Frank H. Cicerale
April 1, 2008
The lone ranger from the Mustang camp in Pro Outlaw was the IHRA-legal, mountain-motor, Pro Stock '07 GT of John Nobile. Nobile stood tall, though, and after qualifying Fifth with a 6.35, he spent the rest of the day routing the field with some stellar runs. Nobile's 820ci monster gunned down the nitrous-assisted Corvette of Jim Kane in the final with a 6.278 moon shot.

Some would argue that the birth of heads-up Mustang racing was created just 50 miles south of New York City in a small hamlet called Englishtown. Back in the early '90s, the Mustang Showdown Series was created by the folks at Raceway Park (also known as E-Town), pitting the baddest supercharged, turbo, and nitrous-gulping Mustangs in a three-event showdown that grew to become a rather big deal. It grew into the famous Mustang vs. Buick Showdown that garnered national attention and turned many Mustang racers into heroes.

E-Town did it again recently with the Shakedown, an Outlaw extravaganza that has become the sickest one-day, heads-up drag race in the country. The event is the brainchild of Pro 5.0/Outlaw 10.5 racer Dave Hance, who hails from the city that never sleeps. Wanting to pit the best of the best in a no-holds-barred, heads-up race at a killer venue, he sat down with the RP brass and spearheaded the inception of the event known today as the Shakedown at E-Town. It's five years later and Hance not only makes sure the event is held each year, but that it thrives and grows. With four classes being contested and enough cars to fill a full 32-car field in each, the hitters come out to play with both barrels blazing-and there's no shoe polish in sight.

This year's Shakedown grand marshal was none other than NHRA star Mike Ashley. The New York native, who formerly campaigned a couple of Mustang-bodied Pro Mods, now pilots a horse of a different breed, namely a nitromethane-snorting NHRA Funny Car.

The Shakedown drew monster hitters, such as Tim Lynch, Brad Brand, John Nobile, and many others, who put on a fantastic show with two qualifying sessions and four elimina-tion rounds. Things grew tense, though, as the day drew to a close, and the 7:30 p.m. curfew imposed on Raceway Park rapidly approached. "Before the event, we were ready to split the pot among all the racers," Hance says. "Thankfully, we were able to get the show in. We had no one go into the wall or wipe out any of the center cones. Things ran as smooth as could be."

When the track lights were flipped off at the end of the night, we saw a Mustang take home the victory in three out of the four classes. We also witnessed the quickest and fastest runs ever by both an IHRA Pro Stock car and a 10.5W car. Not bad for a day's work!

The top-tier category was Pro Outlaw, which consisted of Pro-Mod and Pro-Stock style cars. There was no minimum weight for the cars in this class, and it was pretty much a double-barreled gunfight. Scott Filkins in a GM product was the number-one qualifier. The only reason we even mention this is because Filkins' ripped off an astounding 5.98 to grab the top spot. That run was stout, but when the final round rolled into the burnout box, the '07 Mustang GT of John Nobile set up to do battle against the nitrous-snorting '63 Vette of Jim Kane. Kane left on Nobile, but at the stripe, it was all Nobile, as the IHRA-legal mountain-motored Pro Stock Ford Mustang ripped off an amazing 6.27 at a thundering 223 mph for the win.

In the Outlaw 10.5 category, it was none other than Tim Lynch and his crew of wife Kelly and builder/tuner Steve Petty. The category was devised to accommodate stock-style, front-suspension cars running 10.5W tires out back. Lynch and his twin-turbocharged Mustang qualified on top of the stout field with a 6.79, and then turned the wick up for eliminations. Lynch's slowest run of eliminations came in Round 1 when he clocked a 6.61. He then proceeded to run a string of low 6.50s on his way to downing the nitrous-aided Camaro of Chuck Ulsch in the final with an unheard-of 6.53. As a side note, Lynch made a pass the day earlier during the test and tune where he blistered the track to a mid-6 at 231 mph!

"We changed only a couple of things from last year," Lynch said after the event. "We put on a pair of new Precision turbos that have a billet wheel, and we switched to VP fuel. We also worked on the chassis, but that is usual for every event we go to."

Walter Pfister's '87 hatchback could only hustle to a 9.36 best, which placed him 19th on the Drag Radial final qualifying sheet. While he missed the show, Pfister did go out in style--and on the bumper. The Fox-body reached for the stars each time it left the starting line in qualifying, bringing the fans to their feet at the same time.

After last year's Shakedown, when Lynch shocked the world with a 6.66, most figured the envelope had been pushed to the max. For the second time in as many years, though, Lynch showed everyone there is still a vast amount of the envelope left to explore.

"It amazes me how we're able to pick up in performance every year," Lynch says. "The air is always good at this race, so there being a drastic difference in conditions from year to year isn't a factor at all. It's funny how a couple of years ago, we were going 6.90s and hoping to run that at best. Now we're nearly a half a second quicker, and I keep asking myself when it's going to end. A large part of our ability to run quicker can most definitely be attributed to Steve Petty and his tuning abilities."

So with Lynch running that outstanding 6.53, is there more left for next year's event?

"We can definitely go quicker next year," he says. "When we ran the 6.66 in 2006, the eighth-mile times indicated we should have gone a bit quicker. We looked long and hard at the data and the incrementals from the 6.53 run, and we're pretty sure that we can go 6.40s next year. The incremental on the 6.53 run indicates it, so don't be surprised if we do it."

The Heavy Street final showcased a pair of GM products, but Chris Connor and his '88 Mustang did make it to the semifinals before he fouled out. Heavy Street is an interesting class made up of back-halved cars that utilize any combination or power adder. As for Drag Radial, it was an all-Mustang money round as the fast Fox-bodies of Chris Little and Mustang Mike Modeste squared off. Little had been hanging the hoops and traveling the first part of the track on the bumper for most of the day, and the wear and tear of those hard landings took their toll, as his green '90 LX broke after the launch. Modeste gave the fans a show, however, as he lit up the scoreboards with a 7.97-second, 177-mph blast.

For the Mustang contingent, life in the big city was good. Most of them ended up on Broadway. Best of all, the RP staff has added a day to the Shakedown for 2008. The event is slated for October 18-19, and we wouldn't miss it for the world.