Wes Duenkel
January 1, 2009

Hot on the heels of the Ford Racing Mustang Challenge for the Miller Cup's race at Mosport was the series' third round at Mid-Ohio. As opposed to Mosport's flowing layout, Mid-Ohio's technical course packs 13 turns into 2 1/4 miles. This makes Mid-Ohio a favorite for both fans and drivers. When filled with more than 20 Mustang Challenge cars, the action was, to put it mildly, exciting.

Since Mid-Ohio has hosted the SCCA national championships for over a decade, many competitors were very familiar with the track and were hoping their expertise would put them at the top of the timesheets. However, Andrew Caddell again showed his dominance by besting all comers in every test and practice session. Even racing legend Derek Daly and his 16-year-old son, Conor, got in on the action as the two took turns behind the wheel of the No. 00 FR500S Thursday afternoon.

But Caddell's impressive performance wasn't the only talk of the paddock-the crumpled cars returning on rollbacks to the paddock had everyone concerned. It seemed that Mid-Ohio's challenging layout was giving the FR500S's Brembos quite a workout. Mid-Ohio's short straights between turns didn't allow enough time for the heavy Mustang's brakes to cool off between braking zones. Mid-Ohio's tire barriers stopped a number of racers instead of their brakes. Pratt Cole, currently running Second in points, rolled his No. 61 Mustang during Thursday's second test session. Fortunately, only his car was seriously hurt.

Realizing that some cars were having an issue, the Ford Racing and Mustang Challenge officials promptly investigated the situation and devised a solution. Racers were advised to replace their brake pads if they had less than 50 percent of their original thickness. The thicker pads helped to insulate the caliper pistons and keep the brake fluid below its boiling point. This solution greatly reduced the braking problems encountered during the remainder of the weekend.

Joe Lee Middlebrooks in the No. 25 machine also suffered substantial damage during Thursday's testing, but after a heroic effort by his team (and a very late night), his FR500S was back in action for practice on Friday. Qualifying followed on Saturday and was sure to be fast and furious. Mustang Challenge newbie Gene Martindale was Sixth quickest early in the session before stuffing the Rehagen Racing No. 14 Mustang into the tires. That contact ended his weekend and cut the qualifying session short.

Jamie Slone raised some eyebrows by setting the fastest time in qualifying, earning the pole for the afternoon's race. Ever-quick Andrew Caddell was to start outside of Slone. Tony Buffomante and Ricky Ehrgott filled in the second row. Since Pratt Cole's mount was a write-off after Thursday's crash, the "loaner" No. 00 FR500C served him well as he ended up Fifth quickest.

As the minutes to the green flag counted down, fans began to fill the grandstands and hillsides surrounding the course. At the start, Jamie Slone successfully held off Andrew Caddell through the critical first few turns and never looked back. A late race caution erased a two-second lead for Slone, but Caddell failed to capitalize when racing resumed.

It was the first win for Slone, and he was elated to be standing on the top tier of the podium for the first time in his professional career. Caddell finished a close Second and added to his points tally to maintain the championship lead. Tony Buffomante rounded out the Top 3 in his second podium in two races.

After two back-to-back weekends, the Mustang Challenge takes a month off before heading down to Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama. Birmingham in late July is guaranteed to be steamy, and the intense Mustang Challenge competition will make it doubly hot.

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