Bryan Ortiz didn’t let an early exit in Saturday’s Battery Tender Global Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich race get him down, instead he made it his mission to get the win on Sunday, which he did with a last-lap pass. For the second time in as many races, the Global Mazda MX-5 Cup race came down to a last lap pass for victory, with polesitter Nathanial Sparks finishing second and Joey Bickers completing the podium in third.
Ortiz, in the No. 4 Copeland Motorsports entry, said he had the ‘yo no me quito’ spirit of Puerto Rico, which means ‘I don’t give up.’ Indeed, he never wavered in the 45-minute race with zero full-course cautions. Though he and Sparks attempted to work together to pull away from the rest of the field, the top 15 cars stayed glued together for the first 30 minutes of the race.
Ortiz took the lead at the start, but spent several laps battling with Robert Stout for the top spot. After 15 minutes, Ortiz had Sparks back on his tail and was even content to let him lead for several laps, while he planned his late-race attack.
“I felt Sparky was a little faster coming off corners and engine wise it helped me pull away from the group but then on the infield I was a little quicker than him and the others also so we managed and it came out perfect,” Ortiz said. “I didn’t want to be up front on the last lap.”
With five minutes to go, Bickers threw his hat into the ring with a bold move from third to first. When the white flag came out, Ortiz knew it was time to make his move, charging to the lead in Turn 4. He held off Sparks and Bickers to the finish line, taking his second win of the season.
“I don’t want to think about yesterday, because it will not let me enjoy today, but definitely it gave me an idea of what could have happened for the championship yesterday,” Oritz said. “We couldn’t do anything else, just come today and redeem ourselves and we got the win. We have the Yo No Me Quito Foundation, which means ‘I Don’t Give Up’, so this is a prime example of what it means and what we are doing for Puerto Rico to have a tough day yesterday but come back and win today.”
Driver of the No. 8 Sick Sideways car, Sparks had plenty of kind words for Ortiz and their race-long fight, which was actually more like teamwork.
“I’m pretty sure some of that racing speaks for itself, but in the car, the amount of communication that we had as competitors and the respect we were giving each other the whole time – it was a lot of fun running with Bryan (Ortiz) there,” Sparks said. “We were working together, you know? We both drove really hard. I made some mistakes, he picked me up, he made some mistakes and I picked him up and really in the end there it was like, lets make this a one-two between us and he bested me in the last couple of laps.”
On the final lap, Sparks followed Ortiz’s lead around Bickers to finish second.
“All I could do is work with Bryan and see how far we could go,” Sparks said. “I made some mistakes which slowed us down, but in the end it was such a solid race and I’m glad we ran so much better than yesterday. I have to thank my team Sick Sideways for putting us up there. Mazda, Battery Tender, BFGoodrich and Andersen Promotions made me have such a good day today.”
Bickers may have crossed the line in third, but he was already a winner before the weekend began. The No. 34 McCumbee McAleer Racing driver won a F.A.S.T. Technologies cool suit at the MX-5 Cup drivers’ meeting. And It was a cool head that helped Bickers earn his first podium of the season. He fell out of the top five early in the race, but fought his way back to the battle for the lead with five minutes to go.
A daring pass in Turn 5 on the penultimate lap gave Bickers the lead, but in the end, he wished he’d waited one more lap.
“It was a fun move, you want the win, but I think it came a lap too early,” Bickers said. “I was pretty much in the same spot on the final lap but there was nothing I could do except choose one side – I almost knew they were going to go by me. I was racing with two great guys in Sparks and Ortiz. It was so clean all the time, great race craft and really fun guys to race with. I think our car was pretty good at the end of the race, it definitely came in and it seemed everyone else was falling off a little bit. We wanted the win but we’ll take the podium and be happy with it, and congrats to Ortiz.”
Stout was credited with leading four laps in the race, but ultimately finished fourth in the No. 28 McCumbee McAleer Racing machine. A fourth combined with a third-place in yesterday’s race has moved Stout to second in the championship, only 11 points behind Nikko Reger as the field fights for the $200,000 Mazda Road to 24 scholarship for the 2018 champion.
Finishing fifth, but taking home the Masters’ Class win was Todd Lamb in the No. 84 Atlanta Speedwerks car. The top five was a welcomed result for Lamb who exited Saturday’s race early.
“Today was certainly a better day,” Lamb said. “We had a pretty good car, just missing a little bit of grip, but all in all I’m pretty happy with it considering we didn’t get to try it out at all yesterday. There was a pack behind us that pounced at one point, they got a big draft on the back straightaway and we were four-wide going into the brake zone and sometimes you come out on the good end and sometimes on the not-so-good side, so I had to claw my way back. I’m happy with the finish and glad everybody made it through in one piece. So, huge thanks to the Atlanta Speedwerks guys for getting the car back together, and to Mazda, Battery Tender and BFGoodrich.”
The Atlanta Speedwerks team had a strong presence in victory circle after the race. In addition to Lamb’s Masters’ Class win, Brian Henderson earned his second-straight Battery Tender Hard Charger Award for advancing 13 positions (No. 97 Atlanta Speedwerks) and Ted Sahley earned his second Challenger Cup presented by Monticello Motor Club win.
“Two days in a row at my home track,” Sahley said. “We elected to go with used tires today thinking we’d get out front early on, but that didn’t work out. The stickers were the way to go. We had to cruise control and do what we could. I had one spin that was my error. Then I had some contact and the wheel is trashed, but I made it to the end. The BFGoodrich tire held air all the way to the end, so badda book, badda boom, book at choicehotels.com for the best rate.”
Closing out the honors on the weekend was Atlanta Speedwerks, which claimed the VP Racing Fuels “Clean Image Award” for the team’s presentation and paddock presence. During the 2018 season, one team each weekend will earn the distinction from VP Racing Fuels.
Next for the Battery Tender Mazda Global MX-5 Cup is a doubleheader at Portland International Raceway, August 31 – September 2.