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Govenettio crowned King of the Hill of Modern Street HEMI Shootout at Rockingham Dragway

New York driver John Govenettio speeds down the left lane at Rockingham Dragway during the finals of the Modern Street HEMI Shootout on May 13. See more photos below. All photos by William R. Toler - Richmond Observer

ROCKINGHAM — Mopar power was on display at Rockingham Dragway this past weekend for the Modern Street HEMI Shootout.

Although “Modern” is in the name, the race featured several classic cars — including an early ‘70s model Dodge Challenger, late ‘60s Dodge Dart and a Plymouth Barracuda — as well as a few trucks and Jeeps.

John Govenettio, of Hamburg, New York, took the Z Automotive King Of The Hill title, as well as first place in the Cometic 12.50 Class and third in the East Coast Moparts Bracket Class, with Chris Jones placing first in the latter class.

A majority of the drivers hailed from North Carolina, but the shootout also drew participants from Florida, Virginia, Maryland, Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania — and Canada.

The Rock has become the default home of the series.

Dragway co-owner Dan VanHorn co-founded the series in 2010, which held its first event at Bradenton Motorsports Park in Florida.

VanHorn said the series paved the way to him eventually becoming a track owner.

He and Al Gennarelli — who has driven in the series since the beginning — purchased the Dragway from Steve Earwood and took over operations in November.

Click here to read about renovations the new owners have made to the track.

VanHorn said the tight-knit group is almost like a family, as evidenced by the nicknames given to some of the drivers during the awards ceremony.

Kevin Helmick, of New Bern, took first place in the Diablosport HEMI Outlaw Class with his “Grumpy Cat” Hellcat. VanHorn placed fourth.

Helmick is no stranger to Rockingham, making it to the finals in three classes — Outlaw, King of the Hill and 8.50 Index — during the 2020 Griffin Motors Mopars at the Rock.

Although racing can be a male-dominated sport, there were a few female winners behind the wheel, with Heather Franci taking first in the all-wheel drive class and Jennifer Parker and Jen Wagner placing second and third, respectively in the LegMaker Intakes 11.50 Class.

Proud papa Mike England Smiles as his daughter, Laura England, is presented the first-place plaque for Rookie Class in the Modern Street HEMI Shootout on May 13, by Dan VanHorn, co-owner of Rockingham Dragway and founder of the MSHS series.

All three Rookie Class winners — Laura England (1), Christine Feeley (2) and Theresa Smith (3) — are also women. England is the daughter of driver Mike England, who came in second to Ron Polidora in the 9.50 Index Class.


That wasn’t the only racing family at the track, as the Footbrake contest came down to father Mike Howell and son Garrett Howell, with the dad taking the win.

Other top drivers included:

  • Demon Performance 8.50 Class – Mike Brice
  • ThiTek Heavyweight Class – Sumit Goyal
  • Sipple Speed & Performance 10.00 Index – Eskle Collier
  • Cam Motion 10.50 Class – Justin Rems
  • LegMaker Intakes 11.50 Class – Johnathan Butler

Visit hemirace.com for full results.

The series returns to Rockingham July 15 for a night race. Other upcoming races in the series will be at Cecil County Dragway and Maryland International Raceway in Maryland and Milan Dragway in Michigan. The first event of the season was at Orlando Speedworld in Florida.

This week, the ManCup Motorcycle Drag Racing Series returns to the Rock, followed by the Big John Memorial Weekend Bracket Championship May 26-29.

The Dragway will take a break from racing June 3 with the Rugged Maniac obstacle course, but wheels will be rolling the following weekend as N.C. Speed Lab’s Civil Wars returns with trophies in 14 classes, fireworks and a concert by Richmond County native Erik Hawks and two country music tribute bands.

Hawks will also be performing at the Dragway May 25 for the City of Rockingham and Richmond County Chamber of Commerce’s Business After 5 event from 5:30-7:30 p.m.

See more photos below.

Note: This post was updated 8:14 p.m. 5-15-23

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Managing Editor William R. Toler is an award-winning writer and photographer with experience in print, television and online media.