Mustang Challenge Racer Keeping Busy with his FR500S Tooele, UT (7 January 2009) --Racers just want to race, and with a few months yet to go until the 2009 Ford Racing Mustang Challenge season-opener at Homestead Miami Speedway in March, several...
Mustang Challenge Racer Keeping Busy with his FR500S
Tooele, UT (7 January 2009) --Racers just want to race, and with a few months yet to go until the 2009 Ford Racing Mustang Challenge season-opener at Homestead Miami Speedway in March, several Mustang Challenge competitors have been finding ways to stay sharp with their Ford Mustang FR500S machines. While the Ford Mustang FR500S was designed to compete in Mustang Challenge competition, the factory-built racer has also proven to be an impressive package in a variety of other categories.
One racer has been particularly active "between rounds" of Mustang Challenge competition. George Winker, who was awarded the Sunoco "Setting the Standard" award for the strong example he set in teamwork, sportsmanship, and a strong measure of both camaraderie and competitiveness all year long at the Mustang Challenge year-end awards banquet, is one Mustang Challenge racer who has been keeping his driver suit from gathering dust.
Based in Fredrick, Maryland, Winkler has been taking his Mustang Challenge FR500S to several tracks in his region, picking up significant seat time and some trophies to go with it.
Already committed to his return to Mustang Challenge competition in 2009, Winkler had a strong first season of racing in 2008 and is looking to build on his experience in 2009. He should have good reason for optimism, having picked up wins in regional N.A.S.A. events competing in the XTreme American Iron class at Summit Point Raceway and scoring second in the N.A.S.A. Mid-Atlantic Regional points standings despite not running the full season.
Even though this was his first full season of road racing, Winkler was no stranger to racing as the season dawned, with 26 years of drag racing history behind him.
"This was just my first year of road racing, and next year I am looking to come back even stronger," said Winkler. "My confidence level is just so much higher with a year under my belt. I can maneuver the car a lot more than I ever expected I could do and that confidence has me really looking ahead to next season."
Even the holidays didn't stop Winkler from racing as he took part in the Turkey Bowl at Summit Point, running in the Late Model Class in a Vintage Racing Group event. His wasn't the only FR500S in action, as fellow Mustang Challenge racer Pete Crosby was also on hand as the two mixed it up in a class packed with Ferrari and Porsche late model machinery.
When asked to take a quick look in the rearview mirror about his 2008 Mustang Challenge season, Winkler was hard-pressed to pick just one highlight from the year.
"I had a great season so it's hard to pick just one, but I'd have to say that the last race weekend at Miller Motorsports Park was the best," said Winkler. "Going out to a track four miles long with 27 corners, I was pretty concerned about learning everything I needed to in such a short time. But I picked it up, and I felt really good about that weekend. I kept moving up in the race, and it was a great way to finish what was already a great season for me."
For the Winklers, automotive passion and racing has been a full-family affair, and the off-season running has also made for a new chapter of father-son activities as Winkler's son Scott has scored some significant seat time in the FR500S as well.
"He's a pretty good driver and he's still getting comfortable in the car, but you know these young kids, they aren't afraid of anything!" joked Winkler. "He is still working on his professional career, but I know he'll eventually want to get up into the Mustang Challenge as well."
Winkler, who knows his cars inside and out as the head of the Winkler Automotive Center in Gaithersburg, Maryland, has also been impressed with how his FR500S has performed in the various tracks and race formats that he has contested so far.
"It's unbelievable. We did 500 miles the other weekend at VIR with my son and I sharing the car and it was bulletproof. I'd get out, and he'd get in the car and just keep going. Basically, we didn't turn the car off all weekend! We both shaved several seconds off of our times through the weekend and the car just kept getting better too."
While the off-season running has kept the competitive fires burning for Winkler, he already has events scheduled in February ahead of one big date circled on his 2009 calendar.
"It's been great to get this much time in the car and to race on some new tracks, but I'm really looking forward to seeing everyone together again for the double header at Homestead in March. I have never run there before but plan to before the Mustang Challenge race, but I'm really looking forward to adding another track to my resume and to getting the season off to a good start."