Tony Buffomante brings MCRE to the podium while Mike Cope influence grows in TA2 paddock at VIR

September 30, 2015
Tony Buffomante brings MCRE to the podium while Mike Cope influence grows in TA2 paddock at VIR

CLEARWATER, Fla. - Mike Cope Racing Enterprises battled the elements on and off track at Virginia International Raceway, Round 9 of the 2015 Trans Am Championship. But in the end, it was Tony Buffomante who took the track by storm—capturing a long overdue TA2 podium appearance while setting the fast lap of the race from behind the wheel of his MCRE Ford Mustang.

“In all it was a great weekend for MCRE despite the weather,” said Mike Cope, Owner of MCRE. “In particular, we’re very proud of Tony (Buffomante) for capturing his first podium appearance of the year with a third place finish. He’s been dealing with a lot of poor luck this season, but finally everything clicked for him. Tony’s been a huge advocate of what we’re doing here and plays a big role in both MCRE’s present and future.”

Buffomante charged through the TA2 field after starting 11th, making the most of a shortened, rain-drenched race where green laps came at a premium, while also turning the fast lap of the race. Buffomante’s efforts in his sprint to the podium earned him the Cool Move of the Race, presented by Cool Shirt Systems, as well as the pivotal podium placement.

“At the end of the day, Tony’s a proven talent in road racing, a true commodity,” said Cope. “Things haven’t gone his way this season, but we’re so happy to have him with us at MCRE and, in our own way, honored that he chooses to work with us and our cars. If we had not gridded by points, I imagine Tony would have had something for the leaders, but we’re overjoyed with the results and expect to see him back up on the podium in short order.”

The race also saw Dillon Machavern finish fifth, capturing his sixth top five finish of the 2015 season from behind the wheel of his MCRE built and Riggins Engineering prepared Ford Mustang. Machavern, just 20-years old, is now fourth in the 2015 Trans Am Championship with three races remaining.

“You often forget just how young Dillon is,” said Cope. “He drives with a definitive poise and purpose that you usually only find in veterans. He’s really showcased the MCRE platform throughout the year and is in the hunt for a spot on the Championship podium as a rookie. He’s a calm, collected and professional young man, one that I’m sure has an incredibly bright future ahead of him in this sport.”

Even younger still is JJ Haley, at 16-years old, who made his return to the MCRE team after conflicting dates between Trans Am and Haley’s primary responsibilities in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. Haley returned to the TA2 field in style, behind the wheel of an MCRE built Chevrolet Camaro. Starting 15th and after only 12 laps, Halley worked his way up through the 25-car TA2 field and into third place before having to temporarily pit with an overheating engine due to grass clogging the air intake.

“What we found out at VIR is that JJ is a natural rain racer,” said Cope, “it was remarkable, really! JJ originally came to us to help build on his road racing experience, and here he is tackling VIR in the rain and racing through the field, he even set the third fastest lap of the race—it was quite a show. Unfortunately, like many of the competitors this weekend, his engine had some overheating issues from grass clogging the air intake; so he had to pit for a moment, dropping back to 15th, but eventually made his way back to an eighth place finish.”

MCRE was also joined by the Loshak/Stark team for the race at VIR, bringing veteran road racer Lawrence Loshak into the Mike Cope paddock for the event and the remainder of the year.

“We’re very happy to have Lawrence and Peter (Stark) with us for the rest of the year,” said Cope. “We had a great time working with them at Road American on Vaughn Gittin, Jr.’s car and are of course very pleased to have them run with us for the remainder of the year. While I’m sure they want to improve on this weekend’s results, we’re committed to helping them maximize their car, and points totals, as we close out 2015. They’re very much an independent organization with their own business model and marketing approach, but I think it shows the flexibility MCRE has in our programs and the diversity in our customers—we’re looking forward to showing the difference we can make for them on track.”

Tony Ave, in an MRCE built and Tony Ave Racing prepped Ford Mustang, also made two charges into the top three, a consequence of pitting to allow the engine to cool. Unfortunately for Ave, while in winning contention, the wet conditions caused the rear brakes to lock up on the car momentarily, spinning it off track and into the wall—moving it six inches.

“Fortunately Tony is just fine,” said Cope. “The car took the brunt of the impact and he was able to walk way unscathed. You never want to see a crash like that, but it does show how safe the MCRE platform is and the TA2 class in general for that matter. Tony’s a great racer and a great rain racer—he’ll back on top in no time.”

Kevin Poitras, in an MCRE built Ford Mustang, and Keith Prociuk, in an MCRE prepped Chevrolet Camaro, both finished on the lead lap but were unable to have the impact they wanted on the race.

“Kevin and Keith are both such hard workers and dedicated drivers,” said Cope. “The elements didn’t do them any favors today, and the shortened race didn’t allow for any late charges through the field but we’re working hard to make sure they have the rides they need come next round at NOLA.”

Nick Hazelwood, in an MCRE built Chevrolet Camaro, also made his return to the Trans Am Series after sitting out several rounds. Another young rookie driver, Hazelwood finished 16th and on the lead lap in what was his first ever rain race.

In total five drivers participated as an MCRE team member, tying the event record, while three additional MCRE built cars competed in the event. MCRE built cars set three of the top five fastest laps in the race with Buffomante (1st), Haley (3rd) and Machavern (4th).

MCRE will now prepare to head west to NOLA Motorsports Park for Round 10 of the 2015 Trans Am Championship on October 11, 2015. Heading into the event MCRE built cars and team members control five of the top ten positions in the Chase for the Trigon Trophy Championship Standings and seven of the top 15.

Results for MCRE built cars at Virginia International Raceway:






Best Time


Tony Buffomante*

Ford Mustang




Dillon Machavern

Ford Mustang




JJ Haley*

Chevrolet Camaro




Keith Prociuk*

Chevrolet Camaro




Kevin Poitras*

Ford Mustng




Nick Hazelwood

Chevrolet Camaro




Lawrence Loshak*

Ford Mustang




Tony Ave

Ford Mustang




*MCRE “Arrive and Drive” member.

About Mike Cope Racing Enterprises:

Perhaps no other team has worked so diligently to achieve success over the course of 30 years as MCRE. Over the years, they have successfully launched corporate sponsorships in national series, developed short track and SCCA Road race champions and mentored young upcoming drivers. Lead by Mike Cope, he brings the same enthusiasm, dedication and knowledge to his race team that made him victorious in his own racing career.

MCRE offers a variety of services for drivers interested in the Trans Am Series’ TA2 program, including custom builds, arrive and drive programs, maintenance programs, consulting, driver mentoring, set-up and shock dyno. Learn more at

Mike Cope Racing Enterprises is based in Clearwater, Florida.

Mike Cope Racing Enterprises partners include: Quarter Master, Hawk Performance, Schoenfeld Headers, Wilwood, Port City Racecars, ButlerBuilt, Integra Shocks and Keyser Manufacturing.

MCRE Sponsors:

Bestline Superior Lubricants,

Since its incorporation, BestLine has developed a new line of full synthetic lubricants and lubricant additives that dramatically reduce friction, heat and mechanical wear to an extent never before seen or tested. BestLine refers to its proprietary technology as "Micro Lubrication Technology, (TM)" or "MLT."