With the CMC group in Texas, over the past couple of years, the fox body mustangs have wiped the floor with the F-body cars. With Daniel Allford coming off a full season of data from a freshly built car and few tweaks to the rules to allow a wider track width on the F-body cars, the stage was set for this to truly become a Camaro-Mustang Challenge once again.
Saturday qualifying was smooth and showed that last year’s champion Tyler Gardner was still a force to be reckoned with when he set pole for the CMC group by just over a second. Mason Melkowits ensured that everyone was aware that he meant business by setting pole for the AI group with a whopping 1.9 seconds of cushion. Enter Pranav Patel, who all last season was fighting one issue after the next and struggled something fierce just to get on track. Out of nowhere, he turned in a podium-worthy qualifying performance, placing him in third. Second through fourth were all separated by about a tenth of a second.
One of the trademarks of the Thunder group is the standing starts. There is just nothing like a rumbling group of V8s rolling up in formation. Everyone comes to a stop and for a moment everything is still, the revs come up in a roar the green flag flies. Everyone got through Turn 1 unscathed and the field started to sort itself, with still several cars two wide as they headed through Gut Check. It was not until the Key Hole, a tight set of switch backs that everyone fell in line. Even with the one-second advantage Tyler Gardner enjoyed in qualifying, he soon learned that come race one, things were not going to be so easy. Allford had decided that his fifth-place qualifying spot just was not going to cut it and started working his way through the field. Chasing down Patel, he flat spotted a tire before finally getting around him and subsequently John Martin.
At this point he had his sights set on Gardner in first place. It was not long before they were nose to tail circling the track. Gardner was not giving an inch but that did not prevent Allford from sticking his nose in at every opportunity. At some point Gardner, decided that flirting with the wall on pit straight was his new hobby, and came mighty close a few times trying to keep Allford at bay. This went on for a few laps and could have become real interesting if it had played all the way out to the checkered flag. With about two or three laps to go, Paul Green had his first experience with brake pad knock-back coming into the Launch. He subsequently put it in the grass and could not get it stopped prior to the tall stuff, where he got stuck. Many know, and hopefully few will find out, that rarely does tall dry grass and a hot car make for a good combination. Thus, he found himself with a small fire on his hands, and with just a few minutes left, two yellow flag laps proceeded and the race ended. For American Iron, Mason Melkowits set a track record, and for CMC, Gardner took first with Allford second and Martin in third.
Rounding out the weekend with the final race and an invert, it was Allford and Gardner back at it again as they cut through field. It was much tighter racing this time around with the Allford taking first and Gardner not more than .2 seconds behind. Records once again held strong up front until the dominant duo caught him. Records finished third.