John Dean II timed qualifying traffic perfectly and captured two pole positions for the Battery Tender Global Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires at Road America.
Driving the No. 16 Sick Sideways MX-5 Cup, Dean used traffic to his advantage to get the perfect draft and clock a 2m35.894s on the 4.014-mile Road America circuit. Even his second quickest lap was still the best of the field and earned him the pole position for Race 2 on Saturday as well.
“Qualifying is a little bit of luck but we’ve been coming here for years now, since our first season in 2012, and in that time I’ve been on quite a few poles,” Dean said. “But there’s so much strategy out there, and it’s strategy on the fly. You can’t plan it – you have to react and you have to make decisions. The car was working well. I had a really good car off the corner, which gives you the ability to pull a good draft. But the biggest thing was working track position and getting in the right position to get a lap, because if you are battling with someone, you can forget about it.
“Starting on pole in an MX-5 Cup race at Road America means you are probably going to be passed – probably at the start! So you just try to not fall too far back. You can be put out of line and fall back five or six cars, easily. So the goal is to try and protect the position. If you get passed, you have to then try and get back in line and pass back. Otherwise, you will just keep losing spots. It’s still a pretty long race for a sprint race and anybody in the top ten can win. It’s that kind of race.”
Dean will start alongside his teammate and 2016 Global Mazda MX-5 Cup Champion Nathanial Sparks, who drives the No. 8 Sick Sideways car. Sparks’ best lap was a 2m36.446s. He was a winner at Road America last year.
Fresh off a perfect weekend at Barber Motorsports Park where he won both races and took the Championship points lead, Nikko Reger qualified third. In his No. 01 Slipstream Performance entry, Reger’s fast time was 2m36.536s.
In his first MX-5 Cup race and fresh off a win in the SCCA June Sprints at Road America, Thomas Bernacki qualified his No. 95 Copeland Motorsports entry fourth with a lap of 2m36.590s.
“Carrying speed through the corners is obviously important and I think driving the [Mazda MX-5] T4 car helped a lot with that,” Bernacki said. “It was good practice to race here at the June Sprints. That transition from going from that to the Cup car was very helpful, I think, especially with qualifying and trying to get some good laps down. I’m pretty grateful that (teammate) Bryan [Copeland] qualified right behind me in sixth position, and hopefully we can work together and get away from everybody. From what I’ve seen in practice it will be very hard for a two-car team to get away from everybody – it’s going to be one big clump of cars. It’s going to be a chess game, I think, and we just have to keep our noses clean.”
Mazda Road to 24 Scholarship winner Selin Rollan completed the top five. His No. 87 Sick Sideways Racing MX-5 clocked a 2m36.629s.
Hernan Palermo topped qualifying for the Masters class entries. Driving the No. 20 Slipstream Performance MX-5, Palermo’s fastest lap was less than a second off the polesitter: a 2m36.805s.
“The Slipstream Performance cars were pretty good right off the truck today, so we were ahead of the curve,” Palermo said. “The team had to replace a transmission on my teammate’s car between the first practice and qualifying, but they got it done just in time. The team had to work really hard in that three-hour span.
“Hopefully, tomorrow, the top 10 can break away from the rest of the pack and there are no double yellows to bring everyone together, because that always breeds more trouble.”
Turning only one lap in qualifying, Alex Wolenski managed to out qualify the rest of the Challenger Cup entrants. A 2m43.294s in his No. 56 McCumbee McAleer Racing MX-5 put him 22nd on the grid.
“It was an interesting lap,” Wolenski said. “A screw fell out of the master switch in the dash and we found it at the very last minute, so I only had one lap to qualify. We also forgot to bleed down the tires. They were high pressure, which may have worked in my favor for one lap. I had a few sketchy moments in that one lap, but it worked out. It was a nice ending to the day.”
Friday’s race will go green at 1:25 p.m. CT and be streamed live. Saturday’s race is scheduled for 10:05 a.m. CT and will also be streamed live.