BRASELTON, Ga. (October 1, 2015) – John Dean, of Sebring, Florida, will start in the top position for Thursday afternoon’s Round 11 race of the SCCA Pro Racing Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires. Nathanial Sparks, of Spanish Fort, Alabama, and Drake Kemper, of Toluca Lake, California, made up the remainder of the top-three positions.Dean, in the No. 16 Bulb Jacket/PPG/Sick Sideways MX-5 scored the pole position with a time just over 0.3-second quicker than his Sick Sideways teammate, Sparks. Dean lapped the 12-turn, 2.54-mile circuit with a best time of 1:39.758 (91.662mph). Dean said he is a little under the weather, but also pointed out that his best performances seem to occur when that is the case.
“That was, probably, the most important on-track session I have had because of the way the points are with Patrick [Gallagher],” Dean said. “I’ve been trying to focus, as much as possible, and work really hard this week. That was very important for both of us. When I was out there I was turning 40.4s and felt like I was driving the wheels off the car. Then, [Sparks] goes out there and comes up with a 40-flat. For a split second, I doubted if I could even get near that. I had to work very hard to beat that time, but I’m just thankful I have a teammate that can push me like that. Drake [Kemper] is right there too, so that’s just awesome.
“I started pushing as hard as I could, taking more risks going into corners. At this track you have these early off-brake corners, then get back on the power early. With those turns, you’re just kind of hoping that the car sticks. I just try to keep my foot on the floor and press as hard as possible.”
In the No. 8 OOTSK Performance/Sick Sideways MX-5, Sparks landed in the second starting position for Thursday afternoon’s Mazda MX-5 Cup race. Sparks completed the 15-minute session with a time of 1:40.068 (91.378 mph).
“I’m looking forward to the Mazda MX-5 Cup race today,” Sparks said. “It looks like it’s going to be raining, and I was one of the few guys not to go out during the promoter test day when it was raining. So that may put us a bit behind the eight ball. But, I’m glad we had the qualifying session in the dry, so I can start up front and pick it up quickly. The plan is to stay with the front guys and finish well.
“I kept telling myself, ‘It’s not going to rain,’ that is until five minutes ago when I looked outside. Then, I realized it might rain. I think, if it rains, it will spread out the field, resulting in fewer big packs of cars.
Kemper, in the No. 99 Royal Rugby/Mazda Motorsports Development/BFGoodrich Tires MX-5, completed the Sick Sideways sweep of the top three starting positions. He only needed two laps before throwing down his time of 1:40.165 (91.289 mph) on his third trip around the Mazda MX-5 Cup circuit.
“One-two-three for the team in the first Mazda MX-5 Cup race, I can’t complain about that,” Kemper said. “We just put it on the line from the drop of the green flag. Both Sparks and I were able to turn our fastest laps, early on. Then John [Dean] came out of nowhere, like a madman. The car felt fantastic. It was the same setup from yesterday. It just worked better in the cooler temperatures.
“I’m praying for rain. I think a rain race would be a lot of fun. We’re definitely looking for a triple podium, today. We worked with a lot of crazy setups during the promoter test day. Some of our choices are on the opposite side of the spectrum, but we’ve come together, near the middle.”
Championship contender Patrick Gallagher, in the No. 44 Howard Concrete Pumping Mx-5 finished the session with a time of 1:40.268 (91.196 mph). That was good enough for fourth on the starting grid.
In the No. 6 ALARA Racing/Cellmark MX-5, Tim Paul made strides over his finishing position in practice two. Paul finished the session in fifth, with a time of 1:40.497 (90.988 mph), a four position improvement over his practice time.
In the Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge, Sam Adams, of Richfield, Wisconsin, earned the top starting position in the class with a time of 1:43.409 (88.426 mph). With rain in the forecast, Adams said he is looking forward to the afternoon’s races regardless of the weather conditions.
“I knew getting the pole would be big in the championship, for me,” Adams said. “By winning the pole I would be able to close the point gap to Robby [Foley]. The track conditions suited my style pretty well. The track had a lot of traction, and I was able to get the throttle down quickly.
“I think this afternoon’s race will be wet, maybe even both races. So, that’ll change a lot, but I’m looking forward to the rain. I’ll probably change the shocks up a bit and go from there.”
Completing the top three positions in the class were Nikko Reger, of Houston, with a time of 1:43.746 (88.138 mph), and Robby Foley, of Randolph, New Jersey, with a time of 1:44.282 (87.685 mph).