Jared Thomas (No. 96 JTR Motorsports Engineering) won his third race of the Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich® Tires season in dominant fashion at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on Sunday. The performance was convincing, as Thomas crossed the finish line a full 3.449s ahead of second place Selin Rollan (No. 87 Hixon Motor Sports). Justin Piscitell (No. 89 McCumbee McAleer Racing) completed the round six podium.
Thomas had a hard fight with polesitter Matthew Dirks (No. 76 McCumbee McAleer Racing) and rookie Joey Antanasio (No. 48 Formidable Racing) in the early stages of the race, but once he was in clean air he kept pulling away from the rest of the field.
“I knew if I could break the draft, we could pull away,” said Thomas. “Mid-Ohio is traditionally not like that; it’s usually a battle right down to the end. I was pushing in the middle stretch because I wanted to open that gap up. With Selin (Rollan) and Joey (Atanasio) back there together, you can’t make any mistakes when you are one car like that. We were just perfect; no mistakes for that race.”
At the conclusion of the race, Thomas had an unheard of margin of victory of 3.449s. To this point, Mazda MX-5 Cup’s season average for margin of victory was just 0.523s.
Thomas is now the only driver to win a race at each venue MX-5 Cup has been to this season. He also extends his points lead, getting him that much closer to the $250,000 championship prize from Mazda.
While Thomas was driving into the distance, Rollan needed to battle for his podium spot all the way to the finish. Rollan started sixth and was climbing his way to the front, but plenty of side-by-side moments made it an extended climb.
When two cars tangled ahead of him, Rollan had the space he needed to fight for a podium. Antanasio put up a strong defense, so when Rollan finally got to second place, Thomas was too far gone to make a challenge for the win.
“It wasn’t lonely in the first half, but the second half was definitely lonely,” said Rollan of his Sunday afternoon drive in pursuit of Thomas. “The Hixon Motor Sports car was great; definitely better than yesterday. We worked so hard last night to find a good setup and it obviously paid off. We weren’t really anywhere yesterday in that shortened race, but so happy to bring it home in second today. Congratulations to Jared [Thomas]. I mean, that car was on rails and I know it’s tough to be on the lead like that and see the whole pack coming and just hit your marks, so congrats to him, but I’m really happy to capitalize on second and looking forward to better tracks for me coming forward.”
In the closing laps, the fight was on for the final podium spot. Atanasio was determined to claim his first MX-5 Cup podium in his rookie year, but veteran Justin Piscitell had been saving his car for this very reason. A small mistake from Atanasio was all the sixth-starting Piscitell needed to move into third place with only two laps to go.
“Unfortunately, we started a little further back than we did yesterday and then went a little backwards on the start and then had to work our way forward again,” said Piscitell. “There was some great racing with a whole bunch of guys out there and we were having a lot of fun, but unfortunately we held ourselves up a little bit. I was able to break the draft and then just put my head down. Thank you McCumbee McAleer Racing for the opportunity to be here; they did a super job. The BFGoodrich tires were awesome on the long run and I felt like I still had something at the end to fight with but we just got there too late.”
Atanasio finished fourth. He may not have gotten his first podium finish, but he did lead his first race laps and showed great poise while under pressure from experienced drivers.
Round five race winner and reigning MX-5 Cup Champion Gresham Wagner (No. 5 Spark Performance) completed the top five.
It was a good race for the rookies, as Mazda Shootout Scholarship recipient Bryce Cornet (No. 65 Hixon Motor Sports) finished sixth – his best result of the season so far.
Sam Paley (No. 28 McCumbee McAleer Racing) had to start at the back of the grid for both races because of a post-qualifying technical infraction. He made the most of it, however, by earning the Hard Charger Award in each race and a combined $2,000 for himself and $2,000 for his crew chief.
Next up for MX-5 Cup are rounds seven and eight at Watkins Glen International, June 23-25. As always, both races will be available live on RACER.com.