AWEIDA SNARES FIRST MUSTANG CHALLENGE POLE WITH LAST LAP FLYER MILLVILLE, NJ, 17 July - Dan Aweida will start the first of two Ford Racing Mustang Challenge races this weekend at New Jersey Motorsports Park from the coveted pole position. ...
AWEIDA SNARES FIRST MUSTANG CHALLENGE POLE WITH LAST LAP FLYER
MILLVILLE, NJ, 17 July - Dan Aweida will start the first of two Ford Racing Mustang Challenge races this weekend at New Jersey Motorsports Park from the coveted pole position. Saving the best for last in what was arguably one of the most thrilling Mustang Challenge qualifying sessions in recent memory, Aweida's 1:36.257 second lap in his Flying Horse Motorsports Mustang FR500S came just as the checkered flag flew over the 20-minute session. The pole is Aweida's first in Mustang Challenge competition.
Ben Crosland will line up on the front row for the start as Tony Buffomante lines up third while Pratt Cole completes row two. Championship front runner Jason von Kluge will take the green flag from the fifth grid position.
Heavy overnight rain combined with rising humidity made for a damp track that was slow to dry and was even downright wet in a few key turns. Fearing the possibility of the clock ticking away under a black flag due to a car going off course, Aweida opted to go out right at the start of the session and bank a time. As it turned out, he set the early standard, which would hold for the first 14 minutes. His initial lap time at 1:38.105 was nearly five seconds off of the top time from yesterday's practice, a testimony to the challenging track conditions.
With all the cars now circulating on track, a dry line began to emerge, helped by full sunshine after the high clouds parted with less than five minutes remaining. At this point the timing and scoring screen began to light up with action as the times began tumbling.
Crosland, Pratt Cole and Buffomante began knocking on the door to the pole when finally, Crosland became the first to unlock it. Moments later, Buffomante reset the standard only to be followed immediately after by Cole. On his next lap through Buffomate responded with a new best time. With the checkers now waving at the finish line, Buffomante looked to be safe, until Crosland came through 0.15 seconds faster. Crosland's time at the top, however, would only last for a moment when Aweida found just that little bit more speed to go 0.24 seconds faster than Crosland's best.
"I went out early to make sure I got a lap on the books. As it turns out, I'd run all the practices on old tires, which meant I spend a lot of time in a low grip situation. That became a real plus with the damp conditions this morning. I knew how the car would behave on new tires with low grip. At the end of the session I was watching the track dry out a bit more and went for it," said an elated Aweida. "I think the race is going to be a lot of fun. I know the car is good, so I am hoping for a clean start and then will try to keep it up front for the rest of the way."
Crosland, who was the quickest driver in yesterday's practice, set a best time of 1:36.497 seconds in his No. 25 Interbank FX Mustang.
"The car was really great. I was just trying to find some grip and had to wait until the end. It's not the pole, but the front row so I am happy with it. We know from yesterday that the car is really consistent and strong over a long run, so I am feeling pretty confident for at least a podium finish," said Crosland.
Despite ending third and having been knocked off of the pole, Buffomante was in an gregarious mood following qualifying.
"That was a lot of fun and one of the most exciting Mustang Challenge qualifying sessions I've been a part of," said the driver of the No. 34 Capaldi Racing Mustang. "I waited a long time in pit lane, listening to the lap times coming in over the radio trying to get a sense of when the track was coming in. I put in some good laps, but fell just a bit short. It was a super competitive session. I'm hoping for a caution free race because I think there at least two good passing zones here."
The top five drivers are separated just over half a second, illustrating just how competitive of a qualifying session that was.
The first of two races this weekend takes place this afternoon at 1:15 PM EDT. Follow it live on mustangchallenege.com. Qualifying for race two takes place tomorrow morning followed by the race later in the morning at 11:00 AM EDT.