JUSTIN ELKES’ METEORIC RISE IN MOTORSPORTS
For someone who, as a child, had aspirations of becoming a professional hockey player, Justin Elkes has had a meteoric rise to the upper echelon of motorsports tuning, consulting, and electronics design.
GROWING UP IN FLORIDA
“Being from Florida and dreaming of playing hockey, after a while, just didn’t seem like it was the most logical career path,” Elkes admitted. “I’ve always been good with numbers, and as I got older I became increasingly interested in racing. I knew then that combining my abilities with my love of motorsports would take me where I wanted to go.”
Growing up, Elkes’ stepfather helped cultivate his racing interests by taking him along on his bracket racing expeditions to nearby Palm Beach International Raceway in West Palm Beach, FL, and Miami-Hollywood Motorsports Park in Pembroke Pines, FL.
SCHOOL AND EDUCATION
Fast cars and fun times with friends followed during Elkes’ high school years before he headed off to college to study automotive technology and mechanical engineering. While attending Florida Atlantic University, a chance introduction by one of his professors would open to door to the motorsports world for Elkes.
“We were nearing the end of the program and we had to start looking for prospective employers,” Elkes remembered. “My professor knew of a local place where he thought I’d be a good fit, so he helped set up an introduction.”
STARTING HIS CAREER AT WILSON MANIFOLDS
That place was none other than Wilson Manifolds. The Ft. Lauderdale, FL, air flow experts were on the rise in the racing industry, and the addition of Elkes further fueled its growth.
“I owe a lot to Keith Wilson, owner and founder of Wilson Manifolds, for helping me get my start,” Elkes said. “I literally walked up to the front door of Wilson Manifolds one day and told him who I was and that I wanted a job. He hired me and the rest is history. I went from a 19-year-old kid to, at the end, working with Keith to run the business. I also met so many key people in the racing industry that I may not have had the opportunity to meet otherwise. It was invaluable.”
Elkes finished up his remaining semester of college in the mornings before going to work at Wilson Manifolds after lunch. Before long, loading CNC machines or porting drag racing and NASCAR intake manifolds turned into a position as co-crew chief of the shop’s in-house IHRA Pro Stock car owned by Billy Dingman and driven by Rob Mansfield. The team also competed in ADRL Extreme Pro Stock and won three championships in that series with Elkes calling the shots and Matt Hartford behind the wheel.
My expertise has always been electronics and data acquisition, and the practical application of the tools that are available. I’m able to bring everything together and teach racers and teams how to use their systems and read their data.
WORKED WITH NHRA PRO STOCK CHAMPIONS GREG ANDERSON AND JASON LINE
Elkes would go on to work with multi-time NHRA Pro Stock champions Greg Anderson and Jason Line as the crew chief of the KB Racing team’s third car, driven by Ronnie Humphrey.
In 2010, Elkes made the difficult decision to leave Wilson Manifolds and the world of Pro Stock when a unique opportunity presented itself.
AL-ANABI RACING AND GRAY MOTORSPORTS
“I had a chance to branch out and do something totally different. Sheikh Khalid Al Thani’s Al-Anabi racing powerhouse was in full swing, and he recruited me to work with his legendary crew chiefs, Frank Manzo and Tim Richards, on the screw-blown ADRL Pro Extreme car he was driving,” Elkes said. “The opportunity to work with those tuning legends and all the top-notch equipment you could dream of was too much to pass up.”
The team gelled, and along the way, guided Al Thani to the first run in the 3.50-second zone in the history of the class and two championships.
Elkes never strayed too far from Pro Stock, however. Gray Motorsports, a relatively new NHRA Pro Stock team formed by New Mexico’s Johnny Gray and his son, Shane, reached out to Elkes for consultation and tuning help in 2011. As most things seem to go that involve Elkes, the freelance consultation soon turned into a full-time crew chief position for Gray’s three-car team. Under the guidance of Elkes, who also happened to become the youngest crew chief in NHRA Pro Stock, the team flourished.
MOVED TO MOORESVILLE NORTH CAROLINA
“As my role with Gray Motorsports grew, it became necessary to move to North Carolina to be closer to the team and the motorsports industry as a whole. Everything seems to be located in Mooresville, so I moved there with my wife and three kids,” Elkes said.
While immersed in the industry in “Race City USA”, Elkes’ vast knowledge and experience with electronics and data acquisition systems, which are an ever-increasing component of modern motorsports, allowed him to continue to build a strong relationship with industry leaders Racepak and MoTeC.
“My expertise has always been electronics and data acquisition, and the practical application of the tools that are available,” Elkes explained. “I’m able to bring everything together and teach racers and teams how to use their systems and read their data.”
LAUNCHED MODERN RACING
In 2016, Elkes and Gray Motorsports parted ways, which allowed Elkes to launch Modern Racing and better serve the needs of his growing list of clients, a list that now includes NHRA Pro Stock frontrunner Chris McGaha, the Al-Anabi Performance NHRA Pro Modified team headed up by Frank Manzo and Mike Castellana, Pat Musi Racing Engines, and PDRA Pro Nitrous record holder Lizzy Musi.
“Not only is Modern Racing a Racepak Elite Dealer and one of the largest-stocking Racepak suppliers in the country, but we’re also the best place to buy these components because of the expertise we have with using and applying them,” Elkes said. “From drag racing to fast street cars to karting and more, Modern Racing is able to identify the best component for your application, ship it or install it, wire it, and support it remotely or at the track. We offer it all under one roof.”
Contact Modern Racing today to get started on your own meteoric rise to the top.