By Susan Wade

Delayed by overnight vandalism and make-up qualifying runs, then forced into hurry-up mode by an approaching storm, Dave Hance’s Shakedown at E-Town VIII packed plenty of drama into a shrinking window of opportunity this past Sunday.

Tim Lynch (Outlaw 10.5), Chip King (Blown Pro Modified), Khalid Al Balooshi (Nitrous Pro Modified), and record-setting Pete Berner (Mountain Motor Pro Stock) made the most of it at Englishtown, N.J.’s Old Bridge Township Raceway Park.

They joined Mike Stawicki (1/8-Mile Challenge), Sam Gottier (Heavy Street), Mel Nelson (Drag Radial), and Brian Ferrari (8.50 Index) in the winners circle.

Lynch never matched his eye-bulging numbers from qualifying but he beat out “Jersey Joe” Newsham in a showdown between two racers wanting some justice from a track, an event, that showed them no mercy last fall.

In the end, Newsham still is looking for his second Outlaw 10.5 Shakedown triumph, while Petty added another trophy to his shelf. Lynch, of Woodstock, Ga., took the title with a 6.301-second elapsed time at 226.48 against Newsham’s 7.510- second ET at 145.70 mph.

Lynch regained his Shakedown supremacy that he yielded last year to Philadelphia flash Tommy Deez Fernick. Although his performance numbers were nowhere near his 6.263 seconds and 232.51 mph from Saturday’s third qualifying session, he was impressive nonetheless in his new Corvette.

Newsham, the 2008 winner, spent Shakedown Sunday in the hospital last November, mending from a frightening, fiery qualifying accident that left him with a fractured lower-back vertebra and injured feet. This year, the Sicklerville, N.J., racer kept pace with Lynch throughout the Mickey Thompson Outlaw 10.5 competition. He took out first opponent Anthony DiSommo with a 6.464-second E.T. that was second only to Lynch’s 6.282 earlier in the round. He and Lynch advanced to the final with identical 6.47-second E.T.s.

The two Pro Modified classes had some surprises for the fans who braved the cold October temperatures.

The supercharged set saw King use an 8.315-second, 123.81-mph pass in his “Mean Green Machine” ’96 Dodge Daytona to defeat Larry Plummer (12.230 / 82.09) in the final. King’s rise to the top was no surprise, for he was No. 2 qualifier. The shock was that No. 1 Brad Personett, maybe the hottest-performing Pro Mod driver at the moment with his NHRA U.S. Nationals victory and record run at Charlotte last month, lost to Plummer in the semifinals.

Balooshi and his big-block ’68 Al-Anabi Camaro marched to the top of the Speedtech Pro Modified Nitrous field Sunday morning, taking the No. 1 starting position from Fredy Scriba by three-hundredths of a second. And the Dubai driver kept right on going, beating John Bartunek, John Prime, and finally teammate Mike Castellana before blazing to the victory over New Jersey’s Todd Fontana.

Balooshi won with a 5.933-second E.T. at 241.80 — his best effort of the weekend — while Fontana, the No. 6 qualifier, countered with a 6.587 / 216.97.

Berner carried the banner for the newly formed Mountain Motor Pro Stock Association in its Shakedown debut.

In his ’09 Summit Pontiac GXP, Berner capped the opening round of MMMPS eliminations by setting both ends of the organization’s record. He lowered his own E.T. record to 6.209 seconds and ran the class’ fastest pass at 225.97 mph on a bye run. The Crete, Ill., veteran, a two-time IHRA Pro Stock champion, set the mark at 6.220 seconds in the last run of Saturday qualifying.
His victory over John Pluchino in the final round (6.285/224.92 to 7.110/146.16) completed his weekend sweep.

Berner moved into the final round by rejecting Tony Pontieri’s bid for a second Shakedown championship trophy. Pontieri was the 2009 Pro Outlaw Blown winner. Pluchino advanced to the final round by beating the formidable Cary Goforth, the leader in both the MMPSA and the ADRL Extreme Pro Stock class in his ’08 Chevy Cobalt.

Pro Torque Drag Radial eliminations took on an air of adventure for the rest of the class with top two qualifiers Paul Major and Dave Hance, the Shakedown founder and promoter, unable to race with damaged cars. No. 3 qualifier Mel Nelson, of Ft. Myers, Fla., capitalized on it and drove his ’92 Camaro to the victory.

Nelson did so in theatric fashion, with a top-end fire following his winning 6.854-second, 223.36 single pass. He was unhurt and definitely grateful to have dodged a bullet when John Carter was beset by a mechanical problem and gave him no challenge.

The K&K Advanced Door Car Technology Heavy Street final gave Sam Gottier an extra measure of satisfaction. Gottier, ambushed late Saturday by Tom Tarsia in a coup for the No. 1 qualifying position, was not going to go home to Canterbury, Conn., empty-handed. He denied Mitch George a second straight Shakedown victory with his winning 6.911-second pass at 198.06 in his ’71 Chevelle.

George ran a 7.578 at 141.31. Although he didn’t win, the New Jersey native had an easier time than he did in winning the 2009 Shakedown. Last year George won against John Carinci in a so-called “first is worse” default ruling as both crashed. George’s car had gotten out of shape near the finish line because of fluid on his tires, and the car barrel-rolled into the left lane, frighteningly close to Carinci’s car.

The Pro Extreme 1/8-Mile Challenge final pitted two veteran racers. “It’s really tough competition,” Stawicki said after besting John Stanley, son of outlaw racing pioneer and this year’s Shakedown Grand Marshal Camp Stanley.

Stawicki, of Medina, N.Y., drove a ’68 Firebird that’s painted red on the left side and black on the right side. But the No. 1 qualifier’s emotions weren’t divided at all after winning easily with a 3.890-second blast at 197.31 mph, as Stanley — the No. 2 qualifier — struck his tires.

The Western Beef 8.50 Index victory turned out to be easier than Ferrari imagined. The Raceway Park neighbor from nearby New Brunswick — and like George one of the six drivers who competed in the first Shakedown in 2003 — ended up with a solo pass. Final-round opponent

John Langer, of Philadelphia, and his ’69 Trans Am never left the starting line when the tree dropped.

As for Langer’s misfortune, Ferrari, who campaigns the family’s ’68 Chevelle, said, ‘I didn’t even know it!”

Said his dad, “He has won quite a few races with that baby.” And his move through the event’s only 32-car field was just the latest.

Raceway Park workers had to scramble Sunday morning to repair the Christmas Tree following an overnight incident of vandalism. Someone stole the LED light bulbs from the electronic starting device and dumped them behind the retaining wall at the finish line. The thief/thieves caused further damage to the track by driving over and destroying all the foam timing blocks.


ALFONSO RECOVERING — The Raceway Park crowd received positive news about injured Blown Pro Modified driver Benny Alfonso. The Bohemia, N.Y., veteran reportedly had feeling in his legs following back surgery to repair a damaged disc Sunday at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital at New Brunswick. Hospital personnel refused to release any information about Alfonso or his condition, but the family provided the update to the track public-address announcers Brian Olson and Al Tucci.

Alfonso’s accident occurred just past the finish line Saturday during the third and final Blown Pro Modified qualifying session. It halted all activity around 9:25 p.m. Cool temperatures had set in, and the lengthy clean-up would have eaten up the time left before the local noise curfew tolled.

Blown Pro Mod was unable to finish its time trials, and the Nitrous Pro Mod and 1/8-Mile Challenge classes did not have a third session. But race officials decided to give those classes their full three qualifying chances Sunday morning before the start of eliminations.

Alfonso was conscious, alert, and talking with emergency medical personnel while the rescue team was extracting him from his ’68 Firebird with the help of the Jaws of Life equipment.

ONE OF THOSE DAYS – Elliott Thompson might have taken the prize Sunday for this Shakedown’s unluckiest driver. The ’53 Corvette driver from Horsham, Pa., had an easy ticket to final round in the nine-car Pro Extreme 1/8-Mile Challenge. Higher-qualified Bruce Conley broke and couldn’t answer the bell for the opening round. After that single pass, had another one waiting for him. But Thomson had trouble getting his car to fire, ending his day early.

FINISHED BUSINESS — Outlaw drag-racing dominator Lynch had some unfinished business at Raceway Park. The Pro Line engine builder was No. 1 qualifier here once again last November with a 6.400-second elapsed time that no one touched for the rest of that weekend. But Lynch, feared up and down the East Coast, dropped out in the 2009 race in the semifinals, unable to make a pass against eventual winner Fernick.

But Lynch left his mark on this edition of the Shakedown at E-Town VIII Saturday, thoroughly dominating the Mickey Thompson Outlaw 10.5 class in his new Corvette. He set the bar in the first of three qualifying sessions with a 6.385-second pass at 230.76 miles an hour and used the cooler evening temperatures to cement his No. 1 qualifying position with a 6.623-second E.T. and 232.51-mph speed.

It is another achievement here for Lynch, who was the first to cover the quarter-mile in less than seven seconds at the 2004 Shakedown at E-Town. He has been the hot shoe to beat here ever since. And in 2007, he even ignited a pre-race buzz excitement with a Saturday afternoon warm-up pass of 6.57 / 232 mph. So he knows the quickest route down this this track — in October or in November, no matter who’s in the other lane, no matter whether in his traditional twin-turbo Mustang or his new 2010 ‘Vette.

JINX CONTINUES – Dave Hance has built the Shakedown from an anemic six-car scramble in 2003 to the Northeast’s biggest door slammer showcase. But on the track, the Inwood, N.Y., businessman has had nothing but terrible luck at his own event. He saw his jinx continue this year.

Paul Major seized control of the Drag Radial class at the outset, setting the pace in his ’01 ‘Vette with a 6.947-second run at 220.51 mph, more than six mph faster than No. 2 Hance. Major, of Port Salonga, N.Y., lowered his time in the second qualifying session to 6.743 and raised his speed to 223.62 mph.

But Hance had his ’93 Mustang primed and put it in the No. 2 slot in Saturday’s opening qualifying session with a 7.106 / 214.28 and found even more power on his second run to stay in second place with a 6.823 / 219.69. However, he wrecked at the top end of the track and destroyed the engine and front end of his car and couldn’t repair it in time to answer the call at Sunday morning eliminations.

Eventual winner Mel Nelson, of Ft. Myers, Fla., qualified third, just five-hundredths of a second behind Hance at 6.873 as the class’ only other driver with a sub-seven-second effort.

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1 Comment

  1. Jerryd10 says:

    Lynch – What a great racer!

    Thanks for this update… I follow your posts on this website very closely.

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