Tight Racing and Crazy Close Finishes are the Norm for Mazda MX-5 Cup
 March 3, 2021| 
  • Series News

_GM_0992March 3, 2021 – When that cluster of cars crossed the finish line in Race One at Daytona International Speedway, no one was quite sure who won the race until the timing screen was populated. But the eyeblink finish wasn’t just something that happens on the high banks, as this kind of run to the checkered flag is a common theme in the Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich® Tires.


The Daytona opener saw Gresham Wagner take a 0.108-second win over Sam Paley in a furious charge to the finish.  While the sight of so many cars fanning out across the track with multiple rows trying to out draft each other to the finish at Daytona was remarkable, the margin of victory didn’t even make the top 10 in closest Mazda MX-5 Cup finishes.


20-10-11_GB_02127501The closest finish in series history came just last year at New Jersey Motorsports Park where Jared Thomas beat out Wagner by a miniscule 0.0009-second margin. Thomas seems to be a magnet for close finishes; this year he missed out on second place in that infamous Daytona finish by 0.001-second over Paley.


It’s not uncommon for the average margin of victory across a whole season of MX-5 Cup to be under one second. Perhaps the tightest season in recent history was 2017, when the average was just 0.3358-second through the full 12-race championship.


“In Mazda MX-5 Cup, it really does come down to driver ability,” said Mazda North American Operations Motorsports Program Manager Jonathan Applegate. “Flis Performance builds us a great spec car and the close racing and small margins of victory are a great result of that parity. It makes for very dramatic and impressive racing.”


_MS_4400Which tracks are the ones that you will most likely see close finishes? A good recipe is when the final corner is tight to slow the cars down, but also a good passing opportunity to get cars side-by-side. Most importantly, a long run from the final corner to the finish line makes for epic drafting battles. At the checkered flag it may not even be the car that was first or second exiting the final corner that gets the win, but the car that was in third or fourth and got the best draft.


Tracks such as Road America and VIRginia International Raceway show up frequently on a list of closest finishes.


DC0U0659Sebring International Raceway also falls into that category. Turn 17 isn’t too slow, but really the move for the win starts on the long back straight leading into it. In 2014, Kenton Koch beat John Dean II by 0.053-second at Sebring.


Could we see more photo finishes in two weeks’ time at Sebring? Find out by watching Rounds 3 and 4 on IMSA.com.

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