MX-5 Cup Championship
John Dean of Sebring, Fla., clinched the SCCA Pro Racing Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup Championship. This Championship is Presented by BFGoodrich Tires. John Dean won the title in his Number 16 Bulb Jacket/PPG/Sick Sideways Miata. With a flag-to-flag victory on Thursday, and a fourth-place finish on Friday at Road Atlanta. His closest challenger for the championship, Patrick Gallagher, won Friday’s race, but it wasn’t enough to overcome his points deficit.
Mazda Road to 24 Scholarship
Along with the championship, Dean claims the $200,000 Mazda Road to 24 scholarship. This will allow him to move to the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge Street Tuner category or the IMSA Cooper Tires Prototype Lites series. The 2014 MX-5Cup champion, Kenton Koch, won the Prototype Lites championship this year.
Robby Foley claimed the Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge and also earns a $100,000 Mazda Scholarship to compete in the 2016 Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup with the all new Global Mazda MX-5 Cup car. He edged out Sam Adams and Nikko Reger for the title.
Sick Sideways Racing
Dean led flag to flag in Round 11 on Thursday, part of the Petit LeMans Powered by Mazda at Road Atlanta. Drake Kemper, of Toluca Lake, California, and Nathanial Sparks, of Spanish Fort, Alabama, completed the first podium sweep for Sick Sideways.
Dean started the 45-minute race from the pole and led all 19 laps which averaged 64.407mph and was slowed by four laps of full-course yellow at the 12-turn, 2.54-mile road course. Track conditions were at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Heavy rains rolled through the Braselton area during the mid-afternoon, leaving the circuit extremely wet. From that point on, off and on rain continued until the start of the late-afternoon race. With the drama of a wet or drying track out of the equation, the race would be decided by which driver could negotiate the slippery course most successfully.
Drake Kemper, in the No. 99 Royal Rugby/Mazda Motorsports Development/BFGoodrich Tires MX-5, finished second. This was the fourth podium finish for Kemper, the 2014 Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge champ, this season. By lap three, Kemper had made his way up to second from his fourth-place starting position. During those opening laps, Kemper battled with Patrick Gallagher until making his move for the second stick.
Once Kemper secured his pass for second, Sparks began his attack. Sparks, at the controls of the No. 8 OOTSK Performance/Sick Sideways MX-5, was able to make his way around Gallagher to start lap 8. When the full course yellow was displayed Sparks slotted into third, behind his teammate. He was able to get a good jump on the lap-12 restart, which was all that was needed to hold onto the position for the remaining eight laps. Sparks completed the final race of the season in third place after spending the race trading numerous positions at the head of the field. On the penultimate lap of the race, Sparks was able to take the third spot from Dean.
The MX-5 Cup Championship Racing Continues
Gallagher finished fourth to keep his championship hopes alive. Even with a win on Friday, Gallagher would need Dean to have a major issue to win the title. In the Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge, Nikko Reger, of Houston, brought home his second win of the season. By the end of lap six, Reger took the class lead and would not relinquish it. When he did, it went to Robby Foley. Foley who led the class at the stripe moved into the lead. Foley got a massive jump on the field during the mid-race restart,
Gallagher, of Thornville, Ohio, won the final race of the season, which was also the 100th race in series history. Dean Copeland, of Bowie, Maryland, and Sparks completed the final podium positions.
Gallagher, in the No. 44 Howard Concrete Pumping MX-5 started Friday’s Round 12 Race in third but was able to make up two positions on lap eight to take the race lead. During the four subsequent laps, Gallagher and John Dean were battling for which driver would end up with the top spot. By lap 12, the battle had cooled, as Gallagher stretched his lead in the 21-lap race that averaged 70.528mph around the 12-turn, 2.54-mile circuit. As the full-course yellow flew on lap two, Dean had already worked his way up to eighth. Once the field was turned loose on lap seven, Dean continued his move to the front.
Dean Captures the Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup Championship
With all the points counted, Dean captured the Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup Championship with a total of 659 points. Gallagher finished second, just 13 markers behind, with Nathanial sparks completing the top three with 597 points. Sam Adams finished second, seven markers in arrears while Reger finished third. In the Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge, Reger completed the Road Atlanta sweep by winning both races of the doubleheader event. Reger started the race second, in class, and stayed close to that position until the mid-race restart. Reger utilized the bunched pack of cars to build momentum. He then went for a push past Foley to the front of the pack. Once he got there, Reger checked out from the rest of the Skip Barber field. Then Reger pulled out a 26-second lead.