By Susan Wade

JUPITER, Fla. — Eager young student Rickie Jones scored exceptionally high marks in his Pro Modified debut. But in the end, his wise, experienced teacher, Shannon Jenkins, showed him how to solve the eighth-mile winning equation March 6 at the inaugural Shakedown at Palm Beach outlaw drag race.

Joining Jenkins in the winners circle at Palm Beach International Raceway were Danny Lowry (Outlaw 10.5), Scotty Gaudagno (Drag Radial / Limited Street), Bruno Massel (Pro Import), Ronnie Wilson (X275), and Ron Procopio (Pro Drag Bike).

Jenkins tutored Jones, the former NHRA Pro Stocker who helped his father, Rick Jones, build Jenkins’ new ’69 Camaro. Jenkins traded driving pointers for technology support, and Jones proved to be a keen listener. He grabbed the No. 1 qualifying position from Jenkins Friday night by one-thousandth of a second, but Jenkins beat him handily in the final round Sunday with a 4.150-second elapsed time to Jones’ 5.421.

It was a valuable lesson for Jones (Galesburg, Ill.), who earned $3,000, while Jenkins (Tuscaloosa, Ala.) received a $10,000 winner’s check.

“We’re kind of teammates, helping each other out,” Jones said of Jenkins as both prepared for the American Drag Racing League opener at Baytown, Texas. “He’s got a new car from us, RJ Racecars. We’re trying to help him with the car side. He’s trying to help us with the engine tune-up. He’s the man when it comes to nitrous.”

Both still have only about 20 passes on their respective Camaros.

“We’ve been focused on Pro Stock for the last 10 years and we’re trying to race Pro Mod, trying to learn more about it, and trying to build more of these cars. And I think we’re off to a great start,” Jones said. “For Shannon and us to be Nos. 1 and 2, it’s really cool. I can’t thank him enough.”

This race is a Southern spin-off of New York Motorsports, Inc. owner Dave Hance’s popular, nine-year-old Shakedown at E-Town outlaw drag-racing classic that takes place in October at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park at Englishtown, N.J. Hance’s timing with the Shakedown at Palm Beach was perfect, as the majority of drivers were eager to set up and test their cars in preparation for season-openers in their various sanctioning bodies.

Pro Modified driver Mike Knowles, of Grand Junction, Colo., said, “This race is going to really grow. I’ve already heard a few people say, ‘Dang it — I should have come there!’ It’s going to be a big race. I would imagine this race will probably double next year.”

Danny Lowry, of Griffin, Ga., used a nearly perfect reaction time (.004 of a second, compared to a perfect .000) to win the Outlaw 10.5 class trophy and $10,000 of the class’ $18,000 purse. Lowry’s holeshot victory came over Wareham, Mass., resident Scott Filkins, who recorded a quicker 4.283-second elapsed time against Lowry’s 4.339.

Gaudagno’s triumph in Drag Radial / Limited Street sparked a bit of nostalgia. He raced with Hance back in the days when the two New Yorkers could afford to eat only peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. At PBIR, Brooklyn native Gaudagno was a winner at the event buddy Hance was promoting.

After pocketing the $5,000 winner’s payout, Gaudagno can afford to stock his pantry with something more enticing than peanut butter and jelly. He earned it on a holeshot in the final round over Steve Jackson, of Martinez, Ga., using a .066-second light at the starting line in his 2002 Chevy to Jackson’s .121 in his ’93 Mustang. That translated to a winning 4.535-second, 158.61-mph pass over Jackson’s quicker and considerably faster 4.483 / 173.09. Jackson took home $2,000.

On a whim, Massel entered the Shakedown at Palm Beach in between a couple of assignments in his other two jobs: television and modeling. The 2009 National Hot Rod Association Competition Eliminator class champion was at Tampa the week before, taping of his SPEED TV show “TruckU.” The Woodridge, Ill., racer also had an upcoming photo shoot at Miamis’s South Beach, modeling Brazilian swimwear.

Massel is $5,000 richer for the decision, which also gave new sponsor a boost. Driving his ECOtec-powered Chevy Cobalt and winning from the No. 1 spot, Massel registered a 4.524-second, 157.19-mph performance. He beat Aruba driver Frans Ponson, the No. 3 qualifier, who ran close 4.615 / 151.99 in his Mazda RX7 and got $2,500.

It was an all-Florida, all-Ford final in the X275 Drag Radial class. Tamarac’s Ronnie Wilson, driving a 2000 entry, topped No. 1 qualifier Jeff Wallace, of Davie, in his ’01 Mustang, 5.048 / 140.50 to 6.800 / 105.24. Wilson’s effort was worth $5,000, Wallace’s $2,000.

Bike champion Procopio’s defeat of ADRL colleague and reigning champion Kim Morrell took place at the Christmas Tree. They recorded identical 4.121 elapsed times, his .041 reaction time beat her .045 and meant a winning margin of mere inches at the finish line. He also earned $5,000, and she received $2,500.

All weekend, announcers Brian Olson and Al Tucci accidentally called Procopio “Rob Honeycutt” (another ADRL motorcycle racer) and kept correcting themselves. But on Sunday, Procopio wore a Honeycutt T-shirt under his leathers for fun — and maybe it turned out to be good luck.

The annual Shakedown at E-Town is scheduled for October 7-9.


Pro Modified – Shannon Jenkins (Tuscaloosa, Ala., ’69 Camaro) 4.150 seconds at 184.75 mph def. Rickie Jones (Galesburg, Ill., ’69 Camaro) 5.421 / 90.13

Outlaw 10.5 – Danny Lowry (Griffin, Ga., ’98 Mustang) 4.339 seconds at 183.79 mph def. Scott Filkins (Wareham, Mass., ’68 Dodge Dart) 4.283 / 176.93

Drag Radial / Limited Street – Scotty Gaudagno (Brooklyn, N.Y., 2002 Chevy) 4.535 seconds at 158.61 mph def. Steve Jackson (Martinez, Ga., ’93 Mustang) 4.483 / 173.09

Pro Import – Bruno Massel (Woodridge, Ill., ’09 Chevy Cobalt) 4.524 seconds at 157.19 def. Frans Ponson (Oaranjestad, Aruba, ’93 Mazda RX7) 4.615 / 151.99

X275 Drag Radial – Ronnie Wilson (Tamarac, Fla., 2000 Ford) 5.048 seconds at 140.50 mph def. Jeff Wallace (Davie, Fla., 2001 Mustang) 6.800 / 105.24

Pro Drag Bike – Ron Procopio (Wake Forest, N.C., Suzuki) 4.121 seconds at 171.45 def. Kim Morrell (Loxahatchee, Fla., Suzuki) 4.121 / 170.28

No. 1 Qualifiers:

Pro Modified – Rickie Jones
Outlaw 10.5 – Jason Enos
Drag Radial / Limited Street – Tony Ridenour
Pro Import – Bruno Massel
X275 Drag Radial – Jeff Wallace
Pro Drag Bike – Kim Morrell

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