Mazda Scholarship Racer Westin Workman Wins Whelen Mazda MX-5 Cup in Photo Finish
 March 15, 2024| 
  • Series News
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SEBRING, Fla. (March 15, 2024) - Continuing its tradition of races ending with miniscule margins of victory, the Whelen Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by Michelin provided a photo finish at Sebring International Raceway once again on Friday. Rookie and Mazda Shootout Scholarship Winner Westin Workman (No. 13 BSI Racing) beat Connor Zilisch (No. 72 BSI Racing) to the timing stripe by 0.004-second.

 

Workman started the 45-minute race on the outside of the front row but didn’t get the best start and fell out of the top five. He clawed his way back into the top three before the first of two full-course caution periods.

 

The opening stages of the race saw Gresham Wagner (No. 5 McCumbee McAleer Racing), a point leader coming into Sebring, tangle with Thursday’s race winner Tyler Gonzalez (No. 57 Saito Motorsports Group). Gonzalez continued but Wagner fell to the back of the field.

 

Gonzalez didn’t continue for long, however. A mechanical issue brought his car to a stop in Turn 15 and a full-course caution was issued. Gonzalez was able to jump out and give his battery a quick fix before continuing on track and into the pits. He returned to the track but struggled and eventually went a lap down.

 

Returning to green flag racing, Zilisch led the field followed by Workman and Jared Thomas (No. 96 JTR Motorsports Engineering). Another full-course yellow came out one lap later to retrieve another stranded car, but after the second restart the race stayed green until the checkered flag.

 

Workman was able to get around Zilisch with only a few minutes remaining, but that wasn’t exactly where he wanted to be when the white flag came out.

 

“So the driving style here at Sebring is a little bit different than Daytona,” Workman said. “At Daytona you really don't want to be leading. And here we have a really long back straight away and I didn't think the lead was the best spot to be in, but I couldn't check up to let a few cars by and get the draft down the back straight because there are too many cars in our front pack. So I just stayed in the lead.”

 

Coming into the final turn, Workman defended the inside from Zilisch, while Jeremy Fletcher (No. 22 McCumbee McAleer Racing) chose the outside line. There was contact between Zilisch and Workman at the apex, but it didn’t slow them down and they drag raced to the finish line.

 

Workman took his first Mazda MX-5 Cup win by 0.004-second over Zilisch. It is the third-quickest finish in series history, right behind the 2021 MX-5 Cup race at Sebring that ended with a 0.001-second finish.

 

“I'm just very fortunate and very thankful for all the opportunity that Mazda Motorsports has given me,” said Workman.  “To win this race, it felt like redemption from Daytona where we just had some unfortunate situations on the last lap in both races. So, I'm very happy to get it done this weekend. Thank you to Mazda Motorsports and BSI Racing for a really fast car.”

 

Zilisch (who announced just prior to the Sebring race that he would make his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series debut at COTA) repeated his runner-up finish from the day before and although disappointed, he knew that it was a solid weekend.

 

“The race today honestly was a little bit less stressful,” said Zillich. “You know, I felt a lot more comfortable at the front with my teammate and it was just good to be up front the whole race. I knew that they were going to catch us, you just can't pull away in this series. It was really hot out there.

 

“I'm glad he (Workman) got a win and got his first of his career in the series. It's the first one is always special, so I'm happy for him and glad that we could get a 1-2 for BSI Racing, but two seconds in one weekend, not what I wanted to have! It's not what we want, but it's hard to be frustrated when we had the chance to win in both races.”

 

Finishing third was a welcome result for Fletcher, who earned a DNF in Thursday’s race.

 

“We definitely fell back at the start,” said Fletcher. “I thought I was personally falling off there and didn't have the pace, but those cautions came out and I kind of got the motor temps down, tire temps down and went back hard after it and started moving up through the field.

 

“This is definitely an amazing start to the year with three podiums,” said Fletcher.  “I can't thank the MMR guys enough, my mechanic Dalton, the Holster Store, my grandparents for bringing me out here. Everybody that's kind of helped me out with this. It was an unfortunate day yesterday, but glad that we come back today.” 

 

Thomas, the defending MX-5 Cup Champion, finished fourth with his teammate Aaron Jeansonne (No. 24 JTR Motorsports Engineering) right behind him in fifth.

 

Making his MX-5 Cup debut at Sebring, Jesse Love (No. 2 Hendricks Motorsports) made big strides in the second race, finishing 12th.

 

The MX-5 Cup field will have two months off before heading to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California. Rounds Five and Six will take place May 10 – 12 with live streaming available on RACER.com and IMSA.tv.

 

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