- Sunday 13 April, 2014
An introduction to cars came early in life for Summit Motorsports Park driver A.J. Buchanan, as he watched his dad, Joe Buchanan, race his ’68 Mustang, and his uncle, Mark Buchanan, race his ’66 Mustang before he climbed into a junior dragster in ’96.
From there, he graduated to racing his dad’s tow vehicle followed by a ’66 Mustang, ’89 Mustang and ‘91 Mustang GT — featuring manual transmissions — and a ’93 Mustang GT.
These days, he flat-foots a big-block Ford-powered ’91 Mustang, which has blasted to a 10.18 in Lakewood Pro, and a small-block Chevy-powered ’84 S10, which belongs to Bruce Beard and has soared to a 10.83 in Quick Time Super Pro.
“I’m pretty much always on the go with both cars,” said Buchanan, who could collect winning timeslips in a school bus and didn’t have a delay box in the S10 until late last season. “If I get through the first round with both cars, I’m pretty busy trying to figure out what kind of pass they’re going to be on, and I’ve used up a lot of my memory doing that for sure.”
He spent the early part of last season chasing an electrical issue in the Mustang, and not long after, it developed a miss that felt as though four degrees of timing was being pulled and then added for the entire length of the quarter-mile. In an attempt to track it down, he went through everything from the valvetrain to the powertrain.
It proved to be elusive, as every nut and bolt was in place in the bullet built by his dad and every clutch and band was in place in the Powerglide built by Fleenor Racing Transmissions. But by fall, he had determined that it was the converter, which he promptly replaced with a new one by BTE, and headed to the Halloween Classic.
“We were running eighth-mile at that race rather than quarter-mile so I haven’t had a full-track pass with the new converter yet, but considering the car was running flawlessly there, I feel confident that was the issue,” said Buchanan, who got down to six cars in Lakewood Pro before a couple teeth got knocked off of the ring gear in his rear-end.
Despite those issues, he last season added to his racing resume a win and a runner-up in the Mustang and a win and two runner-ups — including one at the ever-popular No Box Bonanza — in the truck. He finished sixth in Lakewood Pro and twelfth in Quick Time Super Pro.
A natural behind the wheel and adept at working with multiple cars and multiple combinations at one time, he also races his dad’s nine-second ’04 NHRA Super Stock Mustang every now and then.
“I’ve actually broken more parts on dad’s car than I have turned on lights,” said Buchanan, a regular in the winner’s circle and the '10 Pro champion. “You’ve been around me. I’m like the black plague for cars. If there’s a weak link, I find it.”
As he continues to race the Mustang and the S10 this season, he’ll also spend time guiding his cousin, Heather Saalman, who has made the move from junior-dragster racing to door-car racing, and his son, Brandon, who is entering the novice junior-dragster ranks. In addition, he may climb behind the wheel of his dad’s ’68 Mustang, which he said was “like a big brother” to him when he was growing up.
“I’m hoping to do somewhat decent this season,” said the always modest yet always motivated Buchanan, who is currently attempting to gather new heads and a new intake to finish the building of a new engine. “I’m shooting for the moon.”
By Mary Lendzion