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Mx 5 Cup St Pete Rollan 2022 03 01

Thomas Maintains Mazda MX-5 Cup Points Lead following St. Pete

Rollan Edges Teammate Zilisch in Second-Race Photo Finish

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Jared Thomas (No. 96 JTR Motorsports Engineering) continues to lead the Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires championship following the doubleheader rounds on the streets of St. Petersburg. Selin Rollan (No. 87 Hixon Motor Sports) is only 30 points behind, however, after scoring his first win of the season.

Starting from the sixth position in Friday’s race, Thomas had a tremendous start on the 1.8-mile temporary circuit and was in the fight for the lead straight away. The race lead ended up in the hands of Tyler Gonzalez (No. 51 Copeland Motorsports), the only other driver to have a win so far this season, as Thomas slotted into second.

It didn’t take long for Thomas to take the top spot, where he stayed for the remainder of the race. It was by no means easy, with two full-course yellow periods that forced Thomas to go on the defensive for the hectic restarts. It didn’t hurt that his primary opposition, Gonzalez, had to pull off just past halfway with a mechanical issue.

Thomas ended up leading all but one lap en route to a 1.594-second victory over Gresham Wagner (No. 5 Spark Performance).

“It wasn’t easy,” Thomas said. “At this place, half the challenge is the car and the track instead of just the competitors. Even though I started from sixth, I knew I wanted to get out front and stay out front. I just maintained that gap, so I didn’t have to push any harder than I needed to.”

Rollan completed Friday’s podium in third place, a result he would improve upon in Saturday’s finale.

The tight and unforgiving nature of street-course racing can sometimes lead to an increase in on-track incidents. That was certainly true in Saturday’s race, where a full-course yellow developed before the entire field even made it through Turn 1.

Too many cars going for the same piece of real estate resulted in Woody Heimann (No. 82 JTR Motorsports Engineering) on his roof. Thankfully, the safety team was on the scene within seconds and Heimann exited the vehicle and walked away.

When the race restarted, Gonzalez led the field to the green flag, having passed polesitter Glenn McGee (No. 23 JTR Motorsports Engineering) at the initial race start.

On this restart, it was Thomas getting together with McGee in Turn 1. McGee spun and was unable to get going until the full field went past. Thomas was issued a drive-through penalty for incident responsibility but recovered to finish seventh.

The final full-course caution came out for rookies Dante Tornello (No. 27 Hixon Motor Sports) and Aidan Fassnacht (No. 15 McCumbee McAleer Racing) colliding in Turn 10.

On the second restart, Rollan was able to grab the lead after Gonzalez went straight into the Turn 10 runoff with a mechanical problem.

The race remained green to the finish and Rollan held the lead the whole way, despite a late charge from teammate Connor Zilisch (No. 72 Hixon Motor Sports), who managed to come within 0.061 seconds of Rollan at the finish line.

“Those were some crazy opening laps and really busy for the starts and restarts,” Rollan said. “But there isn’t much give and take; you have to take whatever you can get here.

“I’m so happy to win the race here at St. Pete again,” Rollan added. “It’s been a little while since the last win, so it feels great. I’m also ecstatic that Connor was in second. He was making me a little nervous at the end, but I think he had the drive of the race, 20th to second, and I’m really happy for him. Really a great day for Hixon Motor Sports and the Austin Hatcher Foundation car. It looked awesome and it’s great to have this result for the points.”

Last year’s Mazda MX-5 Cup Rookie of the Year, Sam Paley (No. 28 McCumbee McAleer Racing), took up the final podium spot in Saturday’s race.

After four of 14 races, Thomas leads Rollan by 30 points. Paley is in third place, 170 points back from Rollan. Zilisch is the top of the rookie class and fourth in the overall standings.

MX-5 Cup has a bit of a break before resuming for Rounds 5 and 6 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, May 13-15.