Tony Buffomante
August 6, 2009
Photos By: Wes Duenkel

Needless to say, we had this one circled on the calendar since the start of the season. Although I've never driven the track, a venue 20 miles from the house, allowing family and friends to come to a pre-race party and see the action up close will make for a great weekend indeed. Combine that, with the fact that it's our last planned Mustang Challenge race of the year, and we had plenty of motivation to run up front. Loyal followers will remember however, that last time out at Mid Ohio we finished a distant third to the two championship contenders, and we needed to step-up our game if we were going to have the pace to contend in Chicagoland.

You've Got Mail
With the car back in the MXK Racing shop, the guys (Mike, Pete, and Dad) found some issues after the Mid-Ohio round with the front sway bar. That certainly wasn't helping the cause, but we needed to ensure everything else was alright as well before going into the weekend. Sounds like we should contact Dieter once again just to make sure the motor is up-to-snuff (you remember Dieter don't you...our friend from Miami)?

OK...forget it, bottom line is, let's go to the dyno to check it out. Well, it seems our appointment gets moved, and primary transport drivers Dad and Mike are unavailable. Should we just cancel? Heck no...Pete steps-up and will take the rig (that he's never driven before) out of his shop and bring the car for a look see. Only problem is...he misjudges how long that rig actually is, and wipes out his mail box on the way out of the lot, scattering paper all down Bullis Road (hope there were no bills in there).

Nice...cleaned out the mailbox and put a dent in the trailer...this weekend is starting out great. I supposed he owed me one or two though since I ripped his natural gas meter off his house back in the day (let's save that story for another time).

Down to Business (Practice)
With everything checking out OK, there were no more excuses left in the bag--time to get to business and start running some laps. We run the promoter test day this time (don't fall out of your chair...yes we actually practiced).

Surprisingly, we are at the top of the charts with Anthony Jr. and Caddell, who have been dominant all year long. The car was great, and every change we made helped that little bit more to keep progressing as everyone got up-to-speed on the unfamiliar track. The three of us swap fastest laps all day Thursday and Friday, setting-up for a great showdown for Saturday's afternoon qualifying. You've got to check out Wes Duenkel's photography from the practice days: Captain lounge chair sleeping, guys laughing and joking around. What a different atmosphere when you are running well.

Did someone say Saturday AFTERNOON qualifying? I thought so. That provides a lot of downtime Friday night and Saturday morning to have people at the house for a BBQ (Mike's specialty) and a few (undefined) adult beverages. My nephew Stephen is still trying to tell me that he beat all of us on the iRacing simulator in the basement. I doubt it, but I can't positively confirm or deny (and that's the story I'm sticking to).

Let'r Rip (for a lap)
Qualifying time--first time to bolt on stickers and see what's what. At 3.6 miles, this track is longer than most we run on. That means the best lap on the tires is probably the first timed lap. So here we go...wait on pit lane for about a minute after the field goes to get a gap and roll out. First time by starts the timed lap. We push as hard as we is OK, but not great since we are in the hottest part of the day and there's lots of different brand rubber out there; slight push (go figure). After the first lap I hear "Tied for Pole!" What? What do you mean tied? After a further look at the board, Dad tells me we have it by 7 one-hundredths of a second. Pretty close on a 2:40sec lap huh? OK, that's it for me--tires are done. Next lap, Ted Anthony Jr. comes around and gets us by about a tenth. Wow, that stinks, but hey, first front-row qualifying effort ever in the series for us--should be a nice view in the morning.

Don't Jump the Cushion
Starting on the outside going into turn one is not my idea of fun since it's very slippery out there (this is a piece of road that connects the north and south tracks and is hardly used). However, if we can stay there, the next turn is a right, so we'll be on the inside. Oh boy, is this going the work? Is there a cushion out there like the old dirt kart days?

We take the green and go in there hot, braked as late as possible, and somehow slid around the corner without touching anything to be able to be door-to-door for turn 2. Again...side-by-side, but we slot into the lead and start looking ahead. No sooner do we run a couple corners than do we get a full course caution for a big crash behind us at the start. That stinks...just starting to get into a rhythm. Oh well, we drive around behind the pace car for a few laps talking on the radio about how I'm not pulling away from the pack (no mercy these guys I tell ya), but that we are racking up the laps led.

Single file restart. We're a little cautious going into one, and I get a shot in the rear bumper that gets us sideways. We gather-it-up and keep rolling, lead intact. Now it's time to go. Let's see if we really have the pace to keep these guys behind us. They are tough for sure, but we've been looking for this for quite some time. We rip off about 4-5 laps all within thousandths-of-a-second. We get into the 2:39s and the car is flying! That consistency is enough to pull a 2 second lead with the white flag coming. Are you serious, we are going to beat these guys on pace vs. some luck ala Mosport?

Bring it Home
There are about 30 people there, between family, friends, co-workers, different series racers I haven't seen in a while, all looking on. 3.6 miles to go for a huge win for the whole team! Car continued to be great, tires were great. We take it easy on the last mistakes...just get to the flag. It works! We win the race by 1.4 seconds over the two championship contenders and winners of all other races this year (except Mosport of course). What an awesome feeling! Victory lane is chaos with all the people there. A huge thanks to Dad, Mike, Pete, MXK Racing, Stroud Motorsports and everyone that worked tirelessly since Mid-Ohio to get us back on top. Over the last three races, we've scored more points than any other driver, with two wins and a third--a nice way for us to end our season for sure.

Next up for us is to work on getting the new MXK Racing Black Kat Chassis done for the WKA Grand Nationals in October. It'll be the first time I've raced a kart in years, so I'm very much looking forward to it. As for the Mustang Challenge series, the finale at Utah will happen without us due to funding. Good luck to the championship contenders, I'm sure they will put on a good show.

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