Large Playboy MX-5 Cup Field Prepping For 2012 Season
Feb. 22, 2012 - TOPEKA, Kan. - Competitive fields of more than 30 cars should be the norm at each of this year’s 11 SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup races.
Tight fields have been a part of every race in the seven-season history of the spec series based on the popular auto platform, and has served as a launching pad for young drivers as well as a place where veteran racers can find intense competition at a good value. The series’ races will be broadcast on the Discovery sister network, Velocity, as part of the recently announced Mazda Motorsports Hour.
Each of the drivers in the field are chasing the series ultimate prize – a Championship win and the MAZDASPEED prize of a funded ride higher up the motorsports ladder the following year. An Atlanta Motorsports Group driver has taken the prize the past three seasons, with defending champ Michael Cooper, of Syosset, N.Y., stepping into a MAZDASPEED3 Touring Car in Pirelli World Challenge for 2012. The defending team champion is currently setting its MX-5 Cup driver line-up for this season and continuing its annual goal of finding a young driver who can battle for wins. The team ran four cars a season ago.
Among the many teams hoping to wrestle the title away from Atlanta Motorsports Group in 2012 is a five-car effort from CJ Wilson Racing. The team, owned by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim pitcher of the same name, has been chosen by MAZDASPEED Driver Development ladder driver Elliott Skeer, who will drive the No. 17 MAZDASPEED/Sparco/Milgard Windows & Doors/Pelican Windows & Remodeling Mazda MX-5. Skeer won the MAZDASPEED Ladder Shootout for club racing champions last December as a 17-year-old, and will be joined by rookies Stevan McAleer (No. 28 CJ Wilson’s Children’s Charities/Blue Mercury Capital/RUfocused.com,/Sambo Website Design MX-5), 19-year-old Emilee Tominovich (No. 19 TrueCar MX-5) and second-year driver Charles Paquin (No. 27 CJ Wilson Racing MX-5). The team has also announced an extended team partnership with ModSpace, who will put a guest driver in the No. 29 ModSpace MX-5 at each race.
ALARA Racing returns with an effort that currently sits at five cars, with the potential to increase by as many as two before the season opener at Sebring. The team is headed by Playboy MX-5 Cup veteran Ara Malkhassian in the No. 11 ALARA Racing machine, rejoined by fellow veterans Tim Probert (No. 26 ALARA Racing MX-5) and Harrison Williams (No. 00 ALARA Racing MX-5). The veteran trio is joined by series rookies Brent Mosing (driving the No. 10 machine piloted last season by his brother, Jeff) and Colin Wall, a Vancouver native who will pilot the No. 12 MX-5 this season. The team has a test scheduled for February 27 and 28 to shake down the cars and test some additional drivers.
Like many of the larger team efforts, the Hale Motorsports dance card isn’t fully completed, but will include at least team principle Randy Hale in the No. 83 Hale Motorsports ride. Hale Motorsports is another veteran MX-5 Cup team that has had success in the past.
The series isn’t just retaining veteran teams, but adding new ones. A combined effort from ProMoMo Speed and Sick Sideways has led to a new four-car effort, including former open-wheel racer Christian Szymczak in the No. 34 Sick Sideways Mazda. Joining Szymczak are three pro racing rookies: John Dean (No. 16 Projections Research/Sick Sideways Mazda MX-5), Diane Mould (No. 51 Projections Research/ProMoMo Speed MX-5) and Steve Molnar (No. 53 Projections Research/ProMoMo Speed MX-5).
There is a chance that the multi-car teams may end up chasing a single-car competitor for the season, however. Dean Copeland, driving the No. 7 Copeland Motorsports MX-5, won back-to-back races a season ago at Lime Rock Park and Road America to demonstrate his potential to win races at significantly different race tracks. The team has made some investments in new equipment this season, may add a teammate for Copeland, and have eyes on contending for a title after finishing fourth in the points a season ago.
Plenty of other single car teams are in on the action, though. Beth Chryst returns in the No. 2 Chryst Motorsports MX-5 after her rookie season in 2011. Steve Bottom has raced in the series on multiple occasions, and plans to conduct the 2012 season in the No. 44 Steve Bottom Racing MX-5; Christian Tetzlaff got a taste of the series a year ago and returns in his own No. 23 Tetzlaff Racing MX-5. Two additional rookie drivers have teamed up to join the series, with Nathanial Sparks driving the No. 3 MX-5 and Thomas Neel driving the No. 15 machine for their first season as pro racers.
In addition to the more than 20 cars already scheduled to compete in the Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup, an additional 11 to 13 cars will participate each race in the Skip Barber Racing School MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge. The arrive and drive program features identical MX-5 machines with slightly fewer modifications than the Playboy MX-5 Cup class, providing a stepping stone for drivers wishing to enter into the pro ranks.
The 2012 season begins with a doubleheader at Sebring International Raceway during the historic 12 Hours of Sebring week, with the Playboy MX-5 Cup on track March 14-16. The season schedule includes races with the American LeMans Series, Grand-Am Rolex Series, NASCAR Nationwide Series and on the airport circuit during Coronado Fleet Week near San Diego.
More information on the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup, the 2012 schedule, and information on the cars is available at www.MX-5Cup.com.
Follow the Playboy MX-5 Cup on Twitter @MazdaMX5Cup.