Series rookie and Mazda Road to 24 Scholarship recipient Jared Thomas (No. 96 Carter Racing Enterprises) earned his first Global Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires pole on Saturday at New Jersey Motorsports Park. Teammate Michael Carter (No. 08 Carter Racing Enterprises) will line up next to him on the front row for Sunday’s Round 9 race.
Few Global Mazda MX-5 Cup drivers have been to NJMP before, Thomas included. But you wouldn’t know that from watching his lap times through practice and qualifying as the Scholarship racer proved to be a quick study.
Going into qualifying, Thomas and Carter knew they’d have a small window to set their best time during the 20-minute qualifying session. MX-5 Cup drivers must start the race on the same tires with which they qualify and, as NJMP is tough on tires, keeping qualifying lap counts to a minimum is important.
“It was difficult trying to get that perfect lap,” Thomas said. “The draft is still worth a half-second, so it’s important to get that, but you really only have four laps to get it. So, getting the fast lap in that tight timespan was kind of stressful. We managed to pull it off. I’m super excited for my first pole and I’ve never even been to this race track before.”
Thomas’ maiden pole position came courtesy of a 1m31.9766s lap that was more than two seconds faster than the previous record set in 2009. MX-5 Cup hasn’t been to NJMP since 2010; an entirely new car and transmission has been introduced since then, so it was no surprise to see the record reset.
Thomas’s time was only 0.0961s faster than teammate Carter’s.
“Having both (CRE) cars on the front row is great,” Thomas said. “Hopefully we can do something with it tomorrow.”
Two recent race winners will start from Row 2: Gresham Wagner (No. 5 Spark Performance) and Robert Noaker (No. 13 Robert Noaker Racing/Slipstream Performance).
Noaker had been the MX-5 Cup Championship leader through the first eight rounds, until the most recent race saw Carter eclipse him by a slim two points. With only four races left in the 2020 season, the competition is intense and the $200,000 Mazda prize for the Champion is up for grabs.
Both MX-5 Cup races at NJMP will take place on Sunday; Round Nine is scheduled for 9:45am ET, while Round 10 will begin at 1pm ET. Both races will have live timing and camera feeds on www.mx-5cup.com.