Frustrated with a second-place finish in Race 1 at Barber Motorsports Park earlier today, Bryan Ortiz relished his run to the top of the Battery Tender Global Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires podium in Race 2 — his first victory of the 2019 season.
Polesitter Gresham Wagner (No. 5 Sick Sideways Racing) held the lead for the opening nine laps before Race 1 winner Selin Rollan took over. But just four laps later, a determined Ortiz (No. 4 Copeland Motorsports) moved to the front and never looked back. If he had looked behind, he’d likely have been entertained by the battle between Rollan, Kemper, Luke Oxner and Michael Carter.
The action got a little too close when Rollan (No. 87 Sick Sideways Racing) locked up under braking for Turn Five and made contact with Carter who spun. Rollan was issued a drive-through penalty for incident responsibility, while Carter was able to recover and finish sixth in his No. 08 Copeland Motorsports car.
All the jockeying for position behind let Ortiz break away from the field to take the win.
“We definitely could have done the same in the first race, but an overheating engine didn’t let us do that,” said Ortiz. “We showed the speed in this race — we came from seventh, did some clean passes all the way to the front. Others made mistakes and we capitalized on that.
“At the end, when we got a good gap, I tried to just take it easy, made sure to not miss a shift, and they came back to me a little bit,” Ortiz continued, “but it was safe and I was able to bring it home in first.”
Fifteen-year-old Robert Noaker (No. 13 Sick Sideways) took advantage of the incident between Rollan and Carter to come home in second, 1.135s behind Ortiz.
“I knew something was going to happen and I was looking to capitalize,” said Noaker. “It’s unfortunate that that incident happened, but I was able to complete the pass and then I just tried to maintain my pace, hit my marks and bring it home in second place.
“I feel really good — especially coming back from Race 1 at COTA. This car has been through a lot in the past few weeks, going from being a front-running car, being crashed, and now back to being a front-running car.”
COTA Race 1 winner Drake Kemper returned to the Global Mazda MX-5 Cup podium to claim third place as well as the Battery Tender Hard Charger Award after moving up eight spots during the race.
“I haven’t seen someone win with so many aggressive passes in a really long time,” Kemper said. “I was watching and thinking, ‘That’s never going to work!’ and then they all did work work. We would have needed another 20 laps to catch up up to Bryan (Ortiz). I was having a little bit of heating issues for the entire race and then that accident happened in front of me and I may have been in the right place at the right time but that’s racing.”
Luke Oxner narrowly missed the podium in his No. 77 White Racing machine, finishing fourth for the second time on the day.
Robert Stout, who changed cars for Race 2 and started from the back of the grid, climbed all the way to fifth in the No. 28 McCumbee McAleer Racing entry.
John Dean II (No. 16 Sick Sideways Racing) continued his perfect record in the ND-1 class, winning by 1.245 seconds over teammate Nathanial Sparks (No. 8 Sick Sideways Racing). The duo spent most of the race trading positions with Hernan Palermo (No. 20 Slipstream Performance) who finished third.
“We had a great battle going,” said Dean II. “I felt like we had really good pace. My car was handling really well so I made a try at Sparky (Sparks) pretty early and he shut the door on me, which made me laugh a little bit.
“I couldn’t really tell what happened [between Sparks and Palermo]; those guys made a little bit of contact. I was just glad to see that no one took too much damage and no one made it to the wall. They kind of handed it to me at that point and my car was brilliant.
“I’m so happy to be on the podium again — especially at my sponsor’s home race,” Dean continued. “The sponsors that are on my car this weekend, Harrison Contracting — those are the guys that paint our shop, and it’s great to do this in front of them. We had a lot of Sick Sideways guys on the podium so I’m a happy team owner.”
Following Round 4, Ortiz is provisionally the new championship leader with 100 points. Kemper is second with 93 and Rollan third with 91.
Rounds 5 and 6 will take place June 20-22 with the NTT IndyCar Series at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis.