Buffomante Nabs Belle Isle Trans-Am Pole

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Tony Buffomante captured the pole for the Trans-Am Series TA2 Muscle Car Challenge in Detroit. (Al Steinberg Photo)
Tony Buffomante captured the pole for the Trans-Am Series TA2 Muscle Car Challenge in Detroit. (Al Steinberg Photo)

DETROIT – Tony Buffomante claimed the pole for the Trans-Am Series TA2 Muscle Car Challenge at Belle Isle Park on Friday afternoon.

Buffomante and Rafa Matos traded fast times lap after lap during the 30-minute qualifying session for Saturday’s race, as Matos put his newly wrapped No. 88 Lear 3Dimensional Services Group Chevrolet Camaro into qualifying service looking to claim pole.

After pulling in to allow his Pirelli tires to cool, the Illinois-native dropped to mid-pack in the quickly moving session. With a cleaner track and cooler tires, Buffomante’s Mustang turned rocket ship, as he flew back to the top in the final minutes to challenge Matos.

Buffomante set the fastest lap of the day at 1:35.492 seconds, only .288 of a second ahead of the reigning TA2 champion Matos. In 2018, Buffomante drove flag to flag in the Detroit Grand Prix opening TA2 round after winning the pole.

“It’s good to be back,” said Buffomante. “I haven’t raced since Sebring, so I was a little bit rusty, but these Mike Cope Racing guys continued to work on the cars, making them better each round. We went out those last few laps and did what we could do! A driver has to have a good handling car here and be confident in it, because those walls will come out and bite you. It will be an interesting race tomorrow. I’ll be uber-aggressive, since we’re going for wins so we’ll see how things shake out.”

Rookie driver Lawless Alan experienced his best qualifying so far this season. After a troubling couple of practice sessions earlier in the day, Alan finally adapted to the 2.35-mile circuit, sliding into a third-place start for Saturday’s 60-minute feature. This is the 18-year-old’s first time turning laps on a street course.

“The first two sessions, I didn’t have a clue, and I knew I needed to figure out something for qualifying,” said Alan. “I talked to my teammate Tony Buffomante about gearing and how he was picking up some of the corners, and I decided to modify what I was doing to fit that more closely. I picked up a lot of time from that, so I appreciate his help, though I think I could have gone even faster. Coming from short tracks, I’m all too familiar with the wall – and occasionally finding it – so once I got used to how the car handled on this bumpy track, the walls weren’t that much of an issue. As long as I knew I was going to missed them, I didn’t care how close I got.”