Finale at Mid-Ohio
Lexington, OH -- On August 12 & 13,
twelve Challenge Series racers showed up to compete in a tri-points
weekend. This was the final round for the competitive East Coast Series
and regional points weekend for Ohio/Indiana and Midwest. And what a big
weekend it was! All drivers really stepped it up in preparation for the
upcoming National Championships to be held at Mid-Ohio next month. Seven
of the twelve drivers eclipsed the old track record with Tony Buffomante
(Baltimore, MD) turning the best time of 1.41.042 in Sunday's
qualifying. The other six drivers that bettered the old record were
Brian Sanders (Cincinnati, OH), Gary McDaniel (Kansas City, MO), Brian
Cates (Broad Run, VA), Tony Johnson (North Wilkesboro, NC), John George
(Nashua, NH), and Dan Elam (Richmond, VA). The five remaining drivers,
Ed Boothman (Naples, FL), Peter LaRose (Northville, MI), Harry Elam
(Richmond, VA), Lyle Riggen (Channahon, IL), and Carl Thompson
(Hockessin, DE), all ran better times over the weekend and some came
close to the old record.
We could not have asked for better
weather in the middle of August, plenty of sunshine and temps in the low
80's. The day started off like any other race morning, car prep for the
first practice session. This session set the tone for the weekend.
Buffomante, Cates, Sanders, and Johnson topped the practiced charts, all
bettering the old track record. Others were just shaking down the car
and learning the track layout. Qualifying was the first time that all 41
cars in the run group hit the track. This had a few Challenge racers
complaining about the lack of a "clean" lap. Qualifying times set the
grid for our standing start. Cates earned the pole, followed by
Buffomante, D. Elam, McDaniel, George, Thompson, Riggen, Sanders,
Boothman, Johnson, LaRose, H. Elam.
Photo courtesy of
Productions, Chris Schutze
As always, when we lined up for the start, there is
that intense anticipation of the drop of the green flag. When the flag
finally dropped, Sanders launched with a start that would rival D.
Elam's. By turn 1 Sanders had moved from 8th to 5th with Johnson
following him and gaining two positions. As the Challenge racers
screamed towards the bus stop for the first time, they were treated to
something you rarely see. Buffomante decided he couldn't make the second
apex and drove straight off the track. But there's more. As the first
cars exited the keyhole, there's Buffomante re-entering the track ahead
of them. Normally this would have resulted in a penalty but Buffomante
had the presence of mind to allow Cates to overtake him, thus
relinquishing the lead. But it wasn't long before Buffomante took back
the lead. On the second lap LaRose had brake issues and was forced to
retire. After battling for several laps, Sanders was able to overtake
McDaniel and set his sights on D. Elam. As Sanders was closing on Elam,
the overall leader, a Viper Comp Coupe, was coming up to put him a lap
down. However, a double yellow flag was displayed. We passed four double
yellow stations, when the Viper decided to pass Sanders under yellow. As
we were picked up by the pace car, Sanders was caught behind the leader
and essentially lost a lap to Elam. The Viper was disqualified after the
race for this move but that didn't help during the race.
On the pace laps under caution, D. Elam started to
notice a serious problem with his brakes. He even had a wheel lock up at
one point. He managed to complete the race and a late spin allowed him
to gain a position on Cates. After the race it was found that Elam had
broken a caliper mount and that the caliper had almost cut the wheel
into two pieces. The race ended with Buffomante in first, followed by
Elam, Cates, and Sanders. However, after the race, Cates was penalized
one position for passing under yellow. Final results were Buffomante, D.
Elam, Sanders on the podium with Cates, Johnson, George, Boothman,
Riggen, H. Elam, McDaniel, Thompson, and LaRose rounding out the field.
Overnight and during the day Sunday, several drivers
made drastic changes to their cars and it paid off! Most notable were
John George and Peter LaRose. Both started the morning off with their
fastest times of the weekend and carried it on into qualifying, George
would start third and LaRose mid-pack.
There is always excitement in racing but this is
probably one of the more "routine" races there's been. Not many
positions were gained or exchanged. Everyone was running the best they
could. In the end, it was Buffomante, D. Elam, and Cates on the podium
followed by George, Sanders, Johnson, LaRose, McDaniel, Boothman,
Thompson, Riggen, and H. Elam.
This was the final race of the 2006 East Coast Series. See the
accompanying story here.
were also awarded in the OH/IN and Midwest regions. With only one event
left in each region, the titles are still undecided. Next stop is
Nationals for OH/IN and Midwest and Mid-Atlantic will sneak one more in
at Summit Point before then.
C'ya at Nationals