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Salvaggio Sweeps Buttonwillow, Wins Southern California Regional Championship

With just two races remaining in the Southern California Region race season, four FFR Challenge Series drivers arrived at Buttonwillow to do battle for the regional championship. This would be the first race following the NASA National Championships held at Miller Motorsports Park in mid-September, in which all four racers had competed. TC McNett, Mike Beeler, Ron Steebles, and Karen Salvaggio all arrived on Friday, and had their pit areas set up before turning in for the evening. Also joining the FFR group for the weekend were FFR Challenge Series car owner Jeff Ross, and FFROG Gary (lemkeg) driving his Mustang Cobra. Both did a great job of honing their skills in HPDE, with plans to secure race licenses in the future. Fellow FFR competitors Prototype Development Group (PDG) with their awesome GTM-R were also there in full force, ready to do battle for the Super Unlimited Championship. We'll look for their full report here on the Forum, but big congrats are in order for another great performance.
Racers were met with beautiful, sunny skies on Saturday morning, and Race Group C took to the track at a very civilized 9:00 AM. The FFR’s would be grouped with the Camaro-Mustang Challenge, American Iron/Extreme, Super Touring 1 & 2, and the Super Unlimited cars for the weekend. Karen set fast time in qualifying, with TC, Mike and Ron clocking next best laps. Karen cut her qualifying session short when, about halfway through the session, she heard banging noises coming from underneath the left side of the car, and felt something hitting the ground on hard right hand turns. A closer inspection revealed the left side exhaust mount had completely pulled away from the pipe, and was hitting the ground, serving as a sort of pole vault all the way through the turns. A quick search of the pits located a welder (enter Factory Five GTM-R friends from Prototype Development Group (PDG)). Don Vaught and Andy made quick work of the exhaust repair, and all spec racers were ready for the green flag at 3:55 PM.
Race Strategizing


The FFR’s were gridded behind the CMC/CMC2 cars, and at the green, TC got a tremendous jump on the field, quickly moving up six positions, well into the CMC field by Turn 1. Karen, Mike, and Ron were bunched up in slower traffic, and by the first turn, TC had pulled quite a lead on the other FFR’s. Karen drag raced several CMC cars into the Buttonhook, and picked up four positions by the exit heading to Cotton Corners. Mike snagged a few spots from the CMC drivers as well, and all four racers sorted their way through traffic for the entire first lap. By the end of the first lap, the group had settled out, and it was Karen chasing TC for the lead, with Mike holding third position, and Ron running in fourth. The next three laps would be a classic donney-brook between the front-runners, with TC throwing everything he had at the turns (sideways, snap-turns, late braking), and Karen working her car to the limits to continue to reel him in. The two entered the front straight in a virtual dead heat by mid-race, with Karen and TC drag racing to turn one. Karen was able to late brake and make the pass, but TC held on and the two again drag raced to the buttonhook. Karen got the inside position, and after the exit, pulled into the lead. Close, clean, door-to-door racing is the hallmark between these two, and this race witnessed nothing less than everything these two had in war chest. The remainder of the race saw a reverse of the first half, with TC chasing Karen, and at the checkered, it was Karen for the win, followed by TC, Mike and Ron.

Sunday qualifying saw Karen set fast time again, nearing her own track record with a 2:03.9xx, and TC right behind with a 2:04:0xx. Mike would be third on grid, with Ron starting in fourth position. After Saturday’s run, it was agreed that the FFR’s would start ahead of the CMC racers, so it was Karen on pole for the group. When the green flag fell, Karen got a great start, and again found herself in a drag race with TC to the first turn. Karen took the lead, and with TC’s yellow spec racer relentlessly in her mirror, the two would engage in a classic battle. Mike drove a stellar race, holding a solid third place all the way, and clocked his best time ever, with a 2:09.xx. Nice work Mike!! Now nearing the end of his first season in the Series, Ron also continued to shave lap times, and set his best lap ever at a 2:12.xx. Way to go Ron!!
Karen and TC would continue to battle lap after lap, until 3 laps short of the finish, when TC’s motor lost power and developed a vibration and engine noise that sounded all too much like a valve train gone south. TC would pull safely off at the Bus Stop, and sat out the remainder of the race. Also falling victim to motor issues (and after having turned in his best laps ever), Ron Steebles retired from the race early with an overheating engine. Karen would continue on and take the checkered flag for the race victory, with Mike taking 2nd spot on the podium, TC snagging 3rd place for his valiant efforts, and Ron scoring 4th place points.
Sunday Race Start


With a season record of 11 race victories, 9 pole positions, and 14 podium finishes, the Southern California Regional Championship goes to Karen Salvaggio. Second place goes to TC McNett, and Mike Beeler secures 3rd place for the season. FFR racers head to Buttonwillow for the final race of the season on November 5-6.

-- Karen Salvaggio


Page last updated: 10/15/2009

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