Only four rounds remain of the Global Mazda MX-5 Cup Championship presented by BFGoodrich Tires, and the championship is closer than ever. To make things even more interesting, the series is heading this weekend to a track it hasn’t visited since 2010: New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville, N.J.
Whoever learns the challenging circuit fastest could walk away with a firm hold on the points lead.
Exiting Rounds 7-8 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, a new points leader emerged: Michael Carter (No. 08 Carter Racing Enterprises). Carter didn’t make the podium in the opening two rounds of the season but has been on it ever since. It has enabled him to surpass Robert Noaker (No. 13 Slipstream/Robert Noaker Racing) in the standings, but only by a slim two points.
“I feel very comfortable with the position I am in,” Carter said. “I am approaching this weekend as if I am still down in the points. Nothing has changed; I am just going to go out there and race for the win like always. We just have to keep doing what we’ve been doing and everything else will take care of itself.”
Carter faces stiff competition from Noaker, who has hundreds of laps around the 2.25-mile, 12-turn “Thunderbolt” road course; it’s less than a three-hour drive from his home in Duncannon, Pa.
“I’ve been looking forward to this race since it’s been announced to say the least – NJMP is basically our home track,” Noaker said. “I started racing there four years ago in Spec Miata and have tested often over the years. It’s a very technical track that we’ve developed our setup on that we currently run.”
Noaker is one of the few drivers in the field who has NJMP experience. Carter is on the other side of the fence, having only experienced the track electronically.
“I have never been to NJMP,” Carter said. “My experience there is limited to just a few hours on iRacing. I am really looking forward to getting on track this weekend, though. I feel like it is a track that really suits me with its fast sweeping corners. It reminds me of one of my favorite racetracks, NOLA Motorsports Park, so I am feeling good about this weekend at NJMP.”
Neither Carter nor Noaker can take too many risks this weekend; one bad race and Selin Rollan (No. 87 Spark Performance) or Jared Thomas (No. 96 Carter Racing Enterprises) will march their way into the Championship fight.
Thomas is already en route to a different title: Rookie of the Year. The Mazda Road to 24 Scholarship winner holds a comfortable lead and looks set to continue his climb on the Mazda ladder. For his top rookie performance, Thomas will take home $75,000 toward his 2021 Global Mazda MX-5 Cup campaign. This season, Mazda expanded its support program in Global MX-5 Cup to pay out to the top five championship finishers and help them continue on their MX-5 Cup career.
The big prize for the overall Champion is $200,000. With that kind of money on the line, it’s no wonder the series is averaging more than 92 passes a race and photo finishes equating to barely a second.
The Global Mazda MX-5 Cup is joined at the “Fall Thunder at Thunderbolt” by the Road to Indy series. Both MX-5 Cup races will take place on Sunday, October 11, the first at 9:45 a.m. ET and the second at 1:00 p.m. ET. Both races will have live timing and camera feeds on www.mx-5cup.com.