After missing a win by 0.0009-second in Global Mazda MX-5 Cup Race One at New Jersey Motorsports Park, Gresham Wagner (No. 5 Spark Performance) took the Race 2 win comfortably on Sunday. Michael Carter (No. 08 Carter Racing Enterprises) finished second and reclaimed the points lead as he targets the $200,000 support prize on offer from Mazda.
Carter took the lead away from his teammate and polesitter Jared Thomas (No. 96 Carter Racing Enterprises) in Turn 1 on the opening lap. Thomas, who scored his first win in Race 1, had a rough start to Race 2 and dropped back to fourth.
Despite his great start, Carter was reeled in quickly by Wagner. Behind Wagner, Selin Rollan (No. 87 Spark Performance) made it a three-car train at the front. It wasn’t long before Wagner made a textbook pass for the lead in Turn One, but Carter remained on his bumper.
Near the race’s halfway point, corner marshals began to call in reports of light rain. Wagner struggled at first with the slippery track surface but was able to hold onto the lead.
When Carter and Rollan began to tussle for second place, Wagner pulled out a sizeable lead. From there he was in cruise control mode, taking the victory by more than three seconds.
“He (Carter) dropped a couple of tires and so I went for the move to make sure I didn’t get slowed up,” Wagner said. “I slipped into the lead. I had some pressure for about 10 laps and it started to rain on the back half of the track. I was kind of holding everyone back but then I got it figured out. Selin [Rollan] and Michael [Carter] had a bit of a battle going and that helped me get a gap. From there it started to dry out a little bit, so I just held on and kept turning laps and managed the gap to the finish.”
The remaining two podium spots were up for grabs until Carter managed to break the draft and pull away from Rollan.
“I got a good start and rolled the corner pretty well to get the lead,” Carter said. “I didn’t see what happened to Jared [Thomas], he fell back early but the three of us were able to break away. I led, but had a little mistake and Gresham passed me. Then Selin [Rollan] and I were fighting and that let Gresham [Wagner] get away from us a little bit. Once I got by Selin I was pretty confident about keeping him behind me, but Gresham was too far out to catch.”
Carter’s main rival for the Global Mazda MX-5 Cup Championship, Robert Noaker (No. 13 Robert Noaker Racing/Slipstream Performance), had a race to forget at his home track. A mechanical issue made him late to the grid, which, by the rules, meant he started the race from pitlane. The issue continued to plague Noaker through the race and he finished seventh. The Championship lead that he gained in Round Nine was gone. Carter provisionally leads Noaker by seven points with just two rounds of competition remaining in the 2020 season.
Carter and Rollan have put on some remarkable race battles in the past and Sunday’s Round 10 race was no different. The two former Mazda Road to 24 Scholarship winners raced fair and clean.
“It got a little slick there when I was racing with him (Michael Carter),” Rollan said. “I passed him after he made a little mistake, and then we started to get some drizzle. Michael [Carter] and I raced pretty clean and it was a ton of fun. I think we can both trust each other, racing side-by-side through the corners like we did there, so it was good. Congrats to Gresham [Wagner] on the win.”
Robert Stout (No. 3 White Racing) didn’t get the chance to finish Race One when a wheel came off his car. But in Race Two, he was one spot short of the podium, finishing fourth.
A winner at NJMP 10 years ago, Justin Piscitell (No. 9 Maverick) completed the top five.
Collecting his second Hard Charger Award of the weekend and third so far this season, Kevin Conway (No. 67 Migliore Motorsports) improved four positions in the race.
Race 1 winner Thomas eventually finished 11th following his poor start and a spin later on in Turn Two. He still has the Rookie of the Year title all but locked in, however, guaranteeing him a $75,000 prize from Mazda.
The hunt for Mazda’s $200,000 Champion’s purse will come down to the final two races at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, October 23-25. It will be the first time Global Mazda MX-5 Cup has raced on the Florida street circuit.