This Is the First Time for the Single-Make Series to Be on the NASCAR Undercard
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – The engines have barely cooled from Rounds 7 and 8 of the Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires, but teams are already en route to Rounds 9 and 10 at Road America. The stage is set for an extraordinary event as the series shares the weekend with the NASCAR Cup and Xfinity series for the first time in its history, and NASCAR driver Parker Kligerman is slated to take part in both MX-5 Cup races.
Jared Thomas’ (No. 96 JTR Motorsports Engineering) streak of winning at each track so far this season came to an end last weekend at Watkins Glen International. Still, he was able to finish on the podium in Race 2 and extend his lead in the championship to 415 points over Selin Rollan (No. 87 Hixon Motor Sports). A mechanical DNF for Rollan in Race 1 could prove to be a pivotal moment in the 2022 championship.
Both drivers are experienced at Road America and are wise to the way the ever-important draft works around the 4.048-mile road course. Nearly every Mazda MX-5 Cup race at Road America comes down to a drafting battle out of Turn 14 on the final lap. It’s no wonder that the average finish for the last 12 MX-5 Cup races at Road America is 0.452 seconds.
“On the last lap coming out of Turn 14, I’m looking to be in the top three,” Thomas said. “The possible scenarios are endless, and you just have to be ready for anything on the last lap!”
MX-5 Cup rookies were out in force at Watkins Glen. Joey Atanasio (No. 43 Formidable Racing) earned his third podium finish of the year, solidifying his lead in the rookie of the year points. Bruno Carneiro (No. 22 Hixon Motor Sports) earned his first podium finish in Race 2 and very nearly got his first win, but it was Aidan Fassnacht (No. 15 McCumbee McAleer Racing) who scored the victory after starting last on the grid.
The rookies – and the entire field, for that matter – should be careful not to write Fassnacht’s performance off as a fluke; he’s been to Road America before and knows how to win there.
“Prior to Watkins Glen last weekend, Road America was the only track I have won at in the country,” Fassnacht said. “So, my confidence is at an all-time high with two podiums at Watkins Glen and a win from the back. I am now going to a track that I know how to win on. I just can’t wait to get to Road America and get started.”
A rookie with a unique background will join the field this weekend: NASCAR driver Parker Kligerman (No. 75 Thunder Bunny Racing) will make his series debut at Road America. Kligerman has long been a fan of MX-5 Cup racing and will already be at Road America as a reporter for NBC Sports. The timing was perfect for Mazda to invite Kligerman to race as a guest driver.
“I’ve been of fan of MX-5 Cup for a long time,” Kligerman said. “I think the NASCAR audience will love what the series has to offer. These small, nimble cars can take a track like Road America and make it feel like a superspeedway with the way they work in packs and the level of drafting that takes place. I look forward to mixing it up with the regulars.”
Racing alongside NASCAR is a first for MX-5 Cup, but a combination that makes plenty of sense. The MX-5 Cup cars are the same as the Mazda Miata MX-5 that one can drive out of a Mazda dealership, the racing is as action-packed as NASCAR, and success is highly dependent on a driver’s ability to use the draft. Naturally, most of the MX-5 Cup drivers are fans of NASCAR and are thrilled to be on the same fight card at Road America.
“Racing on a NASCAR Cup weekend is a great opportunity to show off the exciting racing that MX-5 Cup puts on to a new fan base, and there is no better way to do it than on Fourth of July weekend at Road America,” Thomas said.
Both Road America races start at 10:05 a.m. ET, the first on Saturday and the second on Sunday.