Baucom Muscles New Mustang into Top 5 Finish at Long Beach Matthews, North Carolina - Picking up right where he left off, 2003 Trans-Am Most Improved Driver John Baucom muscled his new Ford Mustang Cobra to a 4th place finish in Sunday's Long...
Baucom Muscles New Mustang into Top 5 Finish at Long Beach
Matthews, North Carolina - Picking up right where he left off, 2003 Trans-Am Most Improved Driver John Baucom muscled his new Ford Mustang Cobra to a 4th place finish in Sunday's Long Beach Grand Prix. The 4th place finish ties his previous career best finish. "I am very pleased with how the car handled," said Baucom. "We made the decision to run the Mustang body this year, and the crew worked very hard over the winter to get the car ready. It is a testament to the expertise of my crew that, other than some minor adjustments that we made to the nose during practice, the new body and chassis were 100% race-ready."
The aforementioned nose adjustment was needed to increase the ground clearance, which was too low during qualifying and resulted in Baucom's start at the back of the field. However, this starting position might have been a blessing in disguise as Baucom's qualifying time would have put him square in the middle of the opening lap accident that took out several cars in turn 1. "I could see the cars in front of me spinning sideways into the tire wall and car parts flying into the air. The 83 and 9 cars had to sail through the tire chicane to turn 5 to avoid the accident. We were fortunate to avoid the pile-up," said Baucom.
After the re-start, Baucom quickly moved the #86 MAP Quality Engineering Mustang into 10th position, settling in behind Max Lagod for several laps before making a mid-race charge to the front. "The car was a little loose at the start of the race. So, I drove conservatively in the beginning to save my rear tires for the end of the race," said Baucom. After cooling his tires, Baucom passed Lagod's Corvette under breaking in corner 5, then charged around Randy Ruhlman's Corvette on the front straight, and finally muscled by Mike Davis' Mustang in the next corner.
Just as the leaders were coming into view, Baucom developed a crack in the #8 cylinder header pipe, causing a loss of valuable horsepower. Crew chief Alan Culpepper explained, "A cracked header pipe creates a leak in the exhaust system which prevents exhaust gasses from being fully scavenged from the cylinder head. Because of the crack, we immediately lost 300 RPM and 10 MPH at the end of the back stretch. John really had his work cut out for him just to hang on to his 5th place position."
A late race caution for oil on the track set the stage for a 2-lap dash to the checkered flag. Baucom, still holding onto his 5th place position, would have to get around Michael Lewis to advance. "I knew Lewis was going to be tough to pass. He is always very quick, and I was down probably 50 horsepower with the broken header," said Baucom. "I knew that I was not going to win a heads-up drag race with Lewis, so the only way I was going to get by him was to make a run on him in a corner." Baucom laid back a few car lengths, and, as the green flag dropped, charged down the front stretch, breaking hard into turn 1. "I was able to get beside Lewis at the exit of turn 1, and therefore had the best line into the turn 2-3 complex." Baucom completed the pass into turn 2 and fought off Lewis for the remaining lap to capture the 4th place finish.
Baucom and his crew are looking forward to celebrating with their families. "We worked 16-hour days for two months to get ready for Long Beach. I'm going to spend the next few days with my wife, Juliet, and my two children Hannah and Laylon, " said a happy Baucom.