von Kluge Hangs Tough to Grab First Win in Ford Racing Mustang Challenge HOMESTEAD, Fla., 6 March -- It could have been a runaway win, but instead it turned into a nail-biter. Jason von Kluge of Ann Arbor, Michigan led from the pole in...
von Kluge Hangs Tough to Grab First Win in Ford Racing Mustang Challenge
HOMESTEAD, Fla., 6 March -- It could have been a runaway win, but instead it turned into a nail-biter. Jason von Kluge of Ann Arbor, Michigan led from the pole in Saturday's opening race of the 2010 Ford Racing Mustang Challenge season at Homestead Miami Speedway to open a five-second margin over the field. However, he would have to battle hard in the end to earn his first race win over a hard charging Tony Buffomante. Dan Aweida finished in third.
"I'm really happy--I wanted to get a good gap at the start and I was able to build up a lead, so that yellow flag was the last thing I wanted to see!" said von Kluge after stepping from the car in victory circle. "He (Buffomante) got by me on the restart, but we had a good close race with Tony and I was glad I was able to get back by him for the win. I'm so excited to be up here today, and hopefully I can do this again tomorrow!"
On lap 14 of the 26 run, the No. 50 car driven by Richard Golinello made contact with the inside wall of turn 1. He emerged unscathed, but unfortunately the same could not be said of his Mustang. The incident brought out the full course yellow, quashing von Kluge's solid advantage. On the restart, at lap 18, Buffomante, of Naperville, Illinois, who had moved into second from his fourth place start in turn early on, attempted a similar maneuver for the lead. On the following lap, he got the run he needed onto the front straight to draw alongside von Kluge.
von Kluge worked hard to hold him off, but made the slightest mistake, barely missing the apex of turn 1. The extra entry speed sent him just wide enough to open the door for Buffomante. The pair went door-to-door through turns 2, 3 and 4 before Buffomante finally completed the pass in the turn 6-7 complex.
For the next three laps Buffomante was on the point with von Kluge in his shadow. On each lap, von Kluge tried to get the run into turn 1, when finally, on lap 24, he got the draft he needed on the straight and went to the outside of Buffomante into turn 1. Side-by-side through turns 2 and 3, von Kluge was perfectly positioned at turn 4, a right hander following three left turns, to be on the inside and finish the pass for the lead. All that remained were three laps to the finish to seal the deal.
"I'm pretty bummed right now to be honest. When you get that close to tasting the win, it's disappointing to not come away with it. Still, congratulations to Jason and his crew. They've been the class of the field this weekend and deserved the win," said Buffomante with a smile despite his disappointment. "Really, I should be too disappointed. I haven't driven the car since my last race in Chicago (last July), which I won, so we've had some catching up to do. Once I got passed Jason, I had a lot of understeer, so I was a bit of sitting duck. I tried to keep him behind me as much as I could but he made an awesome move coming into turn 1. Nonetheless, thank you very much to everyone at Capaldi Racing and to my dad."
Dan Awieda of Boulder, Colorado, took over the third position on the race's fourth lap, benefitting from Pratt Cole sliding off track as a result of slow tire leak. Despite pressure from George Winkler early in the race and then Zach Lutz at the end, Aweida never relinquished the final spot on the podium.
"I had a rough start this weekend with the old tires, but once I got on the new BF Goodrich BFG-R1 tires and they are phenomenal. Qualifying was very tight, but fifth was okay as I like to be on the inside. There was a lot of tight racing up ahead of me early on but a couple of guys ahead of me got into a bit of trouble and I was able to get passed. From there, Zach Lutz gave me a bit of pressure from behind but I was able to fend him off," said Aweida. "We learned a few things today that will help us to hopefully qualify a couple of spots higher and finish better as well."
Zach Lutz of Lawrenceville, Georgia, finished in fourth overall after starting from seventh on the grid. For his effort, he was rewarded with the BF Goodrich Hard Charger of the Race Award worth a free set of tires. Steve Phillips of Charlotte, North Carolina, rounded out the Top-5.
"The yellow flag really helped me because things were pretty spread out before then so when we went back to green, I was able to make up some positions--I had a really good battle going with Dan (Aweida) at the end, so It was a really fun day. It's great to pick up some tires from BFGoodrich!" said Lutz after being recognized for his spirited race.
Outside polesitter George Winkler, Frederick, Maryland, recovered from a brief off track excursion to finish in sixth followed by Brad Adams, New Orleans, Louisiana, in seventh and John Scarlett, came home in eighth, for which he was awarded the Sunday Group Management "Rookie of the Race" award that will benefit the Austin Hatcher Foundation with a $150.00 donation in his name. Graciously, Scarlett, a former physician matched the donation with a $150.00 contribution of his own after being awarded the ceremonial check from fellow physician Dr. Jim Osborn.
Robert Bengoa finished ninth followed by Pratt Cole in tenth, who came back after suffering an early tire puncture and Richard Golinello was classified in 11th.
The second race of the 2010 Ford Racing Mustang Challenge takes place here at Homestead Miami Speedway tomorrow, at 1:15 EST.