BUFFOMANTE CONTINUES AUTOBAHN DOMINATION WITH FLAG-TO-FLAG WIN --Championship all locked up heading into final round --Teams chip in to get Gollinello going --Two rounds left for 2010 Championship as Series finale set for Miller Motorsports ...
BUFFOMANTE CONTINUES AUTOBAHN DOMINATION WITH FLAG-TO-FLAG WIN
--Championship all locked up heading into final round
--Teams chip in to get Gollinello going
--Two rounds left for 2010 Championship as Series finale set for Miller Motorsports Park-Sept 10-11
JOLIET, Il, 1 August - With opposing teams pitching in to help a competitor out, close battles up front, and clean close racing through the field for an all-green flag run start to finish, the Autobahn Grand Prix race on Sunday was exemplary of many Ford Racing Mustang Challenge events through the years and set the stage for a dramatic series finale at Miller Motorsports Park as the championship leaders closed the weekend tied for the lead.
Every Ford Racing Mustang Challenge lap run at the Autobahn Country Club has had one name atop the chart--Tony Buffomante. Dating back to last year's inaugural visit to the semi-private racetrack an hour south of Chicago, Buffomante continued where he left off last year by taking the point for every lap of Sunday's 45-minute Mustang Challenge race to seal his third win of the year. More importantly, the win ties him with Jason von Kluge, who finished second today, in the lead for the series title with only two races remaining at Miller Motorsports Park on September 11-12.
Rookie Kyle Gimple completed the podium, finishing in third place for the Autowerks/ICY Racing squad once again after having taken a dramatic breakthrough win in New Jersey.
"This is vindication for myself and Capaldi Racing following our tough luck in New Jersey (where they were penalized 15 points for mistakingly fitting non-standard brake rotors). It was a great pole, a great race and a great result for us and now it's a tie game heading to Utah," said a clearly elated Buffomante, who was joined by scores of friends and family after the race but confessed to being a bit nervous before the race. "We've put so much effort into this year, myself, my family, the whole team and now it's all down to one weekend where both Jason (von Kluge) and I need to bring our best game.
"He's a tough competitor and I expect his car will have a little blue paint and my car will have a little green paint on it when all is said and done, but whatever it is, this title will come down to who the best driver is. To be tied after a full season of racing is just a testament to how fair and level this race series is," added Buffomante.
Buffomante's blue No. 34 led the way at the drop of the green flag with von Kluge and Gimple giving chase followed by the rest of the field. By the start of lap 3 Buffomante and von Kluge, running nose to tail, had gapped Gimple in third who in turn had established a gap over the No. 25 of Ben Crosland.
It was on lap three that von Kluge had his best chance to squeeze past Buffomante coming through turns 8, 9 and 10. Buffomante saw the No.19 JVK Motorsports Mustang of von Kluge coming and took a defensive line. Soon after, von Kluge made a slight mistake and it was enough to allow Buffomante the chance to open up some daylight between them.
"I had the pace early on. I had one chance to get passed Tony (Buffomante) but he closed the door on me and thinking back to New Jersey, I didn't want to risk a black flag penalty for contact and so I backed off. Then, I made that mistake and he got away from me," said von Kluge.
By lap 7 Buffomante had a near two-second advantage over von Kluge, himself leading Gimple, Crosland, Brad Adams and John Scarlett.
On the pace lap, Richard Golinello felt something amiss on his left front corner and, thinking he had a flat tire, ducked into pit lane. As it turned out, he had broken the left front suspension with the spindle shearing at the damper mounting point.
With the field speeding away at the start, it seemed his race was over before it even began. But, in a true display of espirit d'corps, three teams, Capaldi Racing, Speedworks and RP Motorsports put all hands on deck to help stricken fellow competitor get back in the race. In less than 10 laps, major surgery on the No.50 Mustang had been completed, and Golinello was back in the race.
"I thought I had flatted, but when I heard what the problem was, I thought to myself, 'it's over.' And then all these guys chip in with help and tools and parts to get me going again, so a huge thanks to all of them," said Golinello.
Back to the race, the order all through the field remained un-changed as the laps and time wound down. With all the cars having established their positions, most of the gaps held steady. Buffomante now enjoyed a three second advantage over von Kluge. However the driver of the No.19 was not about to give up. In the waning minutes, he reeled off a few fast laps, including the fastest of the race at 2:40.752 seconds. von Kluge took back some time on Buffomante, but it was too little too late.
"I wish we had 10 more laps," said von Kluge.
Gimple, who took the Sunday Group Management "Rookie of the Race" Award, appeared to have a quite Sunday morning drive to third, at least from the outside. From the inside, he revealed it was anything but.
"I was fighting a loose car the whole race, and as the fuel load wore off, it just got worse and worse. I was really busy keeping the car going the direction I wanted it to go. Ben (Crosland) was coming up behind me and I had to push to keep the gap, but at the same time, the more I pushed the more of a handful it became. So, I'm pretty happy to come away with a third place. Tony (Buffomante) had us all this weekend by at least a second, so finishing third is almost like finishing in second place," said Gimple.
At the checkered flag, Buffomante sailed across to put an exclamation point of his weekend of domination followed by von Kluge, Gimple, Crosland, Adams and Scarlett with Golinello at least able to finish the race, albeit 10 laps down.
Without any changes in the running order, the Austin Hatcher Foundation became the cash beneficiary of the Green Filters USA Award and the BF Goodrich Hard Charger Awards.
The championship battle now heads to the home of the Ford Mustang Challenge Series at Miller Motorsports Park just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah for the a double header round that will see race action on both the 11th and 12th of September.