McAleer Recovers For Action Packed MX-5 Cup Win at Mid-Ohio
Jun. 10, 2012 - LEXINGTON, Ohio - Stevan McAleer recovered from a first lap off-course excursion to win his second SCCA Pro Racing Playboy MX-5 Cup race of the season on Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, crossing the finish line ahead of John Dean, of Sebring, Fla., and Nathan Sparks, of Spanish Fort, Alabama.
|Stevan McAleer leads the top four finishers late in the race (Hawking photo)
The Putnam Valley, N.Y., resident and Scotland native started on the pole in the No. 28 Numberix/Blue Mercury Capital/CJ Wilson Children’s Charities MX-5 and led the field from the standing start to the Keyhole, Mid-Ohio’s Turn 2. Going into the corner, Dean’s No. 16 Projections Research/Sick Sideways Mazda MX-5 made contact with McAleer and sent him off the track.
McAleer rejoined the race in ninth position, and steadily moved through the field. On lap three, he was at the tail end of a seven-car train in the battle for the lead. He got the lead on the 23rd lap of 27 in the 45-minute timed race, and held the lead to the finish.
The two-time race winner averaged 80.665 mph in the 27-lap, 60.966-mile race and set the fastest lap of the race in 1:39.268 (81.887 mph) for a 0.386-second win.
“I’m super excited,” McAleer said. “That was one of my favorite wins of all time. After the first lap, I just got my head down. I just tried to pick them off one at a time. I knew it was going to get much tougher at the front when we were up with John Dean and Dean Copeland. It was a little unfortunate what happened to [Copeland] because he was going to be right in the mix there for first place as well.
“There was never a plan to get to the front and try to pull away because I’ve realized that doesn’t happen in the MX-5 Cup. Once I got to the front, I just wanted to play around when we had some time left. We ran pretty close, and on the last lap I managed to get a little bit of a gap on [Dean] and didn’t really need to defend too much. It was a pretty amazing victory for me.”
Dean was one of four different drivers who officially led at least one lap during a race that saw a front-running train of up to seven cars. Dean’s teammate, Christian Szymczak, led the opening five laps and all but one of the first 13 in the No. 34 Projections Research/Sick Sideways MX-5, with Dean Copeland leading lap six and laps 14-18.
Copeland’s shot at a win ended when, on lap 23, Dean reached for his brakes going into Turn 2 but slid into the back of Copeland’s No. 7 Sync Speed/Copeland Motorsports machine, moving him off course and out of contention. Copeland recovered for a seventh-place finish, but couldn’t rejoin the lead battle.
“We were going into the keyhole, it’s a hard brake zone,” Dean said after the race. “I had been in the draft so long, I went to the brakes and I was following him in there. I just had no brakes going in. I tried to move to the right a little bit to avoid contact and just got him right on the right rear. I feel terrible because Dean and I are good friends now and have a good rapport. I know he’s mad, I would be too. It just really sucks. I was just sticking in behind him, and that was the goal. To not have any brakes there, it’s such a heavy braking zone, I just couldn’t get the car slowed down.”
Dean was assessed a 40-point penalty and a $500 fine by race officials for the contact.
Despite the contact, Dean led lap 16 on his way to his fourth podium finish of the season, chasing McAleer over the closing laps but unable to make a lead stick.
“It was a battle,” Dean said. “I didn’t get the greatest start, but I was able to go with my teammate. McAleer and I tried to go side-by-side through the keyhole and made a little contact. I was glad to see him get back in the race.
“I made a mistake staying in the draft too long, everything got too hot and the brakes were just gone. My tires were great at the end, I conserved them throughout the race, but I couldn’t do anything because my brakes were overheated from being in the draft. I just stuck in there and brought it home second.”
Sparks ran in the lead pack during all 45-minutes in his No. 3 OOTSK Performance MX-5, battling over the final laps for the third podium spot with Jeff Mosing’s No. 12 Frank’s International/Race Now For Autism MX-5. The two ran side-by-side through the famed Mid-Ohio “esses” in the final turn, with Sparks coming away with his first podium finish.
“That was intense,” Sparks said. “I stayed about fifth the whole race, and there was some serious action going on there. I think I saw at least 20 passes. I was shooting for a podium finish, I knew that would be a great step in my program this year, and I just stayed back and watched the race and made my move there at the end.
“I had a little run on him through one, and each lap he protected the inside. He made that inside line stick each time. I was really hounding him through madness and all of the other corners hoping he would make a mistake and he didn’t. That was very professional of him. But on that last lap I really forced it on the outside and took a little racing grass action there and managed to make it stick on the inside.”
Szymczak finished the race in fifth. Ara Malkhassian, who was just outside the lead pack for most of the race, came away with a sixth-place after Elliott Skeer spun his No. 17 MAZDASPEED/Sparco MX-5 at the end of the backstraight on lap seven.
Alex Ratcliffe (No. 07 SyncSpeed/Copeland Motorsports MX-5), Brandon Kidd (No. 29 ModSpace Motorsports/CJ Wilson Racing MX-5), and Tim Probert (No. 26 ALARA Racing/ALARA Garage MX-5) round out the top 10 in a race where all but Skeer, who spun, finished on the lead lap.
Zachry Lee, of San Antonio, Texas, won the Skip Barber Racing School MAZDASPEED Pro Series class in the No. 62 Alpha Motorsports/B+ Foundation MX-5, followed by Phil Mather (No. 95 CG-Lock/Seat Snug MX-5 and Bryan Hixon’s No. 63 Seven Devils Lodge/Tequila Me MX-5.
With the win and Dean’s penalty, McAleer takes over the Championship lead with a 20 point advantage over Szymczak, 276-256. Malkhassian is third with 250, followed by Dean (245) and Sparks (237).
More information on the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy MX-5 Cup is available at www.mx-5cup.com.
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