For Mustang fans, chaotic and disappointing are two words that best describe the second round of the 2012 Grand-Am Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge at Barber Motorsports Park. The race, which was held on March 31, marked the first time in since 2007 that a Mustang didn’t win, let alone make the podium at the Birmingham, Alabama track. Mustangs finished 1-2-3 in ’08 and ’09, 1-2 in 2010, and first and third last year.
The Mustang’s past success may have played a part in the healthy field of Mustangs entered to race. Twelve Ford Racing Boss 302Rs joined Rehagen Racing’s 2009 championship-winning FR500C to make it a baker’s dozen of Mustangs in attendance. Throughout the weekend, the Mustangs never seemed to have the outright pace of their competitors. Except for the first practice session, Mustangs failed to reach the top of the timing charts. A track that got “greasy” as it warmed in the afternoon played a part as the heavy Mustangs struggled for grip.
Qualifying was the same story, with Bob Michaelian driving the #52 Rehagen Racing Boss 302R to eighth on the grid—the quickest Mustang. The CKS Autosport Camaro GS.R driven by Lawson Aschenbach snatched pole with a 1:36.401 lap.
One obvious advantage to qualifying well is to have fewer cars to pass during the race; the other is to stay ahead of any first-lap shenanigans. The latter is extremely important at Barber Motorsports Park, as the approach to turn one is downhill, and a bit blind. Those that brake too late will find themselves sailing across the track into the runoff area—unless other cars are in their way. With 75 cars starting the race, It’s likely an overly ambitious driver will take someone else along for the ride.
Unfortunately, this very scenario played itself out in turn one at the wave of the green flag. Two Starworks Motorsport Mustangs (the #02 of Alex Popow and the #22 of Enzo Potolicchio) streaked down the inside past eight cars before running out of track, sliding across the grass, and careening into the sides of the #14 Nissan 370Z and the #6 Camaro GS.R. The result eliminated themselves and damaged at least seven other cars. The mess took a half-hour to clean up!
On the second re-start, an accordion-effect caused another disaster, this time damaging five cars before they even reached the start/finish line. Teams took advantage of the situation (those that were still running, that is), by coming into the pits for fuel and a driver change. By the time the green came back out, an hour had passed without a green flag lap.
Shortly after the race’s half-way point, Matt Plumb in the #13 Rum Bum Racing Porsche Carrera took the lead from Scott Maxwell (#55 Multimatic Motorsports Aston Martin V8 Vantage), and never looked back. Plumb finished the race with a 0.618-second advantage over Maxwell. Rehagen Racing drivers Dean Martin and Bob Michaelian finished 9th—the best of the Mustangs. After winning at Daytona, the #61 Roush Performance Mustang Boss 302R of Jack Roush Jr. and Billy Johnson came home a disappointing 21st after being collected in the first-turn melee.
Hugh Plumb in the #45 Fall-Line Motorsports BMW M3 came home third. The championship lead is currently a three-way tie between the #45 and #48 Fall-Line BMW M3s, and the #13 Rum Bum Racing Porsche Carrera.
A walk through the paddock after the race was like a battle hospital. Many Mustang teams look forward to putting the 2012 Barber 200 behind them.
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