The Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup produced yet another jaw-dropping finish Saturday in the Alana Long 100 at Road America. Michael Carter (No. 08 Carter Racing Enterprises) beat Sam Paley (No. 28 McCumbee McAleer Racing) to the finish line by 0.008s with Selin Rollan (No. 87 Hixon Motor Sports) a slim 0.110s behind them.
Carter’s run from eighth on the grid to the win was inspired. The patience and experience of the 2020 Mazda MX-5 Cup champion were on full display as he used three restarts from yellow to inch his way to the front. He made the pivotal move in the last corner of the last lap and drag raced Paley to the finish line.
“What an incredible race!” enthused Carter. “I love this Mazda series, this is some of the best racing that I’ve ever been a part of and, you know, it’s just, it’s good to finally get a win here at Road America. Big thanks to Carter Racing Enterprises, Coaches Corner and our local Mazda dealership CJ Lewis Mazda. It was just a chess match with the draft. I took the lead going up the hill and just barely got it at the finish. It’s gone the other way for me-I lost to Rollan by a few thousandths at Sebring. But this feels great– I’m a little hoarse from yelling in the car! But, man, I just, I’m excited. We’re gonna have a good steak dinner after this. And, yeah, just what an awesome race!”
The win is Carter’s third of the season and helps him maintain his lead in the point standings.
For as much joy as there was on Carter’s face at the end of the race, there was an equal amount of heartbreak on Paley’s face. The rookie has come close to a win so many times this season, including his third-place finish in Friday’s race.
Paley led the field on multiple occasions during the 45-minute race, including on the last lap. That is normally an unenviable position to be in at Road America, but Paley had a plan.
“I knew everyone around me was fighting for the championship so if it came down to a two wide-finish I would get a push,” Paley said. “Thankfully Selin (Rollan) was there to do that. I am disappointed to have not gotten the win today. There were areas on the last lap that I know I could have done better, but it was overall a great race. I positioned myself a bit better during this race and played the draft better. It’s my fourth second place of the year so it’s disappointing to not get it done today.”
Rollan led more laps than any other driver in the race: an impressive feat in and of itself considering the top six cars were constantly swapping positions. The race was slowed by three full-course cautions, preventing anyone from building any kind of gap.
“The yellows helped the car cool off and they were an interruption to the action so it shook things up,” Rollan said. “It was a good race and it could have been anyone’s race. I had a bit of contact that did affect my car. It wasn’t handling the best in the last half of the race, but I am happy to get a podium result. Congrats to Michael (Carter) and to Sam (Paley) who was so close. Thank you to Hixon Motorsports for giving me a great car time and time again.”
Mazda MX-5 Cup Shootout winner Aaron Jeansonne (No. 24 Provision Motorsport) matched his best finish of the season by crossing the line in fourth.
Gresham Wagner (No. 5 Spark Performance) completed the top five. He appeared on course for a podium finish, but ran out of room at Turn Six, dropped two wheels in the dirt, and fell to fifth.
Rookie John Jodoin (No. 31 McCumbee McAleer Racing) had his best finish ever and won the Hard Charger Award in the process. Jodoin climbed a total of 13 positions, from last to ninth.
“Next year we already have plans for a full season but getting the Hard Charger Award is still exciting,” Jodoin said. “I blew the motor in the first race on lap eight, we swapped the motor and now here we are as the Hard Charger. Starting dead last, the yellows helped me get closer to the pack. Without them, I would have been sitting farther back.”
The MX-5 Cup races at Road America will air on NBCSN, Wednesday, August 18, at 2pm ET.
Only four more races remain in the hunt for the 2022 MX-5 Cup Championship and the $250,000 that comes with it. Next up is WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, September 10 – 12.