St. Petersburg, Fla
After inclement weather cancelled the planned Round 1 of the 25th anniversary season of the Pirelli World Challenge, Round 2 went off without a hitch. Starting 5th in the race with the #33 Boss 302 Ford Mustang in the hands of series debutant Tony Buffomante. After a strong result in qualifying in his maiden voyage on the storied St. Petersburg street circuit, Buffomante was eager to execute his fist ever standing start.
More than 50 GT and GTS took the green as the lights went out to launch the start of a new Pirelli World Challenge season. In GTS, defending series champion Aschenbach, of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., took what he deemed to be a “lucky” victory in the No. 1 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro.
Aschenbach and Andy Lee, of Colorado Springs, Col. in the No. 20 Best IT/Crown 7 Chevrolet Camaro, enjoyed a good fight throughout the race with Lee leading most of the event until he was held up by slower traffic on Lap 26.
Aschenbach seized the momentum at that opportunity, in the Invisible Glass Clean Pass of the Race award. After winning six races en route to his third series championship in 2013, he has his first win of 2014 in the first race by 0.839 of a second.
“I never really believed in luck until today,” Aschenbach said. “It was Andy’s race – he got sort of messed up going into I guess Turn 4, and I was lucky to get around him. We got fortunate today and hopefully we can be better for Long Beach.”
Lee, twice a polesitter at St. Petersburg and a frequent lap leader at the track, came up short of a track win here once again. But it was a fighting effort from the third-year driver and 2012 GTS class rookie-of-the-year.
In third place was polesitter Jack Baldwin, of Marietta, Ga., in the No. 73 RESET-MD/Motul/StopTech Porsche Cayman S. Baldwin, who won both St. Petersburg races in 2013, was slightly behind the Camaros for most of the race but was pleased with his third St. Petersburg podium in the last two years.
Ford drivers completed the top five in GTS. Buffomante, of Naperville, Ill., finished fourth in the No. 33 Capaldi Racing/Ford Racing Ford Mustang Boss 302S, and series debutante Jack Roush Jr., of Livonia, Mich., finished fifth in the No. 60 ROUSH Road Racing Ford Mustang Boss 302R.
“That’s a great start for us”, Buffomante said. “Coming here to a brand new series, brand new track, and with a car that was just built; I am happy with the top 5 finish. The team did a great job and I can’t wait to head to another new track for me…Long Beach!”