The Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich® Tires will embark on the second half of its 2021 season next month at Road America. If the second part of the season is anything like the first, then this championship will come down to the final checkered flag.
The opening rounds as Daytona International Speedway set the tone for a spectacular debut under IMSA sanctioning. The 27 entries put on a clinic in drafting on Daytona’s high banks and had seasoned motorsports veterans on their feet to see who would win a five-wide drag to the checkered. Coming out of Daytona, it was clear that Gresham Wagner (No. 5 Spark Performance), Michael Carter (No. 08 Carter Racing Enterprises), Jared Thomas (No. 96 JTR Motorsports Engineering) and Selin Rollan (No. 87 Hixon Motor Sports) would be ones to watch for the 2021 season.
Rounds Three and Four at Sebring International confirmed these front runners and one-upped the Daytona finish with a three-wide photo finish culminating in a 0.001-second margin of victory for Rollan.
The tide turned at St. Petersburg when Wagner had a mechanical issue and was unable to finish the Round Five race. This combined with a double podium for Carter enabled the reigning Mazda MX-5 Cup Champion to push past Wagner for the points lead.
The streets of St. Petersburg also made it clear that this season’s rookie class could potentially find themselves in the Championship hunt as well. Sam Paley (No. 28 McCumbee McAleer Racing) and Chris Nunes (No. 32 JTR Motorsports Engineering) were becoming regular podium finishers.
For Nunes, it wasn’t just podiums, the rookie collected his first win at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. He shared the podium with another rookie, Luca Mars (No. 41 Copeland Motorsports), who finished third for his best performance of the season thus far.
Someone who was not on the podium at Mid-Ohio was Carter. He maintained his lead in the championship, but the margins became much narrower; only 250 points now separate the top three (Carter, Wagner, Rollan) in the championship. With a maximum of 380 points available per race, the leaderboard could change in an instant.
On the horizon is Road America. Since 2019, the doubleheader at Road America has been dubbed the ‘Alana Long 100’ in memory of the matriarch of the Long Road Racing family who passed away that year. Long Road Racing has been a longtime partner of Mazda and that relationship continues with Tom Long, currently serving as a driver steward and test driver for MX-5 Cup.
Success at Road America is dependent on a driver’s ability to master the draft. As we inch closer to the end of the season, will teammates cooperate, or is it every driver for themselves? We’ll find out August 5 – 7 as Rounds Nine and 10 unfold.