundredths of a second and more than six miles an hour on his turbo-boosted Suzuki in the later evening's mineshaft conditions.
Gladstone, of Townsend, Del., is a star of the MIRock Superbike Series and was a champion in the now-defunct AMA Prostar (AMA Dragbike) SuperSport class. He has made occasional NHRA appearances on Matt Smith's third bike this year.
Jeremy Teasley, on his pink turbo Suzuki that's nicknamed "Rizzo," leaped from fourth place to second in the night session. He improved from his 7.408-second, 170.60 mph with a 7.149, 207.88. The Columbu, Ohio, just might be calling on his experience from all of his big-money grudge-race victories.
Virginian Danny Cox, with his nitrous-aided Hayabusa that's sponsored by the Hampton Roads Harley-Davidson dealership his parents own, will start Saturday's final day of qualifying in third place with a 7.308, 193.18.
JERSEY BOYS RULE - A couple of New Jersey racers battled Friday for the top slot in the extremely popular 8.50 Index class, ultimately flip-flopping places. Mark Barese, of Scotch Plains, got the upper hand by one-thousandth of a second at 8.504. Mount Ephraim driver Bill Verzilli's 8.505 was tops in the class in the first go-'round, but he was bumped down to second.
FOUR MORE IN THE MIX - The 8.50 Index class is the largest at this year's Shakedown, with 61 entrants among the 103 racers who made runs Friday in four of the eight classes.
NEW PRO MOD WINNER - The Pro Mods will crown a new champion, as 2011 winner Mike Castellana is preparing his car for two title runs, with one season finale upcoming in the American Drag Racing League, then one in the NHRA Pro Care Rx Series. Castellana leads the Pro Mod classes in each sanctioning body. He has a 12-point advantage over Jeff Naiser in the ADRL's Aeromotive Fuel System Pro Mod class that will finish the schedule next weekend at Texas Motorplex, south of Dallas. The week after that, Castellana will try to maintain his lead in a much tighter Pro Care Rx chase. In that one, which wraps up at Las Vegas, only 148 points separate him from No. 7 Donnie Martin, Castellana leads Rickie Smith by merely 41 points and Troy Coughlin by 42. Still, Castellana is a loyal Shakedown sponsor, again with his Western Beef company helping provide the 8.50 Index class purse.
Former Shakedown winners Tim Lynch and "Jersey Joe" Newsham will return in the Outlaw 10.5 category.
Shakedown veterans Jerry Mitrovic, Ronnie Souza, Charlie Micallef, John Schroeder, are Steve Woolley are back on the list of 19 drivers checked in so far for the Heavy Street wars.
ADRL standout Chuck Mohn and four Quebec racers are among the 19 drivers entered so far in the Top Sportsman class that's new to The Shakedown Nationals in 2012.
THURSDAY: GETTING READY FOR THE SHAKEDOWN
After seven straight weeks of racing in the NHRA's Full Throttle Drag Racing Series, Eddie Krawiec has a break from battling for a second straight and third overall Pro Stock Motorcycle championship.
His ultimate R&R from Countdown strategy and stress is . . . spending his first weekend "off" at a racetrack. But it isn't any old racetrack. It's "his" racetrack. Oh, not one he owns -- one that molded him into the competitor, and yes, the champion he is.
Eddie Krawiec is back at Englishtown, at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, where he was toasted in June as the Supernationals winner, the hometown hero.
This weekend he'll be a servant.
The Middlesex County, New Jersey, native said he's just as passionate about returning home for this weekend's 10th anniversary of the Shakedown Nationals street-legal classic.
"I've been there for 'em all, from the first one that was freezing cold to last year's, which was sunny and in the 80s," Krawiec said proudly.
Once again, he'll prepare the racing surface for the drivers to compete in nine classes -- Pro Modified, Top Sportsman, Outlaw 10.5, Heavy Street, Limited Street, X275, 8.50 Index, Pro Import, and Pro Street Bike -- for their respective shares of the $125,000-plus purse.
"It's a really fun event. Every class has got something great to offer," Krawiec said.
During the years, what the event (known until this June as "The Shakedown at E-Town") offered was on-the-edge, record-setting performances, often as the action tried to beat incoming storms and noise curfews. Its trademark quick elapsed times and lightning-fast speeds have presented challenges for Krawiec, the former Raceway Park dragstrip manager.
"They all want to set records," he said of the racers who come from up and down the East Coast, across the nation, and even from Canada, the Caribbean, Europe, and the Middle East. He said the track requires completely different preparation from one class to the next.
"You have to stay on top of it," he said. "We have two equal lanes at Englishtown. It's not a single-lane racetrack. You look at how we've had multiple records in all classes. That's really saying a lot."
New York Motorsports owner Dave Hance, founder and promoter of The Shakedown Nationals, has seen the Northeast's premiere street-legal doorslammer drag race evolve into the ultimate outlaw heads-up event that has attracted a worldwide following and a number of foreign drivers.
Khalid al Balooshi, the NHRA Top Fuel rookie who won last week's Auto-Plus Nationals at Reading, Pa., won the 2010 Shakedown. Last year, Puerto Rican standout Jorge Lezcano won the Extreme Import trophy at Hance's race. Florida-based Jose "El General" Gonzalez, last year's Pro Modified Blown class winner, is from the Dominican Republic.
NHRA and American Drag Racing League (ADRL) Pro Modified competitors Todd Tutterow, Donny Walsh, and recent U.S. Nationals winner "Bad Brad" Brand.
"This list will continue to grow," fellow Pro Modified racer Hance said. In addition to his promoter duties, Hance also will be competing in the Pro Mod class with '57 Chevy Bel Air.
Whether he was simply being giddy with excitement or just banking on the trends at The Shakedown, he said, "History will be rewritten at this spectacular event."
Calling it a "prolific evolution," Hance, of Lawrence, N.Y., said he marvels at just how much this event has grown since 2003, when fewer than a dozen racers showed up and the purse was $1,500.
"It has grown to more than 250 top-notch race teams attempting to qualify for nine heads-up drag race classes," Hance said. "Many of the world's greatest door-car drag racing moments have taken place at the Shakedown Nationals. Multiple performance barriers have fallen during this great event. Fans and racers alike have come to expect records to fall every year in virtually every class. And The Shakedown Nationals has a very special element: since Year 2 of this event, it has retained 90 percent of its racers, fans, and marketing partners/sponsors. As a group we all have grown collectively."
Said Krawiec: "The Shakedown has a huge following. It has overseas notoriety. The Internet site has a huge viewership. I was in Sweden recently, and everybody there was asking about it. They all knew about The Shakedown."
And so does Eddie Krawiec.
RACING CLASS DESCRIPTIONS:
PRO MODIFIED – The flagship class of the event. These 4,000-horsepower race cars come from all over the world and run five-second quarter-mile elapsed times at more than 260 mph! These professional drivers will have you on the edge of your seat as they roar down the famed Englishtown dragstrip. This is drag racing’s version of "Shock & Awe." These race cars can have one of three available power types. They can have a supercharger, turbocharger, or be powered by nitrous oxide. Seeing the different types of power racing each other is a fan favorite!
TOP SPORTSMAN – These wonderful pro-type cars will tell you what they will run before they run it. Teams racing in this class will win or lose by mere inches! It's tough to pick a winner here! These race cars are usually nitrous-oxide injected but can have other power sources.
OUTLAW 10.5 – These highly modified 3,000-horsepower race cars are perhaps the most exciting class on the property, for race teams must use all the skills they have to maintain control of the car because it has only 10½-inch race tires. Some have described this class as "poetry in motion." These cars are very similar to Pro Modified with a few exceptions. They must weigh 3,000 pounds and must have been a production-based street car at one time in its life.
HEAVY STREET – This historic class is where SHAKEDOWN got its start. These Heavy Street cars squared up to race each other in 2003, and the world of drag racing has not been the same since. These all metal, 3,500-pound street-appearing machines thrill the crowds with their cool and familiar looks and low-seven-second performances.
LIMITED STREET – These street-appearing, all-metal race cars are amazing, considering what they can accomplish. Teams in this class are limited to a 29.5-inch slick (tire) or a 315 street-legal drag radial tire. They must weigh approximately 3,200 pounds, and they cannot have wheelie bars. That makes for some crowd pleasing wheelstands down the track. Fans are very passionate about this class.
X275 – This is the hottest new class on the outlaw drag racing circuit. Teams are limited to very small V-8 engines, and power modifications are strictly regulated, ensuring some really close racing.
8.50 INDEX – This is the toughest class in the world to compete in. More than 50 teams show up to battle, and the last team standing will have earned the name champion. To have a chance to win in this class, drivers must combine excellent reflexes and reaction ability with superior driving skills. Competition in this class is brutal, and only the strongest, most skilled drivers succeed.
PRO IMPORT – As the name implies, this class showcases the baddest import branded drag race cars in the world. The sounds of four- and six-cylinder import-type engines screaming at 13,000 RPM get the fans on their feet. Import teams have a huge fan following, and their addition to The Shakedown Nationals has been extremely popular.
PRO STREET BIKE – This Pro Street Motorcycle class is yet another fan favorite. With teams coming from all over the USA to compete, the racing is exciting and has great fan appeal. With outrageous paint jobs, these motorcycles are street-appearing with engine modifications that allow them to run six-second times faster than 200 miles an hour in the quarter-mile. These motorcycles must race on street-legal tires and must be stock appearing.
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