In Saturday’s Thunder race on a picture perfect Georgia afternoon, it was Matt Isbell, in his MTI Racing 240Z up against Joe Freda in his bright red 1971 Camaro in V1. Isbell qualified on pole with a blistering 1:28.4, with Joe not far behind. The race started with Isbell out in front and Freda’s Camaro hot on his heels the entire race, with both cars running race laps in the 1:29s. At Road Atlanta, that’s fast. The lead changed several times, with traffic and tire management being key factors. Isbell was able to fend off multiple challenges from Freda using slower cars as picks and taking away the passing line, Isbell took the checkered flag for the V1 class victory and the overall Thunder race victory as well.
In V2, we had Keith Campbell’s 1965 Mustang and Gordon Slingerland’s 1968 Firebird. In qualifying, Campbell took the 10th overall spot while Slingerland was in the 12th spot with a GTS3 car between them. At the start, Slingerland couldn’t clear the GTS car and got boxed in, allowing a Spec Z to get around, and letting Campbell to put some distance between them right away. Once clear of the Spec Z, the race progressed nicely, but Slingerland couldn’t cut into Campbell’s lead as both drivers put in consistent lap times.
With no cautions, the overall leaders eventually came around to lap Slingerland, getting between him and Campbell, and as luck would have it, a full- course caution came out shortly after. This allowed Campbell to go all the way around Road Atlanta’s 2.5-mile length to be at the tail end of the line for the re-start, Gordon was up front behind the leaders but now his strategy shifted from catching Keith to keeping from getting lapped in class.
On the restart, Slingerland kept Campbell behind him, as the rest of the race went green with only a few laps to go. Slingerland’s car started sputtering down the front straight running out of fuel. On the white flag lap, he was able to wiggle the car to get enough fuel back into the pickup and make it around to take the checkered flag. Only after he pulled in did he realize he’d won V2. Campbell had run out of fuel just a couple of laps sooner and coasted into the pits.
Qualifying played a huge part, as well as racing luck, but those long green-flag races require fuel strategy in these big V8-powered Outlaw Vintage cars, proving there’s more to winning than just being fast.