After leading both practice and qualifying, Robert Noaker capped off day two of the Alana Long 100 at Road America with a race win. The youngest driver in the Battery Tender Global Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires paddock (16 years old) edged out Gresham Wagner and Selin Rollan for the first race win of the season.
On paper, Noaker won the 45-minute race from pole, but in reality he was trading positions within the top three at nearly every corner.
Wagner got the better start and took over the lead initially. Though Wagner is credited with leading more laps in the race than Noaker, the number of times the pair exchanged the top spot was almost impossible to keep track of.
“That was a fun race to be in,” Noaker said. “I think I only took a normal line through a turn maybe two times. You’re fighting for clean air the whole time.”
On the final lap, Noaker made his move on Wagner in Turn 5. Leading at Road America in the final corners can be precarious because of the amount of drafting, but it worked exactly to Noaker’s plan.
“I know my car,” Noaker explained. “It seems like it’s better through the infield section. I was trying to take advantage there and build a gap big enough to hold down the back straight. It helped that they were fighting for second behind me and I was able to check out.”
The No. 13 Copeland Motorsports machine had no trouble taking the checkered flag a solid 1.3435s ahead of Wagner.
“It’s Road America,” Noaker said. “It’s chaotic racing, but a good chaotic. I have to thank my supporters: Brittany’s Hope and CPT technologies and especially Copeland Motorsports.”
Despite the role drafting plays at Road America, Wagner (No. 5 Spark Performance) was content to be in front for most of the race.
“I thought it was easier to be out front,” Wagner said. “You just drive your own race and you don’t have to worry about the car in front and behind. You just drive as hard as you can and look in your mirror once in a while. You have a clear track and you can move around how you want and take the lines you want. Plus, you have clean air on the radiator, so the car is running cooler. It was a smoother ride out front. When I had the opportunity, that’s where I tried to be.”
A lot of the competition for the lead came from Wagner’s own Spark Performance teammate, Selin Rollan, but the two were also able to work together against Noaker.
“Gresham and I didn’t make a plan coming into the race,” Rollan said. “I think both of us know that we’re going to do our own race and if we can help each other out, we’re going to help each other out.”
There was no more teammate help going on in the final lap as Noaker pulled away, leaving Rollan and Wagner to fight for the other two podium spots. At the line it was Wagner in second by only 0.1351s over Rollan in the No. 87 Spark Performance entry.
“That was very exciting,” Rollan added. “Halfway through the race I asked ‘How much time is left,’ and they said ’21 minutes,’ and I’m like ‘We’re not even halfway!’ That was one of the most exciting races I’ve been a part of.”
The 2018 Mazda Road to 24 Scholarship winner, Michael Carter, finished fourth in the No. 08 Carter Racing Enterprises MX-5. He was followed across the line by 2009 series champion Todd Lamb in the No. 84 Atlanta Speedwerks car.
The latest Mazda Road to 24 Scholarship winner, Jared Thomas (No. 6 Carter Racing Enterprises), finished sixth in his series debut.
In the ND1 class, Liam Snyder (No. 27 Slipstream Performance) beat out Brandon White (No. 78 White Racing) for the win.
Making his Global Mazda MX-5 Cup debut, Kevin Conway (No. 67 Migliore Motorsports) earned the Battery Tender Hard Charger Award for gaining six positions in the race.
“That was a lot of fun,” the 2010 NASCAR Cup Series Rookie of the Year said. “It was very competitive and intense racing. We struggled in practice and qualifying with electrical issues and we still had some during the race, so to come away with the Hard Charger Award is a testament to Migliore Motorsports. Hopefully we’ll get things turned around and have a much better race tomorrow.”
The second race of the Alana Long 100 event takes place Friday, July 24, at 4:30pm Central Time.