Mazda Road to 24 Scholarship winner Selin Rollan earned his second Battery Tender Global Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich victory at Portland International Raceway on Sunday. It was a hard-fought win over his Sick Sideways teammate Nathanial Sparks, with Bryan Ortiz rounding out the podium. Championship point leader Nikko Reger finished fourth, less than one second behind the winner following 45 minutes of all-green flag racing.
Rollan’s path to victory began with an incredible start that saw his No. 87 Sick Sideways Mazda go from seventh to second on the first lap. He settled in behind teammate Sparks (No. 8 Sick Sideways) and the pair tried their best to pull away from the field, but Saturday’s race winner Luke Oxner (No. 77 White Racing) and Reger (No. 01 Slipstream Performance) were on the attack.
Also making big moves forward was Ortiz (No. 4 Copeland Motorsports) after starting from 22nd on the grid. Within 10 minutes of the green flag, he’d broken into the top 10 and then methodically clawed his way to fourth with 15 minutes to go.
Ahead of him, Rollan and Sparks were trading the lead while also holding off moves from Oxner. Watching this battle ahead, Ortiz saw an opportunity and took it, passing Oxner in Turn 1.
On the white flag lap, Rollan and Sparks made contact in the final turn, with both drivers demonstrating excellent car control to stay on track and out in front. The close-quarters action nearly enabled Ortiz to pick up another spot, but at the finish line it was Rollan with the win followed by Sparks and Ortiz.
“I knew Sparky was going to make a move on the last lap and it’s unfortunate that we made contact, but I had to defend my spot,” Rollan said. “It was clean and we didn’t turn each other and it is awesome to get the 1-2 for Sick Sideways! I recalled our race at Road America during this race and I didn’t want to be the ‘pusher.’ I wouldn’t even be racing without Mazda—I was fortunate to win the scholarship and now I am here with my second professional win and am fighting for a championship! And if I can win that, I can get $200,000 for the next step. It is just incredible what Mazda does for us racers.”
Ortiz’s incredible drive through the field was part of the 128 total passes for position in the 45-minute race. In addition to finishing third, this performance earned him the Battery Tender Hard Charger Award.
“The drive was fun,” Ortiz said. “I knew we had a really good car. I really enjoy this track and I didn’t even know what to expect when we got here. We were really fast all weekend we just had some bad luck during qualifying.
“Today we tried to save some points,” said the native of Puerto Rico. “I’m not sure if we still have a chance for the championship, but it comes down to every position that you can get so I think third was a good spot to finish. We showed that we had a strong car, starting from last. I was able to drive through the field and have clean passes. I had a faster car at the end, but it was hard to pass and not risk losing any positions. I hoped that something might happen between the top two, and they did hit each other, but I just couldn’t capitalize on that and finished third.”
Reger, the current championship leader, banked valuable points with a fourth-place finish, but is now unofficially just one point ahead of Rollan with two races to go. The two are competing for a Mazda Road to 24 scholarship worth $200,000. Rollan also leads the Rookie of the Year championship, which also comes with a prize of $75,000.
Zach Lee (No. 48 McCumbee-McAleer Racing) completed the top five in his best MX-5 Cup weekend yet. Lee started outside the front row and battled it out with the leaders before finishing fifth and taking Master’s Class honors. He adds that to his Masters victory and fifth-place finish yesterday.
“I just felt like I was kind of hanging on the back of the lead group, and my car was very good,” Lee said. “I had the best car in the group, I think it was easy to see. I just couldn’t figure out how to make my way forward – I had a hard time getting past Nikko, and I missed a bunch of opportunities to move forward, but I think I could have won the race with that car. It was the guy behind the wheel who was the limiting factor, but it was a great race. I’m very happy to finish fifth in this field of drivers two days in a row.”
Lee’s team, McCumbee McAleer Racing, was awarded the VP Fuels Clean Image Award for their tidy and professional paddock presentation at the track.
In the Challenger Class presented by Monticello Motor Club, Alex Wolenski (No. 56 McCumbee McAleer) stood on the top step and finished 15th overall.
“My race was a little bit lonely,” Wolenski said. “I was in the middle of two groups of cars. In a long race, that plays games with you. You have to keep your concentration sharp and turn consistent laps, because you have no reference ahead of you or behind you.
“My goal this season, my first in professional racing, was not just to do well in my class, but to slowly get better overall finishes. I’ve been doing that with a 14th-place finish today. It’s been a humbling experience, but it’s been so much fun.”
Both races from Portland are available on the Mazda USA YouTube page.
The final two races of the Mazda MX-5 Cup season will take place at Monticello Motor Club, outside of New York City, September 28 – 29.