Paley scores Road Atlanta pole for Mazda MX-5 Cup finale

Paley scores Road Atlanta pole for Mazda MX-5 Cup finale

Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup

Paley scores Road Atlanta pole for Mazda MX-5 Cup finale


Sam Paley (No. 28 McCumbee McAleer Racing) earned his second Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires pole position on Wednesday at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta. He will share the front row with Connor Zilisch (No. 72 Hixon Motor Sports) for Thursday’s Round 13 race, the first half of a championship-deciding doubleheader with $250,000 on the line.

Paley grabbed hold of the top qualifying spot early in the session and never let go. Ultimately it was his lap of 1m35.831s that secured pole position. Last season’s Rookie of the Year, Paley has amassed three poles and seven podium finishes in his Mazda MX-5 Cup career but has yet to get that first win. He’s hoping that stat changes this week at Road Atlanta.

“I want that first win really bad and I’m not in the championship, so the goal this weekend is to get a win, hopefully two,” Paley said. “It’s been a long time coming. I think I’ve finished second five times now. We’ve been knocking on the door for a while and hopefully this is the weekend we can accomplish that goal.

“I don’t want to say I have nothing to lose, but I’m nowhere in the championship and we have a lot of speed this weekend,” Paley added. “My goal is to go out and win. I know they’re (Connor Zilisch, Gresham Wagner and Jared Thomas) fighting for the championship so I know they won’t do a very risky move. If I have an opportunity, I think I have a better chance taking it, because I know they’re going to be kind of conservative.”

Championship leader Jared Thomas (No. 96 JTR Motorsports Engineering) will start the race in fifth. His nearest rival, Gresham Wagner (No. 5 Spark Performance) qualified eighth. Third-place Zilisch, in addition to starting on the front row for Thursday’s race, will start Friday’s race from pole position courtesy of his second fastest lap in qualifying.

Round 13 of MX-5 Cup goes green at 1:50pm ET on Thursday with live streaming on and The final race of the 2022 season is set for Friday at 9:50am ET.