Jordaine Penick aims high: Meherrin racing prodigy targets top spot

Published 2:00 am Saturday, May 11, 2024

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A couple of cousins, one a Randolph-Henry student and another from Prince Edward High, continue to open eyes and impress this season as part of the Hornets Division at South Boston Speedway. Cousins Jordaine Penick, 15, and Christian ‘Max’ Sangillo, 16, are not only relishing the opportunity to compete, but performing quite well.

Each is part of the ‘Michael’s Power Sports,’ racing team and making strides with each event. While Max recently had his first Top 5 finish, Jordaine is third in points in the division and only seven off the lead in the Meherrin resident’s third season. That’s a jump from finishing in sixth last year and eighth as a rookie.

Continuing the family legacy of racing that goes back decades really hits home for Jordaine.

“It’s really fun and means a lot. My granddad and aunt both raced back in the 1980’s and 1990’s,” Jordaine said. “Daddy always told me stories about them. I wanted to do it a couple years ago and he said, ‘Well, if you want to do it, we can start you.’

Jordaine started out by driving a car around the field and actually took a peach tree out.

“That’s how I got the nickname Peach Picker Racing,” the Randolph-Henry student pointed out.

Her father, Michael Penick, serves as crew chief and car builder for both Max and Jordaine.

“A lot of experience (comes) from watching her aunt and talking to her aunt,” Michael said, explaining what’s helped her succeed at such an early age. “Also, I think practicing on the field and on the track. We rented a track in the off-season for them to practice at South Boston Speedway.”

A change will do you good

Sangillo has also continued to progress, beginning with a change in his vehicle.

“It’s been really different,” the Prince Edward High student said. “Upgrading from the Honda Civic to my current Acura RSX, there has definitely been a large change in my finishing positions.”

He’s referring to his fifth place finish in the division’s third race back on April 20.

“There are definitely a lot more challenges, like keeping my position, not causing any accidents or spinning out. Overall though, I think I’ve come a long way from last year,” Sangillo said. “Being out there in a faster car is a whole new ballgame. You can never have too much practice. I’d like to say there’s a difference in handling, power and all. I wouldn’t be here without Cheryl Penick, Michael Penick, Lucy Sangillo and Nicole Sangillo.”

Much goes into the preparation for both Max and Jordaine, including the rollcage components for the car and putting safety at the forefront.

“I enjoy watching both her and Max race. That’s fun for me,” Michael said. “They love driving a car and they’ve got the talent. The only thing I tell them when we buckle them in and put them in the car is to go in, have fun and stay safe. Cheryl and I have sat down and designed these racecars for them to be safe. Our team helps each other.” 

“My theory is you go out there, have fun, drive a clean race, give respect to the drivers and they’ll respect you,” he added. “I don’t tell them how to drive the car. They tell me what they need done. When officials come up and inspect the roll cages, they say ‘I tell you right now; those kids are in a safe racecar.’ That’s what it’s about, and them having fun.”

Jordaine Penick catches attention from leagues

Jordaine wouldn’t trade this experience for anything else. Nor would she rather be doing it alongside anyone else.

“I love racing with my cousin and it’s really fun. I love finishing next to each other. We laugh and joke about what goes on around the track,” she added. “We drive our own race and dad can’t really talk about how we drive because he drove a racecar last year and me and Max both finished better than he did. Max and I both help work on the racecar, so we’re not just someone who comes out there in a helmet and suit on, who hops in and runs the car. We’re actually hands on with the car as well.”

As long as the joy and passion remains, fans can expect to see more great things to come in the future for Peach Picker Racing and her cousin Max on the track.

“We’ve had a lot of attention given to us from the track, other leagues and other drivers about how much Jordaine and Max have improved and what they’ve accomplished,” Michael Penick acknowledged. “If they want to make a career out of it or as long as they want to do it, I’ll build them a racecar. But when it’s not fun anymore, let me know and we can do something different.”

When will they race next?

The next race in the Hornets Division is slated for this Saturday, May 11 at 7 p.m. at South Boston Speedway.