The annual Shakedown Nationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, formerly known for the previous nine years as the Shakedown at E-Town, has long been notorious for record-shattering performances, made possible by the incredible fall weather in New Jersey and the racing surface that’s historically one of the quickest and fastest in the world.
When you bring together this many overpowered, under-tired doorslammers running on the ragged edge, however, things are bound to go wrong, and unfortunately, things traditionally go wrong at the Shakdown. If you look back on some of the most spectacular crashes in recent memory, a lopsided percentage of them occurred at the popular event promoted by one of drag racing’s preeminent cheerleaders, New York Motorsports’ Dave Hance. Of course, aside from the perfect storm that the Shakedown presents, it doesn’t help matters that Raceway Park has a nearly undeniable curse placed upon it, as it’s been the site of several one-in-a-million incidents that were of no fault to the track itself other than bad luck.
The 2012 edition of the Shakedown Nationals was the record-setting affair that it was promoted to be and everyone arrived expecting it to be, but it wasn’t without some tense moments for a couple of racers who encountered horrific circumstances during the event.
(Credit to Nyce1s for the video footage)
On Friday evening, the final car down the race track as Outlaw Drag Radial standout Paul Major, whose Corvette had just undergone some turbo relocation work at DMC Racing in the days prior to Shakedown.
Major ran the car to about half track and lifted, coasting through the traps in the darkness. Unbeknownst to the fans and race officials at the time was that an injector o-ring in the brand new combination under the hood had pushed out, spraying fuel under the tires. Major attempted to slow the car and pull it to the side aware that he had a mechanical problem, but before he could bring it to a stop, the car spun and turned into the wall at roughly 40 mph. The light but still very much unforrtunate impact quickly turned serious however, as the fuel ignited and became a raging inferno that engulfed the entire front half of the car. Because the car had come to a rest with the drivers door up against the guardrail, Major had unbuckle and climb his way through the passenger side of the rather cavernous cockpit to safety. Major was assisted by the Raceway Park safety crew, who promptly got the blaze under control. The damage was already done, however, and as Major indicated on Sunday, the destruction caused by the fire far outweighed the damage done by the impact with the concrete barrier.
“It sucks the whole team worked their asses off to make this race, It’s a real bummer to all of us but we wil be back real soon. We’re looking forward to some testing down south. New records are coming,” said the construction service owner from New York.
On Saturday evening, things once again turned ugly when Heavy Street competitor Roger Sterling went for one of the most horrific rides we’ve seen in quite some time when his late model Pontiac GTO crossed in front of Joseph Richardson’s ’69 Camaro in the other lane.
Sterling’s GTO struck the wall passenger side first, then pirouetted into the air before bouncing and rolling several times end over end. The battered car eventually came to a rest on what was left of its four wheels and Sterling emerged unhurt, but it was certainly a few tense seconds as the crowd watched the accident in horror and awaited confirmation from the other end of the race track.