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 Sunday at the inaugural Shakedown at Palm Beach.
Joining Jenkins in the winners circle at Palm Beach Int’l 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 ’68 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, who earned $3,000, while Jenkins received a $10,000 winner’s check.
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.”
Lowry 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 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, 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 Ass’n Competition Eliminator class champion was at Tampa the week before, taping his Speed TV show “TruckU.” The Woodridge, Ill., racer also had an upcoming photo shoot at Miami’s South Beach, modeling Brazilian swimwear.
Massel is $5,000 richer for the decision, which also gave new sponsor Autogeek.net 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.