MONTEREY, Calif. – Gresham Wagner (No. 5 Spark Performance) went 2-for-2 on Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires race wins this weekend at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. The double victory propelled Wagner to the championship lead with only two races left in the season.
Wagner took the lead from Michael Carter (No. 08 Carter Racing Enterprises), who had to start from the back of the grid for both races because of a malfunctioning transponder in qualifying. Selin Rollan (No. 87 Hixon Motor Sports) dominated the weekend early by scoring poles for both races but was unable to convert either to a win.
Saturday’s Round 11 race was a dogfight from start to finish. The slippery track surface made it difficult to keep all four wheels on the track and the constant kicking up of sand made it worse with each lap.
“Well, I don’t know where to start because the top three, I mean, it shuffled around a good bit there and it was down to who was making mistakes and who was capitalizing,” Wagner said. “I don’t think anybody drove a good race by the normal standards. It’s just that the track is so tough to get around consistently lap after lap while still being fast. It just invites mistakes, and it catches you out all the time.”
Rollan nearly had Wagner on the final lap of the 45-minute race, but it was Wagner with the win by 0.547 seconds. Mazda Shootout Scholarship winner Aaron Jeansonne (No. 24 Provision Motorsports) scored his first podium of the season, finishing third.
In Sunday’s race, Rollan led nearly every lap, but a late-race restart gave Wagner ample opportunity to make a move for the win.
“With a restart with two to go, it really is just whatever situation is thrown at you, you have to take it and run with it,” Wagner said. “So, I was pretty content to take a second-place finish after the win (Saturday). But you know, it got so crazy there and an opportunity presented itself, so I had to go for it, and it ended up working out. It takes a lot of trust from everyone and a lot of good racing to come out of that with everyone still running and on track to make it to the line.”
Another rookie and Mazda Shootout Scholarship winner completed Sunday’s podium. This time it was Chris Nunes (No. 32 JTR Motorsports Engineering). The third-place finish kept Nunes’ chances to win rookie of the year alive. He is 150 points behind Sam Paley (No. 28 McCumbee McAleer Racing) and fighting for the $80,000 top rookie prize from Mazda.
Despite starting from the back of the grid in each race, Carter was able to come away from the weekend with fourth- and sixth-place finishes. He is now 100 points behind Wagner in the championship. A further 60 points back is Rollan.
At stake is Mazda’s generous $250,000 price for the MX-5 Cup champion. The winner will be decided at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, Nov. 10-12.
The Mazda MX-5 Cup rounds from WeatherTech Raceway will air on NBCSN at 4 p.m. ET Tuesday Sept. 21.