Rounds 3 and 4 Set for Tight Street Circuit
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Rounds 3 and 4 of the Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires take place at the only street course on the 2022 schedule: the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. After a rainy season-opening doubleheader at Daytona International Speedway, the drivers are looking forward to a warm and sunny event by Tampa Bay.
Jared Thomas (No. 96 JTR Motorsports Engineering) is building momentum with a win in last year’s season finale and a win at Daytona in January, moving him into the championship lead ahead.
“My confidence is definitely running high, as is everyone else in the JTR camp, especially after winning at Daytona, which is arguably the biggest race of the year for MX-5 Cup,” Thomas said.
His confidence is further bolstered by his love of the St. Petersburg track and city.
“I do like St. Pete as a track,” Thomas said. “It presents challenges that we don’t see any place else, and we have always had good pace there. As far as a venue, it is my favorite because it gets the whole city of St. Petersburg involved and gets people exposed to racing that are not necessarily race fans.”
Hot on Thomas’ heels in the point standings is his former teammate Chris Nunes (No. 32 Formidable Racing). The sophomore standout came away from Daytona with a podium and will no doubt be racing for a win at St. Petersburg, where he finished third and sixth last year.
A winner last year at St. Pete, Selin Rollan (No. 87 Hixon Motor Sports) is unique because he not only races on the runways of Albert Whitted Airport but lands on them as well. Rollan, who lives in Orlando, has his pilot’s license and frequently flies into the airport to grab lunch at The Hangar restaurant.
“I’ve been flying for about two and a half years now,” Rollan said. “Albert Whitted is my favorite airport because not only is it on the water and right next to downtown, but the runways are short enough that the airport doesn’t get congested with jet traffic. The only planes that fly into Whitted are smaller, general aviation airplanes. I am lucky that Orlando is right in the middle of Daytona and St. Pete, so I get to call the first two races on the schedule my home track!”
The other race winner at St. Petersburg last year was 2020 Mazda MX-5 Cup champion Michael Carter (No. 08 Carter Racing Enterprises). Carter is looking to rebound after a crash in Daytona took him out of the second race. Carter won at St. Petersburg in 2020 as well, making him the only two-time St. Pete winner in the field.
On the opposite side of that spectrum, Connor Zilisch (No. 72 Hixon Motor Sports) comes into the event with zero experience on the temporary street circuit. The rookie impressed at Daytona with his impeccable car handling in the tricky conditions and is currently the top rookie in the championship. Zilisch is showing exactly why he was chosen as the latest Mazda MX-5 Cup Shootout Scholarship winner.
Another rookie to watch is local driver Dante Tornello (No. 27 Hixon Motor Sports). The 25-year-old is a graduate of the University of South Florida – St. Petersburg, located across the street from the circuit. Though he grew up watching the race, this will be his first time competing in it.
MX-5 Cup practice began Thursday in St. Petersburg. The first 45-minute race is set for 4:40 p.m. ET Friday, with the second starting at 10 a.m. Saturday. Both races stream live on IMSA.com/TVLive.