Ford Racing Mustang Challenge Kicks off at Homestead Tooele, UT-- (12 March 2009) -- The 2009 Ford Racing Mustang Challenge season got off to a quick start on Thursday, as 18 Ford Mustang FR500S machines broke through the silence of the long ...
Ford Racing Mustang Challenge Kicks off at Homestead
Tooele, UT-- (12 March 2009) -- The 2009 Ford Racing Mustang Challenge season got off to a quick start on Thursday, as 18 Ford Mustang FR500S machines broke through the silence of the long off-season with a pair of practice sessions on the 2.21-mile infield road course to start the Grand-Am Fan Appreciation Weekend at Homestead Miami Speedway. The Homestead event marks the first visit to the south Florida facility as the series continues the momentum from a successful inaugural 2008 season and grows to a 10-race 2009 calendar.
Jim Click Racing driver Mike McGovern, who finished the 2008 Mustang Challenge 3rd in the championship standings, led the first practice session with a fast lap time of 1:38.985-seconds. Returning 2008 Mustang Challenge Champion Andrew Caddell posted the fastest time of the second session with a 1:39.147-second lap as the track lost grip in the sunny and warm conditions in the Florida afternoon. Caddell, who made his Grand-Am KONI Sports Car Challenge debut at Daytona in January as part of his Ford Racing Champions Package, was happy to put the lessons learned on the high banks to good use as he looks to kick off the season with a strong result in the double header weekend.
"Running with the fast guys in KONI like we did was a good way to pick up some small things to go even faster," said Caddell, who was getting his first laps at Homestead on Thursday in the Kaufmann Racing entry. "I like it so far-it's fun because there are some fast sections, but there are also some sections where you have to be really, really patient. And that can be hard! So we're having a good time so far."
Caddell's quick time was shadowed by Joe Lee Middlebrooks, who was second quick in the late afternoon session with the Metro Motor Sports Mustang. Middlebrooks is looking to get some momentum in Miami before the Mustang Challenge races near his hometown in April for the 45th Anniversary celebrations of the Ford Mustang at Barber Motorsports Park.
"It was a bit slippery, but I like the track," said Middlebrooks, who had also never run at Homestead previously. "But being with this group of people here, and this sunshine, being at the race track--who wouldn't love it? I'm glad to be back racing in the Mustang Challenge, and if I can just get into the top five here this weekend, I'll be happy!"
BFGoodrich Back Again
While the track was a new one for most of the drivers and teams, one constant was the return of the BFGoodrich Tires g-Force R1 tire that the Mustang Challenge FR500S machines utilize. For 2009, the tire will once again have the same compound and construction as teams became familiar with in a successful debut year in 2008. BFGoodrich's Tony Coleman addressed the drivers meeting to discuss tire pressures and get feedback from the drivers about the high-performance product.
Thank you, Larry
While the cars in the Mustang Challenge proudly carry the logo of series and corporate sponsors, many will also carry something more meaningful this season as black "LHM" stickers will pay tribute to the legacy of Larry H. Miller. The Mustang Challenge would not have been created if it weren't for Mr. Miller's vision, passion, and dedication to the brand and to creating the only international race series that is operated by a race track. Mr. Miller passed away in February, but his legacy and personality have left an indelible impression.
The first day of practice saw a number of new liveries make their debut as teams put the off-season to good use with some dynamic new paint schemes for the new season. Tune in to www.mustangchallenge.com to see!
Wild Ride Enjoyed by All:
Miller Performance Center Lead Instructor Dan McKeever and Mustang Challenge Media Racer James Hunt were on track in the morning, giving select media rides in a two-seater Ford Mustang FR500S. The once-in-a-lifetime thrill was roundly enjoyed by all who were fortunate enough to get strapped in and taken up to speed.
Friday will set the stage with qualifying for race 1, with the first race of the year slated for Saturday, as Sunday will be a busy one with both qualifying and racing on deck for round 2 of the 2009 championship.