Greetings to the Modified Mustangs & Fords faithful! By way of introduction, I'm Tony Buffomante of Chicago, IL. I'm a partner at KPMG by day and race car driver on nights and weekends. Like many of you I would guess, I've done various club events and also some Pro racing. In the last 25 years, I've run everything from go-karts in New Zealand, to SCCA, NASA, F2000, Grand-Am, etc. In my early 20s, we won the Pro STAR Mazda championship, were part of the Team KOOL Green Academy, and got close to going to the Indy 500. These days, I've been doing sports cars (FFR Challenge Series Roadster, Grand-Am, and now the FR500s in the Mustang Challenge), not much call for a 36 year-old Indy car driver with no money. After winning the SCCA runoffs, three straight NASA championships, and a bunch of karting championships, we were plenty cocky going into the inaugural season of the Ford Racing Mustang Challenge last year. Well, we did run pretty well early on, with some podiums; but by all accounts we got our tails handed to us, and ended up 4th in the championship. This year we are coming guns-a-blazing! There are lots of fast guys out there so it will be a challenge, but that's why I, and readers like you, love it! Come along for the ride with me this year for the 2009 Ford Racing Mustang Challenge for the Miller Cup series events. I'll give you the inside scoop, along with audio and video from the driver's seat. Before we get started, let's take a look at a preseason report.
In another week we will break the six month hiatus from competition in the Ford Racing Mustang Challenge. What a welcome sight that green flag will be after a long (and still cold) winter in Chicago! As we look forward to 2009, let's review the goals we set at the year-end banquet for the inaugural season back in September. After 4th place in the championship in '08, I told the TV crew that my goals for 2009 were, quite simply, the following:
1. Win some races
2. Knock Jamie Slone off the track
3. Get in a fight with Pratt Cole
Got your attention? I know--those are pretty cool goals; and I only had a few cocktails in me at the time! Let's get into those in a minute. First, a very brief look at the off-season:
Testing: This is an easy one; we did none. I haven't seen the car since it was loaded up at the end of the last race at Miller Motorsports Park. Now, that is not to say that the boys haven't been hard at work looking for more speed at the shop back in Buffalo between ice storms, but I haven't been in the seat. I did get some nice experience at Daytona at the KONI race and spent a little time on the iRacing simulator. Man I hope my car doesn't handle like the Solstice on there. I hit everything but the pace car!
Rule Changes: There were a few, not too many. That's the good thing about the series so far; they are sticking to their values in being one of the most cost-effective series out there. We got some safety mandates from Grand-Am (right side net, helmet shock system, etc.) and a few performance items for the car, most notably, new brake rotors, a softer rear-bar option, and some additional data acquisition sensors.
OK, Back to the Goals
Goal #1 - 2008 was the first year TeamBRE hasn't won at least one race in at least 5 years. That drove me insane, and I think I know what we need to do differently (tell you more in a week if it works). So is winning a race the first priority? Let's discuss the others.
Goal #2 - Jamie Slone came into the season with limited seat time and was fast right off the bat. Most of us didn't know each other down at the first race in Atlanta, and that was certainly true of Jamie and me. After making contact on a restart with him that took me out of a sure podium, I was livid. Suffice to say, I left there thinking this guy was less than professional. As it turns out, he is actually a pretty darn fast driver and a cool guy, and heck, he won a race last year and we didn't--not to mention 2nd in the championship. Regardless, it would still be fun to see him washing Red Georgia Clay from the underside of HIS car, but what does he do? He takes a "break from driving" and is now the main marketing man for the series. Good for the series, but not good for Tony's 2009 goals. I guess this one's out.
Goal #3 - Anyone who watched the "Why We Race - The Mustang Challenge" TV show on HD Theater this past winter knows that Pratt Cole is a feisty (old) dog behind the wheel and in the paddock. On the other hand, he's darn fast! I figure if I'm in a fight with him then we probably made some contact. You know he's gonna be up front, so that means we are also running good too--you following that logic? Enter my beautiful wife (and half owner of the team) Nita. I tell her about this goal and what does she say? "Why do you want to have to call me from the race track and tell me you got you're butt kicked by a 60 year-old man?" WHOA! REALITY CHECK. Evidently Nita doesn't think the two 30min treadmill sessions I did over the winter have turned me into a lean, mean, fightin' machine! Are you kidding me? Another 2009 goal dead before the season even starts? Given the fact that she's usually right (and pays half the bills); I'm going to reluctantly agree.
So that's it I guess...back to the boring old WIN SOME RACES goal as the top priority.
I'll let you know how it all turns out as the season unfolds. Follow along on the web, and get out to some races. Remember, the Ford Racing Mustang Challenge is THE PLACE TO RACE.
Talk to you soon,
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