Dean Leads MX-5 Cup Field To Mid-Ohio For First Visit in Six Years
Jun. 7, 2012 - LEXINGTON, Ohio - For the first time since the inaugural season in 2006, the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy MX-5 Cup returns to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. It’s an appropriate return, with the track dubbed the “Most Competitive In the U.S.” hosting a series that many consider the same.
|John Dean leads the Championship after four rounds (Weber photo)
While the names may have changed since that first season six years ago, the racing has not. Jim Daniels won by just 0.174-second in that race over Jason Saini (now a team owner and Grand-Am racer), and close finishes have been the norm.
Entering Round Five of the season, a close championship battle is also on tap. Currently, two-time winner John Dean leads the point standings by just 18 points in the No. 16 Projections Research/Sick Sideways MX-5.
Trailing Dean is the opening-round winner, Stevan McAleer, in the No. 28 CJ Wilson Children’s Charities/Blue Mercury Capital/RUfocused.com MX-5. McAleer is sandwiched between Dean and his Sick Sideways teammate, Christian Szymczak, who is just another five points behind in the No. 34 Projections Research/Sick Sideways MX-5.
And while the three rookies currently sit at the top of the standings, lurking within the hunt is a veteran of more MX-5 races than any other driver, Ara Malkhassian. Malkhassian is just 25 points behind Dean’s Championship lead in the No. 11 ALARA Racing MX-5, and one of two drivers – including his teammate Tim Probert in the No. 26 ALARA Racing MX-5 – who raced at Mid-Ohio in that 2006 race.
17-year-old Elliott Skeer won is racing this year as Mazda’s Club Racing Shootout winner, and sits fourth in points with a win at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in the No. 17 MAZDASPEED/Sparco/Pelican Windows MX-5. In addition to McAleer and Skeer, CJ Wilson Racing will also feature Emilee Tominovich in the No. 19 TrueCar MX-5, Ari Straus in the No. 27 ModSpace/Monticello Motor Club machine, and Brandon Kidd in the No. 29 ModSpace MX-5.
Dean Copeland’s No. 7 Sync Speed/Copeland Motorsports MX-5 was battling for the win at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca before an unfortunate incident with a lapped car caught him out and he limped home with a third-place finish. Copeland could be a contender this weekend, as for the first time he has a teammate to compare data to with Alex Ratcliffe in the No. 07 Copeland Motorsports MX-5.
Nathan Sparks’ No. 3 OOTSK Performance MX-5 has a top-five finish at both Sebring and Mazda Raceway, and seems poised to battle for podium positions.
Also under the ALARA Racing garage, the brothers Mosing – Brent, in the No. 10 Frank’s International MX-5, and Jeff in the No. 11 Frank’s International/Race Now For Autism MX-5 – are both on track at Mid-Ohio this weekend. Brent is in his first season as an MX-5 racer, while Jeff makes his first start of the season following a handful of podium finishes a year ago. Harrison Williams’ No. 00 Albrecht & Associates/MorganKeegan/Region MX-5 completes the five-car team this weekend.
Four additional single car teams are also poised for a battle. Beth Chryst’s No. 2 Chryst Brothers Construction MX-5 continues to get faster. Tom Neel (No. 15 Parts Group/NEO MX-5) and Christian Tetzlaff (No. 23 Lanier Tech/MAZDASPEED MX-5) both missed the west coast swing after racing in Sebring, as did Dan Bender – who is now racing in his own No. 18 Bravo Trailers MX-5.
Additionally, six cars will participate 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 and running as a separate class in the race.
Qualifying Lap: 1:40.139 (81.175 mph), Jim Daniels, 2006
Race Lap: 1:40.181 (81.141 mph), Jason Saini, 2006
Average Speed: 79.611 mph, Jim Daniels, 2006
Margin of Victory: 0.174-second, Jim Daniels over Jason Saini, 2006
2006: Jim Daniels
Television: On Velocity; July 7, 12 p.m. (EDT)