Teams Gather to Honor Award Recipients at Mazda MX-5 Cup Banquet
 October 17, 2023| 
  • Series News

BRASELTON, Ga. (Oct. 17, 2023) – The Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich® Tires paddock gathered together at the Chateau Elan Winery and Resort following the 2023 season finale to celebrate another outstanding season and recognize the top performers of the year.


The evening opened with a welcome address and thank you from the Chief Marketing Officer for Mazda North American Operations, Brad Audet, who then handed hosting duties to IMSA Radio’s own Shea Adam.


The largest trophy and check went to Jared Thomas (No. 96 JTR Motorsports Enginering) who became the first repeat champion in series history. Since 2006, no driver has earned more than one championship in Mazda MX-5 Cup. Thomas brought that record to an end and even managed to do it in consecutive seasons.


Thomas joked that he was running out of shelf space at the race shop but hinted that the $250,000 championship prize would be partially spent on gifts for his crew.


JTR collected a number of awards over the course of the evening. One of their mechanics, Kerry Norris, was named Mechanic of the Year and for their impressive paddock setup, JTR earned the VP Fuels Clean Image Award. Both awards are voted on by the MX-5 Cup staff.


Following in the tradition of many MX-5 Cup Shootout winners before him, Nate Cicero (No. 83 McCumbee McAleer Racing) was crowned Rookie of the Year. The only rookie to win a race in 2023, Cicero’s title came with a $80,000 check from Mazda.


Following a double-win weekend for Connor Zilisch at Road Atlanta, Hixon Motor Sports was able to tie JTR for the Team Championship. According to IMSA rules, ties are broken by whichever team has the most wins, but both teams earned five this season. The tiebreaker then moves to most second-place finishes, of which both teams had four. Finally, when it came to third-place finishes, JTR had two to Hixon’s one. This gave JTR its first MX-5 Cup Team Championship.


Selin Rollan (No. 87 Hixon Motor Sports), was presented with the Spirit of Mazda Award for emulating the ideals and essence of the Mazda brand. The Floridian came to MX-5 Cup from Spec Miata and has competed in six full seasons totaling 78 starts. Rollan was the 2017 Mazda MX-5 Cup Shootout winner and 2018 Rookie of the Year. In his MX-5 Cup career he’s earned 34 podiums including 14 wins. His enthusiasm for MX-5 Cup and his track performance made him the ideal recipient for the award.  


An award voted on by MX-5 Cup fans is the Move of the Year. Competitors submit their best in-car videos, MX-5 Cup staff pick their favorites and the top three are voted on by the public. From finalists John Jodoin (No. 39 McCumbee McAleer Racing), Thomas Annunziata (No. 10 Hixon Motor Sports) and Max Opalski (No. 2 Copeland Motorsports) the winner was Annunziata by a landslide.


The evening ended with several exciting announcements by Mazda Motorsports Senior Manager Jonathan Applegate about new partnerships, a confirmed schedule, and a range of good news for the teams and drivers to look forward to starting with the 2024 Mazda MX-5 Cup season. These items will be announced publicly in the coming weeks.


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