A Mustang Boss 302R finally reached victory circle when Scott Maxwell and Joe Foster won the Barber 200 the weekend of April 9, 2011. Grand-Am’s Continental Tire Challenge opened for the Izod Indycar Series during the Alabama Grand Prix. This was the Boss’ first victory in twelve starts since its debut at the 2010 pre-season test days at Daytona.
With fifteen turns packed into 2.38 miles, one would think the tight and technical track wouldn’t play to the Mustang’s strengths. However, the 2011 race was the fourth consecutive time a Mustang won at the Alabama track. Foster and Maxwell took the 2008 win in their Hyper Sport Mustang FR500C, Brett Seafuse and James Gue of JBS Motorsports followed up in 2009, and Rehagen Racing’s Bob Michaelian won with co-driver Dean Martin in 2010.
Boss Mustangs and BMW M3s topped the time sheets in all three practice sessions. Sunny and hot conditions made the track slick for qualifying on Friday morning. In spite of the challenging conditions, Joe Foster recorded his quickest time of the weekend and secured pole position ahead of Matt Bell in the #9 Stevenson Motorsports Camaro GS.R and Al Carter in the Fall-Line Motorsports BMW M3. This was Foster’s third Barber Motorsports Park pole in four years. “Honestly, it was the luck of the draw,” Foster said. “Basically, I got one clear lap at the start and only did two laps. We usually do well here when we start from the pole, so tomorrow looks good for us.”
Carter had to start from the back after Fall-Line Motorsports changed engines in the #45 BMW M3 following an overrev during qualifying. The penalty bumped the Mitchum Motorsports #6 Camaro GS.R up to the inside second row for the start.
Sharing a weekend with the Izod Indycar Series exposed droves of open-wheel fans to Grand-Am street stock endurance racing on Saturday morning. Fans packed pit lane for the fan walk prior to the 11:30 AM start. Joe Foster led in his #15 Mustang for the first twenty laps, and Jack Roush, Jr. drove his #61 Roush Performance Mustang up from fourth to second. Thirty-four minutes into the race, Foster took advantage of the first full-course caution to pit for new tires, fuel, and a driver change. Much of the field followed suit, including Roush. Brett Spaude in the #35 Subaru WRX stayed out and inherited the lead. Scott Maxwell took the wheel of the #15 Mustang and rejoined the race in 20th place.
Another caution period followed two laps later, and those that didn’t pit the first time came in. Billy Johnson took over driving from Jack Roush, Jr., moved into first, and held the lead until ten laps later when the field came under another full-course caution. With seventy-five minutes remaining to race, but able to carry only an hour’s worth of fuel, the leaders faced a decision: pit now and risk having to pit again later for a splash of fuel, or stay out for fifteen more minutes and risk pitting for fuel under green? Many of the leaders, including Turner Motorsport’s Bill Auberlen (#96 BMW) and Scott Maxwell pitted for fuel and tires. Roush Performance kept Billy Johnson in the #61 Mustang Boss 302R on the track, hoping Johnson could build up a gap long enough for a green-flag pit stop and go the distance to the checker.
Back under green, Bill Auberlen stormed up from eighth to fourth in two laps. With just under an hour to race, Roush Performance called Billy Johnson into the pits for fuel and four tires. The stop handed the lead to Eric Curran in his #00 Camaro GS.R. Johnson rejoined the race in 31st position, gambling that the race would stay green and those in front of him would have to pit again for a splash of fuel.
Auberlen took the lead from Curran at turn 5, which is dubbed “Charlotte’s Web” for the huge spider sculpture just outside the guardrail. Scott Maxwell in the #15 Boss was in hot pursuit, and almost snatching second from Curran. Three laps later, Curran pitted, bringing Maxwell one position from Victory. Meanwhile, Johnson moved up to 15th position.
One lap later, Auberlen and Maxwell got what they needed: an extended caution period. The #27 Mazda suffered a mechanical failure that littered the track with debris. The following eight yellow-flag laps allowed the leading Turner Motorsport BMW and Mustang Boss 302R to conserve enough fuel to reach the end, while Billy Johnson was mired back in the pack. With ten minutes remaining, the track went green again, and Scott Maxwell applied heavy pressure to Bill Auberlen. With three laps remaining, Maxwell made his move. He dove inside Auberlen at turn fifteen, and the two drag-raced down the front straight. The horsepower of Maxwell’s Boss 302R out-muscled Auberlen’s BMW M3 and Maxwell had the advantage. At the checker, Maxwell had a 1.250-second gap on Auberlen for the win.
After the race, Scott Maxwell said of his battle with the #96 Turner Motorsport BMW, “Bill [Auberlen] is very hard to pass, but he is very fair. If you stick it in there, you know he’s going to give you space. He’s not going to give you the corner, and that’s what he did. We have a lot of respect for each other.”
The result was a satisfying win for Joe Foster, Scott Maxwell, and Ford. Just as Boss 302s are hitting streets around the country, the Boss 302 rolled into to victory lane.