Modified Mustangs & Fords
Tony Buffomante's Mustang Challenge Report - Barber Motorsports Park
Mustang Challenge Rounds 3-4 at Barber Motorsports Park
The Modified Mustangs and Fords faithful are certainly aware that Buffomante Racing Enterprises (TeamBRE) did not start the Mustang Challenge season at Homestead as we would have liked. In the month between races, we talked to all sorts of teams, series officials and other drivers about our alleged (down-on) horsepower issue. We provided some AIM data for the experts to analyze and they all said the same thing, "This series is really about driving, not about motor". OK...I guess we forgot how to drive since the podium appearances last year at Mid-Ohio and Mosport.
Enter my sister Barb and her husband Bill Strang. They had the car at their house in Charlotte between races and went to every Ford dealer in the area trying to get someone to actually look at the car with some real diagnostic equipment and see if we were down on power or if the kid should hang up his driving shoes. Fortunately they found a tech who was willing to run some checks and sure enough, he came back with two pieces of information, one on the electrical system, one on the heat. With some long distance thoughts from Dad, and engineer Mike Stahl, the Strang crew went to work to try to solve the issues. After a quick run over to our friends at TRG to check progress on the dyno, we realized we picked up 15-20rwhp and that we needed to do everything in our power to keep the motor running cool. OK...now what? No more excuses for the driver, should have the same ponies as everyone else now. If we can barely crack the top 10 again, time to pick-up a new hobby (bridge anyone?).
Friday Practice Sessions
Cool...car feels good so far...at least I think so. Uh Oh...no ABS! I go sailing right through one of the gravel traps after locking up both fronts at the end of the straightaway. Not cool, we cut an ABS sensor line and now have two trashed BFGs and a rock collection that would make my kindergarten teacher proud. Ended the first session 7th. Please tell me we are going to do better than this!
Now then, second session is an hour long. We get a chance to try a lot of things and end up 2nd on the charts! Now that's what I'm talking about...the only one quicker was Ted Anthony by about .6 seconds. Ted was clearly the class of the field all weekend.
Saturday Qualifying and Race #1 (Round 3)
Saturday started with a 25 minute qualifying session to set the field for the afternoon race. Since there is really only one "magic lap" on the BFGs and everyone slows down after lap 3, I figure I'll let the field go out and get some heat in the track and when they all come in after their three laps, I'll go out on a clear track and see what we've got. Sounds good right? Well, that is unless you got out for your flyer and someone crashes coming out of the last turn! Now we get to sit at the end of pit lane, with no timed lap on the board, waiting for the clean-up...waiting...waiting. Luckily, we get the go ahead to go out with 3 minutes left in the session. We run our one lap and will start 5th for the race. Not exactly what we are looking for, but hey...it's better than starting last because I outsmarted myself!
During the race, there were great battles all over the track, which is common in the Mustang Challenge. We had a great scrap with a number of cars and moved up to 3rd by the end. BACK ON THE PODIUM! Awesome! Man, that feels good. What a difference a month (and a normal HP level) makes. Got to celebrate on the podium with Dad, Mike, Barb and Bill. I'm so glad they believed enough to work their tails off to fix the problem. I can keep my license for now I guess.
Saturday Night Hill Races
Any of you who have been to Barber know it's a beautiful facility with 3 levels of paddock space, and between each level are very steep grassy hill areas. For those of you who have been around us at the race track, you also know that we are going to celebrate the fact that we ran like we should again (finally). If you can stand the cigar smoke, stories of racing "back in the good old days", and some absolutely brutal margaritas out of the blender, I think you'd have a good time.
Well, that's exactly what was happening with us and a number of other teams that came by. One in particular, Capaldi Racing, has a number of guys who have been around in the paddock and behind the wheel. They are always up for a challenge. This time, it's hill races, the brainchild of one Chris Capaldi, who demonstrates by taking a drink and (very) quickly rolling his body down the hill at warp speed. Is Tony going to back down from that challenge?....no, no, no my friends, that would not make you proud readers of the Tony B. blog at all. Unfortunately, it turns out I end up second in the hill races, getting beaten by Chris (who practiced by the way) pretty soundly at the bottom of the hill. The fact that I roll right into the rig on the asphalt probably isn't good either. Slight shoulder pain...nothing Jose can't fix.
Sunday Qualifying and Race #2 (Round 4)
Ah, what a beautiful day...rain everywhere! Haven't run one of these things in the rain before, this should be fun. We go out for the practice session and I run about half of it before pulling in as the track is drying. We jump up to the top of the speed charts in the wet, and then get passed by another competitor as the track dries out and I'm under my tent. Ending up 2nd in the rain session is fine by me, we've got lots of confidence now after yesterday's finish...and the shoulder is just fine.
Our qualifying run was better today. It's dry now. We are second after lap one, and then got knocked down to third a lap later. We'll take it...we are still a few tenths off the leaders, but you never know what will happen over 45 minutes of racing.
The race started out great, we jumped into second for a few laps, and then got passed-back by Anthony, who ended up winning both days. Was running a solid third, waiting for second place to burn his tires and brakes down, when we came up on lapped traffic. One of the "Media Car" drivers who just got in the car for the first time today was about 9 seconds/lap off the pace. While coming around to lap him, it looked like he was giving me the inside, so I went down there. Unfortunately, so did he and I rubbed him with my front bumper. No problem for me, other than losing some of the 2.5 second lead on 4th place that I spent 30 minutes building. He spun out though and was done for the day. I started to get some radio contact from the other team where they relayed a message from the other driver that he was sorry for getting in the way and potentially screwing up my race. No problem...or is it? Next radio transmission I get is telling me to come down pit lane at the 45mph speed limit for a drive through penalty for avoidable contact! Right away we get to the officials and bring the other crew chief into the conversation to explain that the other driver indicated he was at fault. So what do the officials decide to do?...they stick to their guns and call us in for the penalty, stating that they saw it on video. So...they've taken us off the podium on effectively out of the championship in one fell-swoop. I serve my drive through penalty and finish 15th.
Well friends...we came...we proved that we can still be competitive...we tackled the hill...and ended-up getting treated less than favorably. All-in-all a pretty eventful weekend for the 45th Anniversary party for the Mustang. Met a lot of great fans and got some confidence back that we can still compete, if not here for the championship this year due to the officiating, then maybe somewhere else...hopefully in a Mustang!
Talk to you soon...and keep your motors cool.T