First Race Shortened by Weather, Second Race Won by Rare Wide Margin
LEXINGTON, Ohio – Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course produced some phenomenal Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires action yet again. Mother Nature may have shortened the show on Saturday and one driver dominated the day on Sunday, but the racing was no less exhilarating.
Reigning Mazda MX-5 Cup champion Gresham Wagner (No. 5 Spark Performance) won Saturday’s race with a pass in Mid-Ohio’s Thunder Valley before actual thunder forced IMSA officials to end the race just shy of the halfway point.
With less than 30 minutes left on the clock and a mandatory 30-minute wait time for conditions to clear per IMSA weather safety protocol, officials waved the checkered flag to signal the end of the race.
Jared Thomas (No. 96 JTR Motorsports Engineering) crossed the line less than half a second behind Wagner with nine laps in the books moments before the race was red-flagged. Matthew Dirks (No. 76 McCumbee McAleer Racing) converted his front-row start into his first series podium with his run to third at the line.
“I think the race was just kind of starting to develop when it got stopped,” said Wagner. “There was no rhyme or reason to the move that won it, it was just good luck that it happened before the red flag. I’ve lost races to full-course yellows and strange random occurrences. I’m a tough competitor and like tough competition, so this isn’t the most fulfilling win, but I was in first place at the right time so we’ll take it!”
Due to the shortened race length, half the normal points were awarded for the championship.
On Sunday, Thomas won his third race of the Mazda MX-5 Cup season in dominant fashion. Thomas crossed the finish line ahead of second-place Selin Rollan (No. 87 Hixon Motor Sports). At the conclusion of the race, Thomas had an unheard-of margin of victory of 3.449 seconds. To this point, MX-5 Cup’s season average for margin of victory was 0.523 seconds.
Thomas is the only driver to win a race at each venue MX-5 Cup has been to this season. He also extended his points lead, drawing that much closer to the $250,000 championship prize from Mazda.
“I knew if I could break the draft, we could pull away,” said Thomas. “Mid-Ohio is traditionally not like that, it’s usually a battle right down to the end. I was pushing in the middle stretch because I wanted to open that gap up. With Selin and Joey (Atanasio) back there together, you can’t make any mistakes when you are one car like that. We were just perfect, no mistakes for that race.”
Sam Paley (No. 28 McCumbee McAleer Racing) had to start at the back of the grid for both races because of a post-qualifying technical infraction. He made the most of it, however, by earning the Hard Charger Award in each race and a combined $2,000 for himself and $2,000 for his crew chief.
Thomas has now extended his MX-5 Cup championship lead to 95 points over Rollan. Next up for MX-5 Cup is Rounds 7 and 8 at Watkins Glen International, June 23-25. As always, both races will stream live on IMSA.com/TVLive.