The 50th anniversary of the iconic Trans Am racing series kicked off this past weekend at Sebring International Raceway, and Tony Buffomante with his Mike Cope Racing Ford Mustang were ready for redemption after a poor finish in the 2015 version of this event.
Based on the explosive growth of the TA2 class in Trans Am, the series has expanded the racing schedule to allow TA2 only races in this year. With 35 TA2 cars entered for Sebring, this allowed great racing throughout the pack.
The weekend started out with strong practice results from the #34 Mustang, which led to a 4th place qualifying start to being the 100 mile race. The top 8 cars in qualifying all recorded times under the existing track record, with Buffomante clocking in at a 2:09.09 lap, his fastest of the weekend.
As the race started, Buffomante slotted into 3rd place, behind leader and pole-sitter Gar Robinson and MCRE teammate, Dillon Machavern. Several full courses caution periods paused the side-by-side action temporarily and jumbled the field several times in the top 6 positions. Halfway through the even, Buffomante was able to force is Mustang into the lead on a restart, passing Robinson going into turn one. After another full course caution, the field was brought down pit road and eventually under red flag conditions to repair the track after an incident involving MCRE driver George Lutich, who was unhurt, but retired for the day.
Late in the race, the Chevrolets of Robinson, Adam Andretti and Tommy Archer were all able to get passed the #34, as Tony began to lose grip in the rear end of his Mustang. On the last lap, Archer also had issues with oiled-down track conditions, allowing Buffomante to get back to the podium, crossing the line side-by-side with Andretti. The final podium finishers of Robinson, Andretti and Buffomante were the same trio that ended the 2015 season at the final even in Daytona.
“He are definitely happy to get the season started on a better note this year”, Buffomante said.
“Last year we dug a pretty big points hole in the beginning of the season and we are trying to change that this year for sure. This series is so competitive that you need to maximize every weekend to contend for the championship, and that’s certainly our goal. The MCRE guys gave me a good car this weekend and we have a little momentum now, going back to Daytona. We are looking forward to one of my favorite track in North America, Road Atlanta, next...let’s see if we can keep the podium run going and get to the top step!”