The Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires (MX-5 Cup) season opener at the Daytona International Speedway (Daytona) brought sunny skies and cooler weather this weekend, a pleasant change compared to the cold, rainy race just one year ago. Among the six teams in the paddock was monster competitor Hixon Motor Sports (HMS) bringing eight drivers to compete, taking up nearly a third of the overall grid of 29.
A team that came to compete surely gave the competition a run for their money with Connor Zilisch topping the charts in practice and claiming pole position early in the week. In an attempt to turn his inside front-row starting position into a win, he battled hard only to come up just short of the win by .015 seconds, the closest photo finish the series has seen at Daytona in four years. Zilisch, who took home Rookie of the Year honors in 2022 with Hixon Motor Sports, coming up just shy of the $250,000 Driver’s Championship by a mere ten points in the last race of the season, was a threat throughout the Daytona race running in the top-five throughout. Also finishing in the race one top-ten for Hixon Motor Sports was Bruno Smielevski, Selin Rollan and Thomas Annunziata in sixth, seventh and eighth, respectively.
Ready to battle it out again, the Hixon Motor Sports team prepared for race two early Friday morning. The highest starting driver for the HMS squad, Connor Zilisch, in search of a win, began his last race of the weekend in third with rookie teammate Thomas Annunziata following close behind in sixth and fellow driver Bruno Smielevski rounding out the top-ten. It was Selin Rollan who earned the team’s best race two finish crossing the line in fourth, while Jonathan Neudorf claimed his first top-ten result in his rookie season.
“That was a great start to the season—especially for overall team championship points. We started the week out with Connor Zilisch on pole, then on the podium for race one,” explained Team Coach and Engineer, Andrew Carbonell, who was happy with the results at Daytona. “Had a good amount of top-ten finishes by the team and ended the week with Hanna Zellers bringing home the hardware and Mazda $2,000 prize money [created in 2023 for women MX-5 Cup drivers only] in race two as the top finishing female. Ready to move on to St. Pete as we ran well there in the past and feel that it will be a very strong event for us. We finished first and second there last year, and we are looking for a repeat.”
Amy Jo Osborn, President and CEO of the Austin Hatcher Foundation, praised IMSA and IMSA President John Doonan with one award, and then Amy Jo honored the HMS team with Doonan, still on Daytona’s media stage, by presenting Bryan Hixon and Hixon Motor Sports with the 2022 Austin Hatcher Foundation Humanitarian Award for “The IMSA team who made the most significant contribution toward the Austin Hatcher Foundation.”
“I am very proud and surprised by this special award. I love running the Austin Hatcher logo on Selin Rollan’s No. 87 under HMS. Rollan has been making hospital visits to check in on children and the families coping with pediatric cancer. Selin and his family are incredible people to have under our awning since the day we met them,” stated Team Owner, Bryan Hixon.
Hixon Motor Sports also received another award this past weekend in the Borinqueneers Congressional Gold Medal. As a son of Korean War combat medic, George “Tim” Cooley Hixon, Bryan Hixon accepted the award as the team honored veterans by carrying the Borinqueneers Congressional Gold Medal image and the Borinqueneers Committee’s Honor Badge decal on their racecars. They served our great nation, and more men came home to their families thanks to the US Army 65th Infantry, mostly all from Puerto Rico. One of the Hixon Motor Sports team members is a direct descendent of two Borinqueneers and a former US Marine.
Hixon Motor Sports will compete in the next round of races with a to be determined number of drivers on the IndyCar Streets of St. Petersburg event March 3-5. The races themselves are normally on the last two days. Stay tuned to the Hixon Motor Sports social media pages for news, information, photos, and results throughout the 2023 season.
You can find the complete 2023 Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires full-season schedule HERE.
Photo Credit: Ignite Media