ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. — Canadian Pro Modified driver Eric Latino surprised himself Sunday by earning the biggest paycheck at the SPEEDTECH Shakedown Nationals at Englishtown, N.J.’s Old Bridge Township Raceway Park.
The recently crowned PMRA champion from Whitby, Ontario, and his Team Green earned the $20,000 payout, barging 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 challenge in his ’02 Firebird.
With the quality of competition, he said he didn’t think he stood a chance of winning his own trophy at this 10th annual street-legal drag-racing classic.
“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.
Joining Latino 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 the race 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.