Though he may have started and finished at the front of the Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich field, Selin Rollan’s (No. 87 Hixon Motor Sports) path to victory on Friday at Road America was anything but easy. Rollan scored his fourth win of the season ahead of Gresham Wagner (No. 5 Spark Performance) and Sam Paley (No. 28 McCumbee McAleer Racing) whose intense late-race battle for the final podium spots gave Rollan the room he needed to claim victory in the first half of the Alana Long 100 weekend.
Rollan started from the pole position and held the lead in the opening laps, but very nearly ended his race early courtesy of some errant rain drops that fell on the first two laps, making the track surface extra slippery.
A car stopped on course brought out the race’s first and only full-course caution. On the restart Hernan Palermo (No. 20 Slipstream Performance) made his move and led his first laps of the season.
Rollan had to claw his way back to the front amongst a train of six cars circulating the 4.048-mile course nose-to-tail. Five laps later, Rollan was back to the lead, but defending it at every other corner.
Coming to the white flag, Rollan managed to pull a gap on the rest of the field. It was just what he needed to take the win by 0.575s over Wagner.
“I knew it was going to get dicey at some point, but thankfully it was dicey from second on back,” Rollan said. “A big thank you to Hixon Motorsports and my teammate Andrew Carbonell for being great to race with. It was a great race even when the fat raindrops started to get scary. I almost wrecked the car going into Turn 1 on the opening lap, which was very eye opening! I saw Gresham (Wagner) coming from behind and if there was one more lap then I would have been a sitting duck, but I am so happy to get the win. Around turns 12, 13, and 14, I thought I had it—and I did—but coming onto the front straight getting the white flag I thought to myself that he is coming. I couldn’t make a mistake.”
Paley could find no such luck in his race; after briefly leading and then winning a lengthy door-to-door battle with Andrew Carbonell (No. 11 Hixon Motor Sports) for second, he had Wagner to contend with.
“It felt good to lead the race especially at a track like this,” Paley said. “It is important to keep the brake and engine temperatures down, but it’s even more important to be leading on the last lap. My goal during the second half of the race was to break up Selin (Rollan) and Andrew (Carbonell) and work with Gresham (Wagner) and Michael (Carter) to get up to the front. I made a couple good moves but, in the Carousel, I made the move of my life on (Andrew) Carbonell, but it was a little too late.”
In the final three laps of the 45-minute race, Wagner was able to climb from fifth to second. Paley, in his first season of MX-5 Cup competition, made every effort to take back the runner-up spot, but ran out of time as Wagner finished second.
“I don’t know what would have happened if I had caught Selin,” Wagner said. “I would have gone for a move of course but who knows if one of the guys behind me could have taken advantage and got by me as well. So, second place, is not too bad. I will try to do one better tomorrow but all in all pretty happy.
“There was a lot of racing in the beginning. In the middle everyone was kind of just managing temps, and then with seven minutes left I figured it was time to go so things got ramped up. There were a lot of moves being made, but we all kept it together and I’m just happy to come out with this result after a hard-fought race.”
Unfortunately when Race Winner @SelinRollan pulled in Victory Lane, we needed to vacate the area immediately due to lightning. Congratulations to @SelinRollan , @GreshamWagner in 2nd, @sampaleyracing in 3rd, & @mcarter_08 for winning Hard Charger award. #flisperformance pic.twitter.com/Jkf5gEgKUz
— Flis Performance (@performanceflis) August 6, 2021
Paley finished third but has shown he has all the capabilities to win.
“We will go after it and get them tomorrow,” Paley said. “A big thank you to Bind App, my parents and McCumbee McAleer Racing.”
Defending MX-5 Cup Champion Michael Carter (No. 08 Carter Racing Enterprises) finished fourth and took home the Hard Charger Award for advancing the most positions (four) of any other driver in the field.
Mid-Ohio race winner Chris Nunes (No. 32 JTR Motorsports Engineering) completed the top five to continue his strong rookie season form.
Saturday’s Round 10 race is set for 10:30am CT / 11:30am ET and will be live on imsa.com/tvlive.