Canadian Pro Modified driver Eric Latino surprised himself Sunday by cashing in on the biggest jackpot at the SPEEDTECH Shakedown Nationals at Englishtown, N.J.’s Raceway Park.
The recently crowned PMRA champion from Whitby, Ontario, and his Team Green earned the $20,000 payout, marching through a stout 32-car field and defeating 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.
Three years ago, Latino was the crew chief for Tony Pontieri when his fellow Canadian won the Shakedown in the Pro Outlaw class.
“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.
MAJOR SETBACK - Saturday afternoon’s racing came to a standstill for nearly six hours because of an electrical surge that shut down the timing/scoring systems and the track computers in the race-control room. Event and Raceway Park officials worked feverishly to restore power, and they did so with an assist from Atco Raceway in South Jersey, as well as Compu-Link system founder Bob Brockmeier and technician Jeff Foster. They identified a computer component they needed, and Raceway Park co-owner Alex Napp took advantage of the small-plane airport next door to Raceway Park. He flew to Atco, near Philadelphia, where Atco Raceway operator Joe Sway gave him the part he needed. Racing resumed just before 6 p.m., but that pushed qualifying into an early Sunday session for several classes.
THESE GUYS RAN FOR IT - Eric Latino (Whitby, Ontario Canada) in the Pro Modified class, Rob Wells (Largo, Fla.) in Outlaw 10.5, Wayne Horton (Smithfield, R.I.) in Top Sportsman, Scoty Guadagno (Brooklyn, N.Y.) in Limited Street, and Jeremy Teasley (Columbus, Ohio) in Pro Street Bike earned their trophies before the race halted. For at least the third time in Shakedown history, eliminations were not completed on the track because of the neighborhood noise curfew. They’re first-time Shakedown champions. That left four classes with unfinished business.
WHO WAS QUICKER? WE’LL NEVER KNOW - Unfinished Sunday were the final rounds in 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 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. The Pro Import final pitted Jorge Juarbe (Gurabo, Puerto Rico) and Jesus Melendez-Torr (Caguas, Puerto Rico).
LET’S SETTLE IT - the Bruder Brothers — driver Rich and crew-chief twin Nick — have dominated their races this season and had hoped to bring home their 12th trophy Sunday night. And their tuner, the legendary “Mustang Mike” Modeste, said he was confident had they been allowed to go back to the starting line and race Sean Ashe, his team would have won. “The two cars are pretty close. We did have lane choice, and I think we would have won,” he said.
Modeste said the Ashe camp “needed to clean up his engine, so we gave them a little bit of time. He said he needed about 15 more minutes. So we waited a little bit. By the time we came up [through the staging lanes], a police officer said ‘We’re done. No more.’ We went about an hour beyond the regular curfew. So they let us do that.
“We’ll just go home and split the money. We’ll probably take the check and give him the trophy. We’ve got tons of trophies,” Modeste said. “But he is a ProCharger contender, too.” Therefore, he said, he’d like to have that chance to settle the question on the racetrack to “get those bragging rights.” He said the likely opportunity to settle the matter might be during a side-by-side qualifying run next February at South Georgia Motorsports Park at Valdosta, Ga.
FICKLE CAR - Rob Wells took the $10,000 payout for his Outlaw 10.5 victory and said in understated fashion, “Yeah, it’s awesome.” Evidently he didn’t think his car was the star, though. The Florida racer called his turbo-powered ’07 Mustang “a frickin’ fickle piece.” It was loyal enough Sunday to carry him to the victory in 4.150 seconds, 189.20 mph. “We worked our butts off,” Wells said.
POWERFUL IN PINK - Jeremy Teasley, a 21-year-old with a lot of nerve and certainly enough to ride a pink Suzuki he nicknamed “Rizzo,” won the turbo-powered Pro Street Bike final. He ran a 6.970-second E.T. and 212.66-mph speed in defeating No. 1 qualifier Joey Gladstone, who rode his Suzuki to a 7.141, 211.06 showing. Teasley had 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 in the final. His bike is the same one Bud Yoder rode to the Shakedown triumph last year, so the bike earned back-to-back victories.
LYNCH MOB SILENT - Outlaw 10.5 icon Tim Lynch, the three-time Shakedown winner and this year’s top qualifier, missed his chance to earn 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. Still, Lynch added to his Shakedown legend, setting the first 4.0-second pass in the Outlaw 10.5 class.
PRO MOD E.T. RECORD INTACT - Scott Cannon Jr.’s 2008 Shakedown elapsed-time record of 5.738 seconds remains the standard for the Pro Modified class. Jorge “El General” Gonzalez came close with a 5.785, which is just .013 of a second slower than Troxel’s NHRA record from the 2011 Supernationals at Englishtown.
TUTTEROW FASTEST - In an uncommonly strong Pro Mod field, Todd Tutterow lost in the second round when he was timed out at the starting line. However, he posted an impressive 262.49-mph speed in his first-round victory over Sam Andracchi. It was considerably faster than the NHRA Pro Care Rx Pro Mod record that Melanie Troxel set at Raceway Park in June 2011.
TOUGH LUCK - Roger Sterling earned the top qualifying position in the Heavy Street class at 4.387 seconds but crashed Saturday evening and didn’t compete Sunday.
On the closing run of Limited Street action Friday, Paul Major, of Fort Salonga, N.Y., saw his ’01 Corvette go up in flames. Major, whose PM Construction Services company was the class sponsor this year, was uninjured but out of commission for the weekend.
LEAVE ‘EM LOOKIN’ - Frank Soldridge, the Limited Street class’ top qualifier, lost in Sunday’s quarterfinal match, leaving early 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.
HEALTHY CAR COUNT - This 10th anniversary edition drew 252 drivers from as far away as California, Puerto Rico, and Ontario and Quebec in Canada.
SHAKEDOWN BOX SCORE:
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 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 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 split the purse.
Pro Import - Last round completed: Semifinal. Jorge Juarbe (Gurabo, Puerto Rico) v. Jesus Melendez-Torr. They 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.