Skeer Passes Test In Playboy MX-5 Cup Race At Mazda Raceway
May. 11, 2012 - MONTEREY, Calif. - Elliott Skeer, from Vista, Calif., outlasted the field on Friday morning at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and earned the first SCCA Pro Racing Playboy MX-5 Cup victory of his short career. Stevan McAleer, living in Putnam Valley, N.Y., and Ara Malkhassian, of Houston, Texas, completed the podium in the Round Three race.
|Skeer leads Malkhassian and McAleer on his way to a win at Mazda Raceway (Weber photo)
Skeer, a 17-year-old high school student playing hooky to participate in the doubleheader race week, was one of five cars battling for the race lead at different points in the 45-minute timed race. Skeer bested all of them to the checkered flag in the No. 17 MAZDASPEED/Sparco MX-5 by 3.001 seconds, averaging 77.990 mph over the 27-lap, 60.426-mile race distance.
The opening laps of the race saw McAleer’s No. 28 CJ Wilson Children’s Charities/Blue Mercury Capital/RUFocused.com MX-5 lead the standing start away from the pole position followed by Christian Szymczak, Skeer, Dean Copeland, Malkhassian and John Dean. Copeland’s No. 7 Copeland Motorsports/Sync Speed MX-5 got contact from Skeer as the group moved toward the Corkscrew, spinning the No. 7 out of contention and onto pit lane with a 16th-place finish.
The other five cars continued to battle, with Szymczak’s No. 34 Projections Research/Sick Sideways MX-5 leading laps seven to nine, and Skeer taking the point on lap 10 going into Turn Two when Szymczak slid wide.
Skeer, the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Ladder shootout winner for this season, held off a handful of challenges to the checkered flag. Catching traffic at the right time to create a gap from Malkhassian in the closing laps, the hard-charging No. 11 ALARA Garage MX-5 of Malkhassian sputtered exiting Turn Two, out of fuel, and let Skeer drive away for the win.
“To get the first win in the series, it was something special out there,” Skeer said. “To do it in my home state, the second home race for me, I love it, every second.
“Once I got through the traffic and I was able to open up a little lap, I was getting calls at the start/finish line saying 15 cars [ the distance back to Malkhassian], so I thought ok, I’ve got a gap. Next time by it was 10 cars, the next time it was 7, so I thought, oh, he’s catching me pretty quick. Going to the last lap, I thought it was going to be a good battle on the second half of the track and then I see him start moving over. I thought he broke, but I guess he ran out of gas. It’s a shame for him because it was going to be a good battle.”
McAleer led the opening six laps of the race and moved around Malkhassian after his bobble to take second place, his second podium finish in the young three-race season.
“It was a good race, I enjoyed every minute of it,” McAleer said. “When I dropped to third place, it was a missed shift from second to third, but I knew it was a long race and I wasn’t really too bothered about the miss shift. I just had to keep on top of it to get caught back up.”
“Third place was all I had today, and I was a little bit lucky that Ara had the problem on the last lap and obviously I took second place.”
Malkhassian clearly had the quickest car going through turn six and up to the world-famous Corkscrew, but missed a chance for a last lap pass of the lead. Instead, Malkhassian was left wondering ‘what if’ three days before his birthday.
“It was an unfortunate miscalculation, we ran out of fuel on the last lap,” Malkhassian explained. “I think our pace was so hot and heavy that our percentage of wide open throttle was higher than it’s been all weekend so far. I think that’s what caught us.”
With the fastest lap of the race, however, Malkhassian earned the pole for Saturday morning’s race, set by best race lap. Malkhassian lapped the 11-turn, 2.238-mile circuit in 1:42.208 (78.827 mph).
“I had them covered up in [turn] six pretty good, but I wasn’t as fast on the last corner so I was never able to make a pass on the front straight except maybe one,” Malkhassian said. “Most of the stuff I was able to do was on the back side of the track. When people would make mistakes, I picked them off here and there.
“ALARA Racing gave me an amazing car and it’s just been a pure joy to race all day, watching other cars struggling with handling and we were right there the whole time.”
Sick Sideways teammates Szymczak and Dean both lost touch with the lead group toward the latter stages of the race, though Dean’s No. 16 Projections Research/Sick Sideways almost caught Malkhassian before the checkered flag and finished fourth. Szymczak pulled to pit lane missing fourth gear but continued, finishing seventh.
Nathan Sparks finished fifth in the No. 3 OOTSK Performance MX-5 after a battle with sixth-finishing Steve Bottom in the No. 44 Steve Bottom Racing/RACER Magazine MX-5.
Another high school student, Kenton Koch from Glendora, Calif., won the Skip Barber Racing School MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge class running concurrently with the Playboy MX-5 Cup. Bryan Hixon and Kevin Marshall completed the podium.
Skeer was penalized 40 points by SCCA Pro Racing officials after the race for the contact on Copeland.
After Skeer’s penalty, McAleer holds the point lead after three of 11 races with 175 points. Dean’s fourth-place finish leaves him 9 points out of the lead with 166, followed by Malkhassian (152), Szymczak (149) and Skeer (139).
Round Four of the SCCA Pro Racing will begin at 8:00 a.m. PDT on Saturday morning at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Round Three from Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca will air on Velocity as part of the Mazda Motorsports Hour, June 9 at Noon EDT.
More information on the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy MX-5 Cup is available at www.mx-5cup.com.
Follow the MX-5 Cup on Twitter @MazdaMX5Cup.