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Glenn McGee Gets Sideways With His $100,000 Mazda Scholarship

- McGee to Compete with Sick Sideways in 2016 Battery Tender Global Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires -

IRVINE, Calif. (April 22, 2016) – Mazda Motorsports is pleased to announce that professional gamer, turned professional race car driver, Glenn McGee has signed with Sick Sideways Racing, a championship winning team, to contest the 2016 Battery Tender Global Mazda MX-5 Cup Series presented by BFGoodrich Tires.

Described by many in the gaming culture as an “Alien,” [a term for simulation drivers with seemingly in-human speed.] McGee made history in 2015 as the first driver from the virtual-world to win the Mazda Road to 24 Shootout (#MRT24), earning his entry into the Shootout as a world champion representative from iRacing.com’s online motorsports simulation service. Awards from the competition included a $100,000 Mazda scholarship to support up-and-coming drivers and McGee will be applying it towards his professional debut in the series.

After winning the Battery Tender MX-5 Cup title last year, Sick Sideways Racing will enter 2016 as series champions looking to repeat its success with increased resources, staff, and a strong driver line-up that includes the Mazda scholarship driver.

“I’ve been a long-time fan of the Mazda MX-5 Cup series and of Sick Sideways and now I’m racing with them in the series. It’s just crazy,” exclaimed McGee. “I’m just amazed at the place I find myself; it’s been a dream of mine and many sim-racers across the globe to have our virtual champions recognized and ‘go pro.’ Thanks to Mazda’s innovative nature, we can see that dream come alive! I never imagined I’d be the one doing it. This will be a development year for me as I transition from the virtual-world. I want to grow as much as possible towards becoming an elite athlete with Mazda as its first sim-to-pro driver and prove to the world that sim-racing is a legitimate talent pool. For that, I need a team that can not only give me a competitive car, but the staff, resources, and culture to work in concert with Mazda in my development. Beyond being proven champions, Sick Sideways has these attributes, a history of winning, and a stable of fast drivers to learn from.”

“We are really happy to have someone with Glenn’s talent and potential join us,” said Sick Sideways’ Team Principal and 2015 MX-5 Cup champion John Dean. “A lot of pro drivers in our series have used iRacing’s software to train for each race, but this is the first time seeing it work the other direction, with Mazda pulling the world’s top simulator drivers to place them in real competition,” Dean continued. “It’s an interesting concept, but we’ve already been very impressed with his out-of-the-box pace, willingness to learn, and the extra sweat equity he is putting in to add value to our team and partners. I think he’ll be surprising a lot of people this year and we are very happy to invest in his development.”

John Doonan, director of motorsports, Mazda North American Operations noted that “The Mazda Road to 24 has introduced us to racers from a wide variety of backgrounds.  We were obviously impressed with how Glenn approached our shootout.  We expect his success will encourage other iRacers to start racing with Mazda.”

The MX-5 Cup is the signature series for the Mazda Road to 24 (#MRT24), the sports car counterpart to the Mazda Road to Indy (#MRTI). The MX-5 Cup champion earns a $200,000 scholarship to further their racing career.  On both paths, Mazda-powered champions earn a Mazda scholarship to advance their career, either toward a goal in the IMSA Mazda Prototype (#MRT24) or the IndyCar Indy Lights (#MRTI) car.

The 2016 MX-5 Cup season will feature the all-new fourth generation Mazda MX-5 Miata. For the first time, Mazda has commissioned complete turnkey racecars, ensuring all cars are as close to identical as possible, and all to ensure the best drivers rise to the top. The first orders for the new racecar were accepted starting on October 1, 2015, and within the first 36 hours after the announcement, more than 40 racers placed $10,000 deposits for the $53,000 race car. More than 90 deposits have now been accepted, with more than 60 cars delivered to date. Information on the car is online at www.mazdamotorsports.com

About Mazda Motorsports

Mazda Motorsports boasts the most comprehensive auto racing development ladder system of any auto manufacturer in the world. The Mazda Road to 24 program offers a number of scholarships to advance drivers up the sports car racing ladder, beginning with the Global MX-5 Cup series and culminating with the Mazda Prototype team. The Mazda Road to Indy is a similar program that includes Mazda-powered categories of USF2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights. In grassroots road racing, more Mazdas race on any given weekend in North America than any other manufacturer. Mazda is also the title sponsor of the renowned Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. Follow all of the latest news at MazdaMotorsports.com, @MazdaRacing on Twitter, and MazdaMotorsports on Instagram and Facebook.

Mazda Scholarship Driver: Glenn McGee

GlennMcGeefrontRepresenting a new breed of racing driver, Glenn McGee’s start in motorsports didn’t come on the hot tarmac of a local go-kart track, but behind the bright glow of a computer screen in the highly competitive world of Simulation Racing. And now after earning the $100,000 scholarship from winning the 2015 Mazda Road to 24 (MRT24) Shootout, he will pilot the soul red, 2016 MX-5 Cup car in the 2016 Battery Tender MX-5 Cup.

In McGee’s early years in Sim-Racing, he earned a reputation for being “Alien” fast, a term used to describe those with seemingly in-human speed. It was this reputation which directly led to McGee’s first taste of real-world racing when he was discovered by the head mechanic of a leading karting team, OGP.
Interested in how an “Alien” might adapt to the real-world, the mechanic invited McGee for a two-day course at the track, working with him on understanding the kart and how to drive it. McGee didn’t disappoint, increasing his speed throughout the day to set a track record. McGee emerged as Haase/OGP’s newest team member alongside Sebring 12 Hour, A1GP, and Euro F3 series winner, Jonathan Summerton, as teammate.
McGee’s venture into the world of competitive karting was successful from the start, winning several local, state, and regional titles, as well as an Rmax Florida State Championship and the “Stars of Tomorrow” championship; along with poles and wins in international competitions against some of the top karters from the USA, Canada, South America, and Europe. His success led to Daytona Prototype Driver/Team Owner, Wayne Taylor, whose kids also competed in karts, who took an interest in guiding the young driver’s career.
While McGee was growing as a real-world driver, he also utilized iRacing, the leading sim-racing system, as the perfect, affordable platform to develop himself as a racing driver while feeding his competitive spirit.
By 2011, McGee was able to win an overseas program to obtain an FIA International-C License. Once back in the States, McGee started private driving instruction, developing a clientele and relationship with several track day clubs across the nation.
In 2012, McGee competed in select amateur endurance events with 2013 MX-5 Cup Champion and Mazda scholarship winning driver, Christian Szymczak, and Mazda factory driver Tristan Nunez, winning their class in the 24 hours of PBIR. In 2014, McGee teamed with Mazda MX-5 Cup pro driver Nathanial Sparks and Mazda scholarship driver Drake Kemper to compete in the 13 Hours of VIR in the Spec Miata class; posting times equal to the top professional drivers competing in the event.
McGee also regularly participates in the Dan Wheldon & All Children’s Hospital charity kart race, which not only allowed him to race against professional drivers, but made raising funds for the children fun. In 2012, McGee still achieved pole by half-a-second over Simon Pagenaud, set the fastest lap, and won the race against top F1, Indy, NASCAR, junior formula, and sports car drivers. In 2013, McGee again achieved pole by four-tenths over Sebastien Bourdais and won the children’s charity race, raising more than $50,000 to the cause.
In the 2014 iRacing Mazda MX-5 Cup, McGee finished as Vice-Champion among the best sim-racers from around the world. In the 2015 iRacing Mazda MX-5 Cup, McGee tied for the most poles, most wins, and most world record times, becoming one of two iRacing’s Mazda MX-5 Cup representatives (along with Rich Eklund) in the 2015 Mazda Road to 24 Shootout.
During the shootout, the judges learned that he has what it takes to make it in the sport – both the on-track and off-track skills.
iRacing’s disruptive technology is changing the face of motorsport. Racing talent Glenn McGee now has his time to show the world.

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Glenn McGee Wins 2015 Mazda Road to 24 Shootout

Glenn McGee Wins 2015 Mazda Road to 24 Shootout 

IRVINE, Calif. (November 19, 2015) – After two days of intense competition at the Carolina Motorsports Park in Kershaw, South Carolina, Glenn McGee, from Tampa, Florida, won the 2015 Mazda Road to 24 Shootout. The $100,000 scholarship that came with the victory is the largest prize in grassroots motorsports. Launched in 2006 as the Mazda Club Racer shootout, the Mazda Road to 24 Shootout has annually promoted one talented grassroots racer into the professional ranks.

McGee became the first ever shootout winner who came from the world of iRacing.  While McGee earned his access to the shootout as an iRacing sim racing champion, he also trained on the track with 2015 MX-5 Cup Champion John Dean II in a current generation MX-5 Cup car.

By winning the shootout, McGee has earned the resources to compete in the 2016 Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup. For 2016, this will be in the all-new Global MX-5 Cup car, which went on sale on October 1. The 2016 MX-5 Cup season will begin the weekend of April 29 – May 1 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, in Monterey, California.

Quotes:

Glenn McGee:  “I don’t believe it! Just competing in the 2015 Mazda Road to 24 Shootout and driving the new Global MX-5 Cup car felt like a dream the whole time, but to come out with the overall victory is surreal and is really over-whelming. To transition so well from the iRacing.com virtual MX-5 Cup car to the real-thing, against so many talented proven drivers, was well beyond anything I could have ever imagined. I can’t thank Mazda and their partners enough for supporting so much talent over the years and for awarding me this extraordinary honor to represent their brand in the 2016 Battery Tender, Global MX-5 Cup and I can’t wait to get back in the car!”

John Doonan, Director, Mazda Motorsports:“It is hard to believe it has been ten years already, but – once again – Mazda has provided this very special opportunity for grassroots racers to take the first step into pro racing.  This year provided an extra twist as it was the first shoot-out with the all-new 2016 Mazda MX-5 Cup race car, so none of the finalists had a chance to test the car in advance.  The two days were extremely pressure filled for the candidates, as everyone had to learn the car and the track as rapidly as possible.  Adding to the challenge was constant rain.  Everyone at Mazda was impressed with the talent and poise of all of the drivers, and the decision by the judges was a difficult one.”

Charles Espenlaub, Racer/Buinessman/Judge:“As a judge, I really appreciated the intense conditions of drenching rain, a pair of new 2016 Mazda MX-5 Cup cars and a new track.  Everyone did a great job in adapting to the constantly changing track and taking care not to hurt the cars. The awesome new BFGoodrich rain tires provided excellent grip in the wet and the new slick performed well as it dried up.  It was exciting to watch everything unfold as all the session data were tabulated and the deliberation continued into the night, and following days.   As always the field was deep in talent, so it was a challenge to choose our new champion.”

Kevin Bobbit, Director of Marketing & Communications, iRacing.com:  “ I couldn’t be more excited for Glenn. Winning the Mazda Road to 24 Shootout is a huge accomplishment in itself, and now Glenn has the opportunity of a lifetime to race in the 2016 Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup. This is the second year iRacers qualified for the Shootout, and Glenn proved iRacing can be a stepping stone to a professional motorsports career. On behalf of iRacers everywhere, I want to thank Mazda for putting their trust in iRacing to develop and identify some of tomorrow’s top racing drivers. We are all looking forward to watching Glenn on track next year and to racing the 2016 Global MX5 Cup car on iRacing.”

The cars: Long Road Racing, the builders of the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Cup race car, prepared two cars for the finalists to drive.  BFGoodrich Tires provided the latest g-Force tires for the competition.

The criteria: Given that each of the finalists had proven themselves on the track with race wins and championships, the criteria to move up needed to be more encompassing. To succeed on the professional level requires a balance of both on-track and off-track skills including the following:

Driving ability – Fast laps/consistent laps

Technical skills – Understanding of vehicle dynamics and suspension, ability to evaluate vehicle handling, and ability to analyze data

The business of motorsports – Business proposal and presentation

Dean Wins MX-5 Cup Championship

DEAN WINS MX-5 CUP CHAMPIONSHIP

John Dean nips Patrick Gallagher to claim the Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires title; Robby Foley wins the Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge.
DeanChamp
With a flag-to-flag victory on Thursday and a fourth-place finish on Friday at Road Atlanta, John Dean of Sebring, Fla., clinched the SCCA Pro Racing Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires title in his No. 16 Bulb Jacket/PPG/Sick Sideways Miata. His closest challenger for the championship, Patrick Gallagher, won Friday’s race, but it wasn’t enough to overcome his points deficit.
Along with the championship, Dean claims the $200,000 Mazda Road to 24 scholarship to move to the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge Street Tuner category or the IMSA Cooper Tires Prototype Lites series. The 2014 MX-5Cup champion, Kenton Koch, won the Prototype Lites championship this year.
Robby Foley claimed the Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge, and also earns a $100,000 Mazda Scholarship to compete in the 2016 Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup with the all new Global Mazda MX-5 Cup car. He edged out Sam Adams and Nikko Reger  for the title.
Dean led flag to flag in Round 11 on Thursday, part of the Petit LeMans Powered by Mazda at Road Atlanta. Drake Kemper, of Toluca Lake, California, and Nathanial Sparks, of Spanish Fort, Alabama, completed the first podium sweep for Sick Sideways.
Dean started the 45-minute race from the pole and led all 19 laps which averaged 64.407mph and was slowed by four laps of full-course yellow at the 12-turn, 2.54-mile road course. Track conditions were at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Heavy rains rolled through the Braselton area during the mid-afternoon, leaving the circuit extremely wet. From that point on, off and on rain continued until the start of the late-afternoon race. With the drama of a wet or drying track out of the equation, the race would be decided by which driver could negotiate the slippery course most successfully.
Drake Kemper, in the No. 99 Royal Rugby/Mazda Motorsports Development/BFGoodrich Tires MX-5, finished second. This was the fourth podium finish for Kemper, the 2014 Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge champ, this season. By lap three, Kemper had made his way up to second from his fourth-place starting position. During those opening laps, Kemper battled with Patrick Gallagher until making his move for second stick.
Once Kemper secured his pass for second, Sparks began his attack. Sparks, at the controls of the No. 8 OOTSK Performance/Sick Sideways MX-5, was able to make his way around Gallagher to start lap 8. When the full course-yellow was displayed Sparks slotted into third, behind his teammate. He was able to get a good jump on the lap-12 restart, which was all that was needed to hold onto the position for the remaining eight laps.
Gallagher finished fourth to keep his championship hopes alive, but even with a win on Friday, he would need Dean to have a major issue to win the title.
In the Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge, Nikko Reger, of Houston, brought home his second win of the season. By the end of lap six, Reger took the class lead and would not relinquish it except to Robby Foley who led the class at the stripe after getting a massive jump on the field during the mid-race restart.
Gallagher, of Thornville, Ohio, won the final race of the season, which was also the 100th race in series history. Dean Copeland, of Bowie, Maryland, and Sparks completed the final podium positions.
Gallagher, in the No. 44 Howard Concrete Pumping MX-5, started Friday’s Round 12 Race in third, but was able to make up two positions on lap eight to take the race lead. During the four subsequent laps, Gallagher and John Dean were battling for which driver would end up with the top spot. By lap 12, the battle had cooled, as Gallagher stretched his lead in the 21-lap race that averaged 70.528mph around the 12-turn, 2.54-mile circuit.
In the No. 7 Copeland Motorsports/SyncSpeed Inc. MX-5, Copeland finished on the podium after starting 11th. For his effort in gaining nine positions as he marched through the field, Copeland earned the Battery Tender Hard Charger award. As the full-course yellow flew on lap two, Dean had already worked his way up to eighth. Once the field was turned loose on lap seven, Dean continued his move to the front.
Sparks completed the final race of the season in third place after spending the race trading numerous positions at the head of the field. On the penultimate lap of the race, Sparks was able to take the third spot from Dean.
In the Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge, Reger completed the Road Atlanta sweep by winning both races of the doubleheader event. Reger started the race second, in class, and stayed close to that position until the mid-race restart. Reger utilized the bunched pack of cars to build momentum for a push past Foley to the front of the pack. Once he got there, Reger checked out from the rest of the Skip Barber field and pulled out a 26-second lead.
With all the points counted, Dean captured the Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup Championship with a total of 659 points. Gallagher finished second, just 13 markers behind, with Nathanial sparks completing the top three with 597 points.
In the Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge, Foley completed his championship campaign with 666 points. Sam Adams finished second, seven markers in arrears while Reger finished third.

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MAZDA AWARDS $300,000 IN SCHOLARSHIPS TO BATTERY TENDER MAZDA MX-5 CUP PRESENTED BY BFGOODRICH TIRES CHAMPIONS

Robby Foley, John Doonan and John Dean (left to right) are pictured with the championship hardware. (Doug Morrissey)

John Dean II and Robby Foley Secure Their First Pro Championships

TOPEKA, Kan. (Oct. 5, 2015) – Winner’s hardware and two scholarships were awarded to the series champions and top finishers at the awards banquet for the SCCA Pro Racing Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires, at the Atlanta Marriott in Peachtree Corners, Georgia, on Oct. 2.

John Dean, of Sebring, Florida, was the night’s big winner as he was formally awarded the 2015 Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup Championship title, with a total of 659 points. As the series champion, Dean not only earned the trophy and contingency that go with winning the championship, but he also earned the $200,000 Mazda Road to 24 scholarship to advance his career as a racecar driver.

At the banquet, it was announced that Dean would take advantage of a unique arrangement regarding the scholarship funds. With the pricing announcement regarding the new 2016 Global MX-5 Cup car package happening Oct 1, Dean elected to receive two of the new $53,000 racing machines, plus $100,000 to use in campaigning the cars next season. The move was unprecedented, as all past series champions have used the scholarship funds to move to the next level of sports car racing.

Also taking home scholarship funds was Robby Foley, of Randolph, New Jersey, after he won the season-long Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge Championship scoring 666 points. His scholarship was worth $100,000 to be used to help fund a full season in the 2016 Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup, at the controls of the new generation of MX-5 Cup car.

Leading into the final two rounds of the season, as part of the Petit Le Mans Powered by Mazda, at Road Atlanta, Dean, in the No. 16 Bulb Jacket/PPG/Sick Sideways MX-5, was the Championship leader. However, he held that position with only a seven-point margin over Patrick Gallagher, of Thornville, Ohio, in the No. 44 Howard Concrete Pumping MX-5. In the last two races of the season, Gallagher made a push to get to the lead in the first of two races. The championship picture became clearer after Gallagher was unable to crack the lead. In the second race, Gallagher scored the win, but Dean finished in a high enough position to guarantee his title. When the final points were tallied, Gallagher finished 13 markers behind Dean having compiled a record of three wins, nine podium finishes and two pole positions.

Nathanial Sparks, of Spanish Fort, Alabama, came into the final two races of the season in third, and completed the season in the same position. Sparks collected a total of 597 points, including four podium finishes at the controls of his No. 8 OOTSK Performance/Sick Sideways MX-5.

Drake Kemper, of Toluca Lake, California, represented the third, of three, full-time Sick Sideways drivers in the top five of the championship. Kemper drove his No. 99 Royal Rugby/Mazda Motorsports Development/BFGoodrich Tires MX-5 to a total of 562 points. Kemper’s record included one win and four podium finishes.

In his first year in the series, and first time driving fendered sports cars in anger, Peter Portante, of Plainville, Connecticut, completed the top five positions. Portante wheeled his No. 24 Intercity Lines MX-5 to a total of 552 points, which included five consecutive podium finishes.

Back to the Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge, Sam Adams, of Richfield, Wisconsin, and Nikko Reger, of Houston, completed the top three championship positions.

Adams finished the season seven markers behind Foley, and compiled a record of seven podium finishes with three wins. Reger finished the season with a total of 657 points, including six podium finishes. Those podiums included three wins.

Kyle Loustaunau (No. 4 Mazda Motorsports Development/BFGoodrich Tires MX-5), of Vacaville, California, took home rookie of the year honors as the top point-scoring rookie, while Zach Lee (No. 12 ALARA Racing MX-5), of San Antonio, notched the Master’s Championship as the highest scoring, eligible driver over 40 years old. The Team of the Year Award was given to ModSpace Racing, as the new team, co-owned by past series champion Stevan McAleer, notched two wins. Sarah Montgomery (No. 14 Travel Lafayette, LA/F.A.S.T. Fresh Air Systems Technologies MX-5), of Lafayette, Louisiana, was the recipient of the Spirit of Mazda award for embodying the Challenger Spirit.

“All of us at Mazda are very proud of the 2015 Battery Tender MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich season,” John Doonan, Director of Mazda Motorsports, North America said. “To have so many competitors join us for the entire season – ending the season with a 37 car field – and to have the season championship come down to the final race is all that we could ever ask for when it comes to big fields and close competition. Our congratulations go out to John Dean for his championship, which has eluded him in the past, and Robby Foley for his Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge Championship.

“We are excited that John [Dean] has chosen to remain in the series for 2016 with his $200,000 scholarship by adding two brand new 2016 cars under the Sick Sideways tent and we look forward to seeing Robby move up the Mazda Road to 24 ladder. We are proud of the growth of this series over the last ten seasons and we are dedicated to continuing to find ways to bring continuous value to participants and partners every year.”

The full schedule for the 2016 Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup season will be announced in the coming weeks.

Dean wins mx-5 cup title

Allen Moody | Highlands Today
Published: October 3, 2015

BRASELTON, Ga. — Sebring’s John Dean II captured the Battery Tender Mazda MX5-Cup championship with a fourth-place finish in the final race of the season on Friday at Road Atlanta. Friday’s finish comes on the heels of a Sick Sideways podium sweep on Thursday, with Dean taking the win, Drake Kemper placing second and Nathanial Sparks finishing third.

Dean entered the final two races of the season with a seven-point lead over Patrick Gallagher and increased his lead to 12 points before the first race by capturing the pole position for both races. Thursday’s victory gave him a 23-point advantage heading into Friday’s race, where he was content to play it safe and win the season-long championship.

“I knew I could finish in the top 10 or better,” Dean said. “Winning the title feels great.”

Friday’s race also gave Sick Sideways three drivers in the top four of the season standings, as Sparks finished third and Kemper was able to climb one spot and finish fourth for the year.

“We’re ecstatic,” Dean said. “I’m so proud of our guys. We’ve been fast all year and really proved it this week.”

Dean was pleased to see Sparks finish third in Friday’s race, giving him a pair of podium finishes for the week.

“Sparky deserved that podium,” he said. “I’m happy with my finish. I had fun and got to battle a little bit.”

With the season title, Dean will get a $200,000 scholarship from Mazda to race next year. While previous winners have jumped to another series, Dean is going to stay with the MX5-Cup for another season and buy two of the news cars that will be used for the series beginning next year.

“The new cars look pretty cool,” Dean said. “They went out when we did for qualifying and the only two drivers faster were Spark and I.”

The entire Sick Sideways team was strong right from the start, as the team posted the fastest times in both practice sessions and turned around and had the top three qualifying positions for the first race and were 1-2-4 for the second race.

“It was amazing to run 1-2-3 in qualifying and then run 1-2-3 in (Thursday’s) race,” Dean said. “I think that was the first time in the history of the series that has happened.”

Winning on the home track of Atlanta Motorsports Group, whose drivers include Gallagher and Peter Portante, who entered the final two races in fourth place, made the team’s showing this week that much more impressive.

Dean said he wanted to thank Mazda, Battery Tender, SCCA Racing and BF Goodrich for their support of the MX5-Cup series, along with his sponsors Bulb Jacket, PPG, Chin Motorsports and Projections Research for all of their help during the season.

“I’m just happy,” Dean said. “I was able to prove to myself that I could go out there and race the way I know I could.”

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DEAN NOTCHES FOURTH SEASON WIN IN BATTERY TENDER MAZDA MX-5 CUP AT ROAD ATLANTA

John Dean drove to a win in Round 11 of the Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup at Road Atlanta. (Al Merion Padron)
BRASELTON, Ga. (October 1, 2015) – John Dean, of Sebring, Florida, led flag to flag in Round 11 of the SCCA Pro Racing Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires, part of the Petit LeMans Powered by Mazda at Road Atlanta. Drake Kemper, of Toluca Lake, California, and Nathanial Sparks, of Spanish Fort, Alabama, completed the first podium sweep for Sick Sideway.Dean, in the No. 16 Bulb Jacket/PPG/Sick Sideways MX-5, started the 45-minute race from the pole and led all 19 laps which averaged 64.407 mph and was slowed by four laps of full-course yellow at the 12-turn, 2.54-mile road course. Track conditions were at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Heavy rains rolled through the Braselton area during the mid-afternoon, leaving the circuit extremely wet. From that point on, off and on rain continued until the start of the late-afternoon race. With the drama of a wet or drying track out of the equation, the race would be decided by which driver could negotiate the slippery course most successfully.

The damp conditions were a contributing factor to the incident that necessitated the full-course yellow to cover the cleanup. As the field came by the flag stand to complete lap 7, Tyler Kicera, in the No. 41 TAIT/LMC Home Loans MX-5, lost control and started to spin to the inside of the circuit, on the driver’s right-hand side. As Kicera tried to correct the spin, the car swung around and came back across the track moving from driver’s right to left. Kyle Loustaunau, in the No. 4 Mazda Motorsports Development/BFGoodrich Tires MX-5, and Timothy Paul, in the No. 6 ALARA Racing/Cellmark MX-5, were collected.

Following the restart, Dean was able to hold off his pursuers, driving to victory with his teammates behind him.

“It was an awesome result,” Dean said. “We came into the race debating whether we were going to run rain tires or dry tires. When we headed to the grid, it started to rain so that made the decision easy. We put the wet setup on the car and nailed it. During testing, Drake [Kemper] was flying and [Sparks] hasn’t even raced in the rain before and we were able to triple-podium. Our hands are going to be stinging tomorrow from high fives.

“For the restart, I knew Drake [Kemper] and Sparks were back there and knew they were going to take some flak. I wanted to do what I could to help them out. There are some places you can put the car to help in utilizing the draft to help the guy in third. The two of us at the front just tried to put our cars where we could to help Sparks. I still don’t know how he was able to pull it out, since he had so much pressure from the rest of the field.”

Kemper, in the No. 99 Royal Rugby/Mazda Motorsports Development/BFGoodrich Tires MX-5, finished second. This was the fourth podium finish for Kemper, this season. By lap three, Kemper had made his way up to second from his fourth-place starting position. During those opening laps, Kemper battled with Patrick Gallagher until making his move for second stick.

“That race was insane,” Kemper said. “We had qualified one-two-three and were just praying for rain. When we tested, the cars just felt solid. We had an awesome setup, and when you qualify in the top three positions you are supposed to finish in the top three positions. Fortunately, we were able to do that.

“The BFGoodrich g-Force T/As were sticky and smooth the whole time. If you got yourself into a bad situation, you were able to pull yourself right out. I couldn’t have been happier with the performance of the tires.”

Once Kemper secured his pass for second, Sparks began his attack. Sparks, at the controls of the No. 8 OOTSK Performance/Sick Sideways MX-5, was able to make his way around Gallagher to start lap 8. When the full course-yellow was displayed Sparks slotted into third, behind his teammate. He was able to get a good jump on the lap-12 restart, which was all that was needed to hold onto the position for the remaining eight laps.

“Having not run the test day in the wet, it was feeling pretty nervous about the first few laps,” Sparks said. “Fortunately, it wasn’t a downpour, but it was plenty wet. I have done a couple sessions before now that were wet like this, so I had some prior experience. I wasn’t too worried once I got out there to see what the track was really like. I just couldn’t match the pace of John [Dean] and Drake [Kemper] as they just pounded out laps.

“I had a great battle with Patrick Gallagher and fortunately was able to come out on top. Out there in the wet, it’s all about getting back to the power because your best chance to beat the other guy is going into the brake zone of the next turn. If you hit the throttle too hard and have just a little wheel spin, that’s what will allow that guy behind you to start really hounding you.”

Gallagher, a championship contender in the No. 44 Howard Concrete Pumping MX-5, started a charge toward the front of the field after the initial green flag. However, once Gallagher got to second during lap two, Dean had put plenty of distance between himself and the rest of the field. As Gallagher tried to reel Dean in, the Sick Sideways duo proved to have the outright speed in the difficult conditions.

Charlie Hays, behind the wheel of a Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup machine for the first time, drove his No. 54 Atlanta Motorsports Group MX-5 to a fifth-place finish.

In the Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge, Nikko Reger, of Houston, brought home his second win of the season. By the end of lap six, Reger took the class lead and would not relinquish it except to Robby Foley who led the class at the stripe after getting a massive jump on the field during the mid-race restart.

“We started with a setup that leaned more toward a dry one,” Reger said. “We were just waiting for the track to dry slightly. I just spent my time hitting my marks and doing what I could to make positions. Unfortunately, Foley got around me on the restart but I got back around him pretty quickly since we were able to get off the corners pretty well.

“In the championship, it brings things a lot closer. I’m not sure exactly where we are, but we just have to come out tomorrow and run as hard as we can.”

Completing the top three positions in the class were Sam Adams, of Richfield, Wisconsin, and Robby Foley, of Randolph, New Jersey.

Mike Iler had a strong finish in the No. 66 BFGoodrich Tires SBMX-5. This race marked Iler’s professional debut after he was named the top amateur performance driver by Motor Trend and Four Wheeler magazines in the BFGoodrich Are you Driver Enough competition.

In the Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup standings, Dean held onto the top position in the standings with 607 points. After Dean was able to stretch his point lead, Gallagher’s deficit grew from seven to 23 markers. Sparks sits in third with 544 points.

DEAN CAPTURES BATTERY TENDER MAZDA MX-5 CUP POLE AT ROAD ATLANTA

John Dean topped qualifying for the final two round of the Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup at Road Atlanta. (Al Merion Padron)
BRASELTON, Ga. (October 1, 2015) – John Dean, of Sebring, Florida, will start in the top position for Thursday afternoon’s Round 11 race of the SCCA Pro Racing Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires. Nathanial Sparks, of Spanish Fort, Alabama, and Drake Kemper, of Toluca Lake, California, made up the remainder of the top-three positions.Dean, in the No. 16 Bulb Jacket/PPG/Sick Sideways MX-5, scored the pole position with a time just over 0.3-second quicker than his Sick Sideways teammate, Sparks. Dean lapped the 12-turn, 2.54-mile circuit with a best time of 1:39.758 (91.662mph). Dean said he is a little under the weather, but also pointed out that his best performances seem to occur when that is the case.

“That was, probably, the most important on-track session I have had because of the way the points are with Patrick [Gallagher],” Dean said. “I’ve been trying to focus, as much as possible, and work really hard this week. That was very important for both of us. When I was out there I was turning 40.4s and felt like I was driving the wheels off the car. Then, [Sparks] goes out there and comes up with a 40-flat. For a split second, I doubted if I could even get near that. I had to work very hard to beat that time, but I’m just thankful I have a teammate that can push me like that. Drake [Kemper] is right there too, so that’s just awesome.

“I started pushing as hard as I could, taking more risks going into corners. At this track you have these early off-brake corners, then get back on the power early. With those turns, you’re just kind of hoping that the car sticks. I just try to keep my foot to the floor and press as hard as possible.”

In the No. 8 OOTSK Performance/Sick Sideways MX-5, Sparks landed in the second starting position for Thursday afternoon’s race. Sparks completed the 15-minute session with a time of 1:40.068 (91.378 mph).

“I’m looking forward to the race today,” Sparks said. “It looks like it’s going to be raining, and I was one of the few guys not to go out during the promoter test day when it was raining. So that may put us a bit behind the eight ball. But, I’m glad we had the qualifying session in the dry, so I can start up front and pick it up quickly. The plan is to stay with the front guys and finish well.

“I kept telling myself, ‘It’s not going to rain,’ that is until five minutes ago when I looked outside. Then, I realized it might rain. I think, if it rains, it will spread out the field, resulting in fewer big packs of cars.

Kemper, in the No. 99 Royal Rugby/Mazda Motorsports Development/BFGoodrich Tires MX-5, completed the Sick Sideways sweep of the top three starting positions. He only needed two laps before throwing down his time of 1:40.165 (91.289 mph) on his third trip around the circuit.

“One-two-three for the team in the first race, I can’t complain with that,” Kemper said. “We just put it on the line from the drop of the green flag. Both Sparks and I were able to turn our fastest laps, early on. Then John [Dean] came out of nowhere, like a madman. The car felt fantastic. It was the same setup from yesterday. It just worked better in the cooler temperatures.

“I’m praying for rain. I think a rain race would be a lot of fun. We’re definitely looking for a triple podium, today. We worked with a lot of crazy setups during the promoter test day. Some of our choices are on the opposite side of the spectrum, but we’ve come together, near the middle.”

Championship contender Patrick Gallagher, in the No. 44 Howard Concrete Pumping Mx-5, finished the session with a time of 1:40.268 (91.196 mph). That was good enough for fourth on the starting grid.

In the No. 6 ALARA Racing/Cellmark MX-5, Tim Paul made strides over his finishing position in practice two. Paul finished the session in fifth, with a time of 1:40.497 (90.988 mph), a four position improvement over his practice time.

In the Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge, Sam Adams, of Richfield, Wisconsin, earned the top starting position in the class with a time of 1:43.409 (88.426 mph). With rain in the forecast, Adams said he is looking forward to the afternoon’s races regardless of the weather conditions.

“I knew getting the pole would be big in the championship, for me,” Adams said. “By winning the pole I would be able to close the point-gap to Robby [Foley]. The track conditions suited my style pretty well. The track had a lot of grip, and I was able to get the throttle down quickly.

“I think this afternoon’s race will be wet, maybe even both races. So, that’ll change a lot, but I’m looking forward to the rain. I’ll probably change the shocks up a bit and go from there.”

Completing the top three positions in the class were Nikko Reger, of Houston, with a time of 1:43.746 (88.138 mph), and Robby Foley, of Randolph, New Jersey, with a time of 1:44.282 (87.685 mph).

SPARKS JUMPS TO TOP OF PRACTICE TWO STANDINGS IN BATTERY TENDER MAZDA MX-5 CUP AT ROAD ATLANTA

Sparks finished the second practice, in preparation for Rounds 11 and 12, at the head of the field at Road Atlanta. (Al Merion Padron)
BRASELTON, Ga. (September 30, 2015) – Nathanial Sparks, of Spanish Fort, Alabama, improved two positions to take the top stop in the second practice in preparation for Rounds 11 and 12 of the SCCA Pro Racing Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires at Road Atlanta, as part of Petit LeMans Powered by Mazda. John Dean, of Sebring, Florida, and Drake Kemper, of Toluca Lake, California, made up the remaining two positions of the top three, in that order.Sparks, in the No. 8 OOTSK Performance/Sick Sideways MX-5, said he was fortunate to get a tow at the right time to set the fastest lap of the session. The lap came after a slow out lap to bed some new brakes. His top time was 1:40.692 (90.812 mph) at the 12-turn, 2.54-mile circuit.

“As usual, we’re pushing really hard in practice to see what our cars can really do,” Sparks said. “We went out pretty early on because we had to bed in some brakes. So, I had a really slow lap where I was really trying to cool the brakes off. It put me at the perfect spot where I was able to get a nice draft off a group of cars. I cruised around and got sucked up for a good time.

“Later in the session, when it started getting hot, it was no-man’s land out there. We were flailing like crazy. We’re getting closer with our setup. We’re all making steps, but they are just in different directions. We’ve taken the right, different steps. We all have a different setup, but it’s making all of our cars look pretty equal.

In the No. 8 Bulb Jacket/PPG/Sick Sideways MX-5, Dean completed a fast lap of 1:40.838 (90.680 mph). Dean said that he was happy with the times turned by the team, as a whole, even though each driver seemed to like a different setup on the car.

“Honestly, we weren’t even thinking about trying to set the top three quickest times,” Dean said. “We went out with three different setups, and we’re just trying to find a middle ground. Some were better in some places, others were worse. We’re just trying to find the balance of fast and consistent, and sometimes that’s just not the same.

“Obviously, you’re trying to figure out a qualifying setup versus a race setup. It seems like most of the time, each of us go out with a different setup for each event. We’re always close, but there a little bit of variation in suspension clicks. I think we’ve really narrowed in on it. Drake [Kemper] seemed a little disappointed with his time since he put on new tires, but I think he’s fine. I don’t think they were worth much for that session. Considering the weather and the times we ran, if you take that out of the equation, I think we went faster. So, we’re headed in the right direction and we’ll be strong for the race.”

Kemper, in the No. 99 Royal Rugby/Mazda Motorsports Development/BFGoodrich Tires MX-5, mustered a lap of 1:40.862 (90.659 mph) at Road Atlanta. That lap came after he was unable to complete a circuit of the track in the opening practice due to mechanical issues.

“I missed the first practice after breaking a shock on the first lap,” Kemper said. “I didn’t have much practice here in the dry, and messed up Turn Five each time I went through there this last time. I’ve never thought of that as a problem corner, but with Russell [Walker] going off there it has me thinking twice about it. I have to get that out of my head before qualifying.

“It was a Sick Sideways one-two-three, so I’m happy about that. I’m praying for rain, for sure. Yesterday, during testing, everything just felt right in the rain. Looking at data it worked well. I’m hoping it downpours and we have 10 inches of rain before showing up tomorrow. Rain is the great equalizer and this is the best track to race in the rain. Having 45 minutes of this in the rain, with a group of 30 other drivers in a big championship like this would be a blast.”

Ara Malkhassian, in the No. 11 ALARA Racing MX-5, finished the 30-minute session in the fourth position with a lap of 1:40.876 (90.646 mph), while Andrew Carbonell, in the No. 5 Mazda Motorsports 2016 MX-5, completed the session in fifth with a time of 1:40.942 (90.587 mph). While Carbonell will not compete with the car during the final two rounds of the 2015 season, the pace shows the potential of the new platform.

In the Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge, Ben Albano, of Greenwich Connecticut, drove his No. 61 Project Yellow Light/Manfredi Jewels SBMX-5 to a fast lap of 1:43.466 (88.377 mph). That time was good enough to put him at the head of the class field.

“It’s hard to predict the weather,” Albano said. “It was raining yesterday, and that was fun. Today has been completely different. I couldn’t be more opposite. We just had to adjust for the conditions. That’s what tomorrow is going to be about, as well.

“The car felt great. Compared to this morning, track conditions were a lot more slick because of the rubber that had been laid down on track. However, it was grippy enough for me to still be happy with the track. I usually approach things like rain as they come. If it rains, that’s great. I love the rain. Regardless, you’re going to have to adapt to any type of condition. I’m hoping for the rain, but I’m not betting on it because I don’t want to be disappointed or prepare for something that doesn’t happen.”

Finishing the session in second was Nikko Reger, of Houston, after clicking off a lap of 1:44.539 (87.470 mph). Robby Foley, of Randolph, New Jersey, completed the top-three positions with a lap of 1:44.620 (87.402 mph).

DEAN SHOWS QUICKEST PACE IN BATTERY TENDER MAZDA MX-5 CUP OPENING PRACTICE

John Dean, the series championship leader, was the quickest during the opening practice, in preparation for the final two rounds of the season, from Road Atlanta. (Al Merion Padron)
BRASELTON, Ga. (September 30, 2015) – John Dean, of Sebring, Florida, found his way to the top of the time sheet in the opening practice in preparation for Rounds 11 and 12 of the SCCA Pro Racing Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires, part of the Petit LeMans Powered by Mazda at Road Atlanta. Ara Malkhassian, of Houston, was second fastest, followed by Nathanial Sparks, of Spanish Fort, Alabama.Dean, at the wheel of the No. 16 Bulb Jacket/PPG/Sick Sideways MX-5, finished the opening 30-minute practice session with a best time of 1:40.528 (90.960 mph) around the 12-turn, 2.54-mile circuit. Between this session and yesterday’s promoter test days, which took place in extremely wet conditions, Dean said he feels confident moving into the final two races of the season.

“The confidence builder was yesterday, surviving the promoter test day in the rain,” Dean said. “Testing was crazy. It was pouring down rain and Sparks just didn’t feel like going out there. Obviously, I want to run fast. I never want Gallagher to be quicker, but [this session] was about seeing where we are on setup. We ran one similar to what we ran at some of the other track we’ve been to. We also have a bunch of cars here, so we were able to get feedback from a bunch of different drivers. We just have to go through the data to see where we are.

“I’m happy with the time, but we still have some more work to do. I’m excited for a nice end of the season and, hopefully, a couple clean races. We’re going to try and save our tires and equipment for qualifying and the races. If it’s dry for qualifying, look for some new rubber on the car.”

In the No. 11 ALARA Racing MX-5, Malkhassian captured the second position in the first practice of the race week. His best lap stopped the timing clock at 1:40.603 (90.892 mph).

“It was nice to practice in the dry today, even though we are probably going to race in the rain,” Malkhassian said. “It’s always good to be back at Road Atlanta, a track where I’ve had a lot of success and enjoy driving.

“We developed the rain setup yesterday and the car feels really great in the wet. The ALARA Racing engineers did a really good job putting together a really comfortable rain race car.”

Sparks, in the No. 8 OOTSK Performance/Sick Sideways MX-5, finished the session in third place. Sparks quick lap registered as 1:40.612 (90.884 mph) as he was the second Sick Sideways car in the top five positions. Following the session, the numbers show that the Sick Sideways group is quick out of the box.

“Before going out this morning, John [Dean] suggested we go with a particular setup,” Sparks said. “I still had the rain setup from Road America on the car and I wanted to see how that felt. I thought it would be good to have two baselines to work from. I was able to put down some pretty quick laps, there at the beginning, and it wasn’t too bad. We ended up having to stiffen the car up a lot, but it really kept its pace.

“I’m glad I was able to get into third, since the second through forth were all in the same 0.1-second. At this point, I hope we can finish off the season with a pair of good races. I want to stay where I am in the championship standings. Our competitors are so strong here, so we’ll have to see how things shake out. I’m a little worried since I didn’t go out during the rain yesterday, but we’ll do the best we can.”

Patrick Gallagher, in the No. 44 Howard Concrete Pumping MX-5, finished the session just outside of the podium positions, with a time of 1:40.626 (90.871 mph). Gallagher came into this doubleheader event as the second-place driver in the season-long standings.

Finishing the session fifth was Dean Copeland, in the No. 7 Copeland Motorsports/SyncSpeed Inc. MX-5, with a time of 1:40.851 (90.668 mph). Copeland has scored two wins this season, and is always a threat at the flowing high-speed circuits, like Road Atlanta.

Under 40 Achiever: Kevin Koelemeyer, Regency Insurance

From The News-Press: 
Under 40 Achiever: Kevin Koelemeyer, Regency Insurance 
The 2015 News-Press 12 Under 40 series profiles business people in SWFLA. This month:Kevin Koelemeyer, co-founder of Regency Insurance. 

http://www.news-press.com/videos/news/2015/09/25/72817440/ 

 

 

Dean ready for Road Atlanta

Allen Moody | Highlands Today
Published: September 15, 2015   |   Updated: September 15, 2015 at 07:24 PM

SEBRING — Sebring’s John Dean II has been involved in racing for a number of years, so when he says the two upcoming Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup races at Road Atlanta are the biggest races of his career, you know that the stakes are pretty high.

“This is going to be the most stressful race weekend that I’ve ever had, for sure,” Dean said. “I’ve never been in the scenario where there’s so much on the line.”

What’s at stake is the MX-5 Cup driver’s championship for 2015 and heading into the final two races of the season, Dean has a seven-point lead over Patrick Gallagher. Dean’s Sick Sideways teammate Nathanial Sparks is in third place in the points standings, while Gallagher’s teammate with Atlanta Motorsports Group, Peter Portante, is fourth. Sick Sideways driver Drake Kemper rounds out the top five.

“The difference between a first- and a second-place finish is four points, so you can see with two races to go, seven points is very little,” Dean said. “There’s five points of poles left, three points for pole no. 1 and two points for pole No. 2. There’s one point for leading a lap and one point each race for most laps led, so these little one points here and there and the points for winning a pole become very crucial championship points.”

The difference between ending the season in first place or second place is quite dramatic.

“If you win the championship you get about $200,000 from Mazda to move forward to your next season,” Dean said. “That’s why so many people come into the MX5-Cup. There’s no other place where they offer something like that. There’s huge motivation for all the drivers to win and that puts a lot of pressure on winning as opposed to finishing second.”

Second-place receives about $3,500, Dean said, so there is definitely a bit of anxiety to go around.

“We have a few weeks before Road Atlanta and that’s a lot of nights sitting around worried about the race and whether we’re going to bring this championship home and win this thing,” Dean said. “It will be huge for myself as well as for Sick Sideways. It will definitely jump-start our business as far as moving forward to bigger and better things. We’re all working as hard as we can to make that happen.”

With such a dramatic difference in the payouts to the top two finishers, there are likely a few worries that one driver’s teammates may be willing to go out of their way to lend a helping hand, but Dean said he doesn’t want to see anything like that from his drivers.

“I think every team is going to be worried ‘are these guys going to get their teammates to take me out?’ which absolutely is not acceptable on our end,” Dean said. “I definitely do not want my guys to do that because that would make us look bad and that’s not what we’re here to do. We want to win fair and square and without any confrontation and drama at the end of the season.”

The Pro Racing Regulations of the Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup also allow the President of SCCA Pro Racing to impose a fine of up to $250,000 to any participant for “conduct detrimental to the Organization,” which should definitely help ensure a level playing field.

Dean is no stranger to Road Atlanta, having raced there in the MX-5 Cup the previous three seasons and also a few other times, but it’s also the home track of Atlanta Motorsports Group and he knows from first-hand experience how valuable that can be.

“The problem is AMG, that’s their home track so they’ll probably have a bit of an advantage as far as set-up,” he said. “It’s like when you see us at Sebring, we’re really hard to beat there. Road Atlanta could be the same way, but working against us.”

One thing working to Dean’s advantage is that Road Atlanta tends to favor those teams which work well together and few teams do so as well as Sick Sideways.

“We’re very good working as a team, Sparky and I especially, and that could play out in our favor,” Dean said. “Some of the other guys may not work together as well as we do and we’re very motivated to helping each other out as a team. That’s hard to find with two competitive people.

“I would love to have Sparky and I, especially after so many years of working together, fill two of the podium spots at the end of the championship. I know that will mean a lot to Sparky and his family, but it also would mean a lot to me as a team owner.”

Dean said it’s been a great season so far, as all three Sick Sideways cars are in the top five of the points standings, which shows the consistency and strength of the team, although he would obviously prefer the final standings look exactly the same as they do now after the two Road Atlanta races.

One unique aspect to the race to the wire is that both Dean and Gallagher had a mechanical failure at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, which usually is enough to dash a driver’s championship hopes.

“A DNF like that is usually the end of the championship,” Dean said. “Either of us could have had a 30-point lead. At that time the points were really close between myself, Gallagher and Dean Copeland and all three of us had a mechanical failure in the same race. That’s unheard of. It’s like those goblins ran around and sabotaged us.”

Dean is also working with a new primary sponsor in Bulb Jacket this season and he said the company has been a pleasure to work with.

“The Bulb Jacket people are awesome,” Dean said. “They really brightened up the livery of the car, that’s for sure. The car looks great. The biggest thing in having Bulb Jacket with us is it came with such a positive environment. They’re very upbeat and that’s actually very helpful at the track because things get so tense during these races. It’s awesome to have some people there smiling and rooting you on. That goes a long way.”

Dean said he was also appreciative to the Chin Motorsports people for helping with testing and track days, as well as the gang at PPG for helping keeping the car looking good.

“This is probably the best season ever to have a PPG sponsorship,” Dean said. “We haven’t done any major damage to the cars, but lots of panels and we’ve been using a bunch of PPG paint to respray a lot of our cars, so a big thanks to PPG for helping us out in that matter.”

There will be three 30-minute test sessions at Road Atlanta on Tuesday, Sept. 29, followed by two 30-minute practice sessions on Wednesday. The first race takes place on Thursday, with the final race of the season taking place on Friday.

– See more at: http://www.highlandstoday.com/hi/sports/dean-ready-for-road-atlanta-20150916/#sthash.ReH6wIUU.dpuf

Dean Takes Round Nine Of Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup At Road America

John Dean captured the win in Round Nine of the Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires at Road America Credit: Art Fleischmann
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (August 28, 2015) – John Dean, of Sebring, Florida, scored the win in Friday’s Round Nine of the SCCA Pro Racing Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires as part of the NASCAR XFINITY Series Road America 180 Fired Up by Johnsonville at Road America. Patrick Gallagher, of Thornville, Ohio, and Peter Portante, of Plainville, Connecticut, completed the top three positions.The race, slowed by two full course yellow flag periods, averaged 72.923 mph around the 4.048-mile, 14-turn road course. The first full course yellow, which lasted one circuit of the course, was brought out as a result of an incident that involved Hernan Palermo in Turn 11. The second was brought out by an incident involving Ara Malkhassian. In both cases the drivers were okay.

Dean, in the No. 16 Bulb Jacket/PPG/Sick Sideways MX-5, started at the head of the 20-car field and was scored in that position on all but one of the 14 laps run during the 45-minute timed race. Gallagher was the only other driver to be scored at the front of the pack.

“It is a bummer to finish a race under a yellow flag,” Dean said. “But, maybe it’s better because I’d hate to see anyone else go home with a broken car or not be able to race tomorrow.

“I’m happy with the way the car ran, and for points this is really good for me. It was also a good day for Nathanial [Sparks], too. All three of our cars were up there for a while running really well.”

In his No. 44 Howard Concrete Pumping MX-5, Gallagher was hoping for a final restart and green flag lap to see if he could snatch the win away from Dean. With the help of his teammate, Portante, Gallagher said he could have made a serious challenge for the win.

“We had the best car in the field,” Gallagher said. “Going through the carousel was fun for me because the cars were either getting bigger or smaller, depending on the mirror I was looking at. If it would have gone green, we may have been able to get a bigger trophy and more points.

“Hats off to John [Dean] for the race he ran. It’s just the way it was. We had the most outright pace. Once Kemper and Copeland dropped out of the race, I knew it was going to be tough since Dean and Sparks were working with each other. I finally got Peter [Portante] up there and I thought to myself, ‘Let’s go.’ Second is the least damage we could have done from a point perspective.”

Portante finished the race in third after completing laps as close to the front as second place in the No. 24 Intercity Lines MX-5. Like Gallagher, Portante said he could have presented Dean with quite a challenge had the race finished under green-flag conditions.

“At Road America, this is what we expect,” Portante said. “It’s going to be a close race. No matter how fast or slow you are, you’re going to have a shot. I think that fact helped us out a lot. We had a couple issues with the brakes in the middle of the race, but the draft kept us in it.

“We were really disappointed that we couldn’t finish under green. They do green flag tows, here and the track crews are usually pretty quick. It was just unfortunate they couldn’t get it cleaned up before time ran out. For the mid-race restart I was second and tried a move for the lead, but lost a position. I hoped we would have another lap to make that up, but it is what it is.”

Nathanial Sparks finished the race in fourth, after rolling of the gird second, in his No. 8 OOTSK Performance/Sick Sideways MX-5. Sparks was in the middle of fight for the win for the entire 14-lap race, but was pushed back to fourth by Dean and Gallagher.

Chicago-area driver Daniel Bender completed the top five in his No. 28 ModSpace MX-5. En route to the finish, he gained five positions from his starting spot of 10th. That earned him the Battery Tender Hard Charger award of the race.

In the Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge, Robby Foley, of Randolph, New Jersey, was the class winner. He started from the class pole and never looked back.

“The car has been handling pretty well,” Foley said. “So, I felt pretty confident coming into the day even though this is a huge drafting track. I knew I was really fast in couple key spots, which would help me keep the lead. I was able to play the strategy just right and stay ahead of the other guys just enough to where they couldn’t get a good draft on me.

“The setup is pretty good and we’re looking for the chance to repeat tomorrow.”

Completing the class podium was Nikko Reger, of Houston, and Sam Adams, of Richfield, Wisconsin.

Dean Adds Another Pole Win To His 2015 Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup Record At Road America

John Dean took the top position in qualifying for Round Nine of the Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup at Road America. Credit: Art Fleischmann


ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (August 28, 2015) –
John Dean, of Sebring, Florida, captured the pole for Friday’s Round Nine of the SCCA Pro Racing Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires as part of the NASCAR XFINITY Series Road America 180 Fired Up by Johnsonville at Road America. Nathanial Sparks, of Spanish Fort, Alabama, finished second, followed by Patrick Gallagher, of Thornville, Ohio.Dean only needed four laps of the 4.048-mile, 14-turn road course to take the top spot of the starting grid for the weekend’s first race. His third lap proved to be the best as he stopped the clock at 2:37.799 (92.350 mph) in his No. 16 Bulb Jacket/PPG/Sick Sideways MX-5. What made the run more notable is that Dean’s car suffered gearbox damage necessitating a replacement before the race.

“The car felt really good on the new tires,” Dean said. “That’s always a gamble since the car will always react to the new tire. But, we’ve been doing this long enough that we can anticipate how those changes will make the car act. Based on what the car was doing during practice, I knew the car would come to life with the new tires.

“The first lap felt really fast, but the time wasn’t quite there. As I went on the lap times came down, which gave me a little relief. Right now, we’re focused on where Patrick [Gallagher] is in the lineup. I’m excited to have taken both poles and for Nathaniel [Sparks] to be there in second is huge, with Drake [Kemper] right behind. If we can get together in a three-car draft we’re going to be tough to beat.”

Sparks, in his No. 8 OOTSK Performance/Sick Sideways MX-5, will start Round Nine of 2015 from the second spot after throwing down a best lap of 2:37.836 (92.329 mph). Starting from that position will shift the advantage toward the Sick Sideways squad as that will allow Dean and Sparks to work together early on.

“I drove hard and ripped it out there,” Sparks said. “Ending up in second was the best spot I could start from. I took a lot of liberties out there slinging the car in and taking it deep. I’m glad it was all able to come together in one good lap.”

Gallagher will take the standing start in third after turning a best lap of 2:38.016 (92.224 mph), right behind Dean, in the No. 44 Howard Concrete Pumping MX-5. As a result of the qualifying results Dean is now the leader in the championship standings, however a good finish in this race will dictate the next turn in the title fight.

“We struggled yesterday with some issues,” Gallagher said. “We missed quite a bit of practice so we didn’t know what we had coming into qualifying. We’re going to throw some things at it before the race. Copeland started off the front row and won both races last year, so it’s really going to come down to who’s going to be there for the last lap.

“Qualifying may not be so important at this race track, but it becomes very important from a points perspective. Hopefully in the race we’ll put some space between our car and Dean’s No. 16.”

Drake Kemper piloted his No. 99 Royal Rugby/Mazda Motorsports Development/BFGoodrich Tires MX-5 to a fourth place grid position after turning a best lap of 2:38.058 (92.199 mph).

Gallagher’s teammate, Peter Portante, will start right behind him in the No. 24 Intercity Lines MX-5. Portante’s best lap was a 2:38.224 (92.102 mph).

In the Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge, Robby Foley, of Randolph, New Jersey, will start on the pole position of the class for the spit start after logging a best time of 2:42.592 (89.628 mph). Nikko Reger, of Houston, and Sam Adams, of Greenwich, Connecticut, will start second and third with lap times of 2:43.316 (89.231 mph) and 2:43.823 (88.955 mph), respectively.

Sparks Goes Fastest In Road America Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup Practice Two

Nathanial Sparks leads the way during Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup Practice Two at Road America. Credit: Art Fleischmann
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (August 27, 2015) – Nathanial Sparks, of Spanish Fort, Alabama, was the top driver during the second practice preceding Rounds Nine and 10 of the SCCA Pro Racing Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires as part of the NASCAR XFINITY Series Road America 180 Fired Up by Johnsonville at Road America. Dean Copeland, of Bowie, Maryland, finished in second followed by Matt Koskinen, of Harpers Harper Woods, Michigan.Sparks, at the controls of his No. 8 OOTSK Performance/Sick Sideways MX-5, turned in a fast lap of 2:39.046 (91.616 mph) around the 4.048-mile, 14-turn circuit. Sparks said the time was a good sign because as he set the lap with little assistance from the draft of other drivers.

“The guys on the radio told me to come in, but I let them know I wanted to work on some braking points,” Sparks said. “I was able to figure a few things out and came across the line with a pretty good time. It was a solo lap, so the time wasn’t very representative of what it will be like for the race out there.

“It was one of those sessions where I tried a bunch of things and found out what didn’t work. So, now I know not to do those things.”

In the No. 7 Copeland Motorsports/SyncSpeed Inc. MX-5, Copeland slotted into second with a fast lap of 2:39.176 (91.551 mph).

“I thought we had the top spot, but we just got edged out,” Copeland said. “Our plan is to go out tomorrow and qualify in the top five. We learned everyone was really close out on track. There was a group of us out there that included Danny Bender, Patrick Gallagher and John Dean, and no one was able to break away. We were just running times that were so close together.

“I think it’s a little prelude of what will come tomorrow during the race. It’s going to be close and we just need to bring it home in once piece. That’s going to be the goal.”

Koskinen, a series rookie, broke into the top three session times for the first time in his Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup career. He said he was very excited and credited his lap of 2:39.218 (91.527 mph) to consistency.

“I was able to put together a consistent lap,” Koskinen said. “We have been working on the car all morning and really found something that works well. I was having some trouble with oversteer on old tires, but once we changed tires that went away. The guys always give me a great car, and I was just able to put it all together.

“I feel like we’ve had a good session here-and-there, but when it comes time to qualify the result just hasn’t been there. The thing I take away the most is the confidence going into tomorrow’s session.”

Ara Malkhassian, at his favorite track, was fourth quickest with a time of 2:39.316 (91.417 mph) in his No. 11 ALARA Racing MX-5.

Series Championship leader Patrick Gallagher finished fifth in line during the second practice session with a time of 2:39.340 (91.457 mph).

In the Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge, Ben Albano, of Greenwich, Connecticut, crossed the line with a top time of 2:43.654 (89.046 mph) at the wheel of his No. 61 Project Yellow Light/Manfredi Jewels SBMX-5.

“Today was a pretty good day,” Albano said. “We had some car troubles before the official practice, but once the official sessions rolled around we were able to get those fixed. During the second session the track became a little more green than usual, just because of the drop in temperature. So, that had an effect on the times.

“Road America is a track that looks simple, but what really separates a driver who comes here for the first time and a veteran that knows what to do is race craft. Knowing about the draft and where to position your car at the right time is very important, and I am looking forward to using that knowledge on race day.”

Robby Foley, of Randolph, New Jersey, and Nikko Reger, of Houston, completed the top three with times of 2:43.798 (88.968 mph) and 2:44.187 (88.757 mph), respectively.

Dean Tops Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup Practice One From Road America

Patrick Gallagher leads the field during opening practice at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. Credit: Art Fleischmann
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (August 27, 2015) – John Dean, of Sebring, Florida, turned the quickest lap of the first practice in preparation for Rounds Nine and 10 of the SCCA Pro Racing Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires, part of the NASCAR XFINITY Road America 180 Fired Up by Johnsonville. Drake Kemper, of Toluca Lake, California, and Dean Copeland, of Bowie, Maryland, completed the top three positions.In the No. 16 Bulb Jacket/PPG/Sick Sideways MX-5, Dean put down his fastest time of 2:38.171 (92.133 mph) on the last lap of the 14-turn, 4.048-mile circuit. He ended the session 0.111-second ahead of his teammate Kemper. Dean said he sees the Sick Sideways one-two finish as a precursor of what may come throughout the weekend.

“We’d like to think we could have this same type of finish in qualifying, but some of the competitors weren’t out there,” Dean said. “Patrick Gallagher had some mechanical issue, so he wasn’t out there. It was just tough to gauge where my speed was in comparison to the guys we’re battling in the standings. Dean Copeland is another guy that is always toward the front here, so that allowed us to benchmark where we were.

“We’re pretty happy. The car’s handling pretty good, right now. When all three of us go out there, me, Drake [Kemper] and ‘Sparky’ [Nathanial Sparks], we just have fun. When qualifying comes we’ll just have to see where everyone shakes out. During the race it’s going to be anyone’s game. There is going to be a train of 15 cars out there and I’m just hoping to be at the front.”

While Dean collected data from the practice on old tires, Kemper went out for this 30-minute session on new rubber. Kemper pushed his No. 99 Royal Rugby/Mazda Motorsports Development/BFGoodrich Tires MX-5 to a fast time of 2:38.282 (92.069 mph) on his third lap of the session.

“The track kept changing during the session,” Kemper said. “We just went out there and tried to put a few consistent laps together. We managed to make it up to second in practice, just behind John Dean.

“I hope this is a foreshadowing of what is to come during qualifying. I would be really nice to have our team lock down the front row for the third time this season. Qualifying is one thing, but it’s a long day here at Road America come race day.”

Copeland, the defending race winner, threw down his fast lap of 2:38.371 (92.017 mph) on the fifth of nine total laps turned during the session. While the result is not exactly where Copland wanted to be in his No. 7 Copeland Motorsports/SyncSpeed Inc. MX-5, he says he is not worried about the setup on his car come race time.

“I’m feeling alright,” Copeland said. “I’m not sure we’re where we need to be to win, right now, as this field is stronger than ever. With that said, I’m not worried. We will be there at the end of the race as long as we’re in the top eight.

“The first time I went out on this track, it became my favorite. It’s just one of those things where you come to a place you really like that there’s just a little extra pizazz that helps you perform better.”

Timothy Paul, in the No. 6 ALARA Racing/Cellmark MX-5, finished the session in fourth after stopping the timing clocks with a time of 2:38.753 (91.795 mph).

In the No. 8 OOTSK Performance/Sick Sideways MX-5, Nathanial Sparks completed the trifecta of team cars in the top five positions. Drivers from Copeland Motorsports and ALARA Racing were the only non-Sick Sideways drivers in the top five positions.

In the MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge class, Robby Foley, of Randolph, New Jersey, led the way with a lap of 2:42.339 (89.768 mph). Nikko Reger, of Houston, was second with a lap of 2:42.948 (89.432 mph), while Ben Albano, of Greenwich, Connecticut, completed the top three, in the No. 61 Project Yellow Light/Manfredi Jewels SBMX-5, with a time of 2:43.935 (88.894 mph).

Dean Snatches Top Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup Grid Position At CTMP

John Dean took home the provisional pole position at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. Credit: Al Merion Padron

BOWMANVILLE, Ont., Can. (July 11, 2015) – John Dean, of Sebring, Florida, wasted little time in putting down a fast lap to capture the Round Seven pole position for the SCCA Pro Racing Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park as part of the Mobil 1 Sportscar Grand Prix Presented by Hawk Performance. Dean’s Sick Sideways teammates, Nathanial Sparks, of Spanish Fort, Alabama, and Drake Kemper, of Toluca Lake, California, completed the sweep of the top three positions in that order.In his No. 16 Bulb Jacket/PPG/Sick Sideways MX-5, Dean got to work right away in the 30-minute qualifying session. On his first full lap of the 10-turn, 2.459-mile course, Dean was the first driver of the race weekend to break the one-minute, 35-second barrier as he turned a lap of 1:34.749 (93.430 mph). While Dean showed strong pace in the previous two practice sessions, making the move to brand new tires proved to be key to his success.

“It was our first set of new tires since Mazda Raceway,” Dean said. “I was really nervous coming into this, because I knew how important qualifying was going to be for the race. I woke up this morning and was just trying to focus on the places I knew I needed to improve.

“I made some changes yesterday, and decided to pop the hood and make one quick change to the shocks while we were in the false grid just before going out for qualifying. The change proved to be exactly what we needed to get a fast lap in early. If we tried to put in a lap later on, it wouldn’t have been possible since the car dropped off quite a bit. To have my teammates qualify up front will be great for the race. Surprisingly, I didn’t see my teammates during the session, at all. So, I was able to turn that lap on my own.”

Sparks, at the wheel of his No. 8 OOTSK Performance/Sick Sideways MX-5, made big gains from his lap times in practice. He was able to knock off more than one second from his fastest laps during the two practice sessions, resulting in a best lap 1:34.837 (93.343 mph).

“John [Dean] and I came here on completely different setups,” Sparks said. “I had the setup from Mazda Raceway and Dean had something different. We started from different points, but have been coming closer together in our setups.

“Throughout the practices, we had also been using old tires. That is really our strategy. We are able to set the cars up really well on old tires then put on new tires and make some big gains. When we put the new tires on this time, again, the car just turned into a rocket ship.”

Like his teammate Sparks, Kemper was able to drop more than one second off his fastest practice laps. In his No. 99 Royal Rugby/Mazda Motorsports Development/BFGoodrich Tires MX-5, Kemper threw down a lap of 1:34.933 (93.249 mph) on his second timed lap.

“We spent all our testing and practice sessions chasing a setup that seemed nowhere to be found,” Kemper said. “It was like it was the Loch Ness Monster of setups, but I finally caught it this time out. John [Dean] and Nathanial [Sparks] hadn’t run new tires all weekend, so we were banking on them having some extra pace. I was running stickers and just couldn’t make them work, so we knew we had to change the setup.

“When I went out there I was able to find some traffic that was able keep from impeding our laps, but helped us out in certain places. The car was just set up so well for this session. I didn’t see my teammates for most of the time out there, but as the session wore on, I got hooked up with my teammates. However, we just weren’t able to improve the times we had set early in the session.”

After setting the fastest lap in the previous two practice sessions, Patrick Gallagher drove his No. 44 Howard Concrete Pumping MX-5 to fourth place on the grid. His best lap time of 1:34.969 (93.214 mph) was an improvement on his practice times, but was not enough to continue his session-topping streak.

Completing the top five was Dean Copeland. Unlike the other front-runners, Copeland logged his fast lap of 1:35.044 (93.140 mph) on his ninth of 10 laps he turned during the 30-minuite session at the controls of his No. 7 Copeland Motorsports/SyncSpeed Inc. MX-5.

In the Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge, Sam Adams, of Richfield, Wisconsin, captured the pole with a fastest lap of 1:37.346 (90.937 mph). Adams registered his flyer on the third of seven laps he completed.

“The car just felt really dialed in for this session,” Adams said. “I’m looking forward to having a really good pair of races tomorrow. I think the racing is going to be super close. There are five of us that are within a half-second of each other every lap. So, it’s going to be really close at the front.

“During qualifying, I was able to tag along with a couple Cup cars and get a little tow down the front straight. In the race, we will have to make sure not to get too close to the car ahead and stall out because of the airflow. The best place to utilize the draft will be on the back straight headed into Turn Eight. It reminds me a lot of Sebring where there is a long straight between Turns 16 and 17 that will keep the field packed up.”

Finishing second in class was Ben Albano, of Greenwich, Connecticut. Albano completed a fast lap of 1:37.523 (90.772 mph) at the wheel of his No. 61 Project Yellow Light/Manfredi Jewels SBMX-5. Rounding out the top three positions was Nikko Reger, of Houston, Texas, who registered a best lap of 1:37.728 (90.582 mph).

With qualifying in the books, all that is left to do is race. Rounds Seven and Eight of the SCCA Pro Racing Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires is set for Sunday at 8:35 a.m. (EDT) and 4:30 p.m. (EDT), respectively.

Dean ready for 2nd half of season

— The Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup series is at the midway point and it’s been a good one so far for Sebring’s Sick Sideways team. John Dean II is the points leader at the halfway point and both Drake Kemper and Nathanial Sparks are currently sitting in the top five.

“I was kind of hoping I’d be a few more points ahead, but it’s a close battle,” said Dean, Sick Sideways owner and driver. “I would love to see Drake and Sparky creep up into the top three. I think it’s possible looking at the points, but three of us in the top five isn’t too bad.”

Dean has 340 points on the year, with Patrick Gallagher second with 336. Dean Copeland is third with 305, while Kemper leads Sparks 283 to 282 in the race for fourth.

“It’s not going to be an easy rest of the season with just a four-point lead, which is basically like being tied in the championship since it’s so close,” Dean said. “We have to hope for good luck the rest of the season and good teamwork and hopefully the cars are good and we don’t have any issues.”

Dean hasn’t had many issues with his No. 16 Sick Sideways Bulb Jacket/PPG MX-5 so far this year, hitting the podium in four of the six races and placing fourth and sixth in the other two races.

Sparks has been consistent, placing in the top nine in all six races, while Kemper has the ups-and-downs that go with being new to the series, but has shown that he’s a force to be reckoned with.

“Drake did testing with us and I knew he was good, but I was really surprised with how fast he was,” Dean said. “The three of us in testing were always really close. If Drake can work on some consistency, he’ll be there every race. He definitely has the potential to win any given race.”

Sparks has traditionally finished the season well and Dean was confident that he would do so again, especially since he’s had some success at Mosport, Road America and Road Atlanta, the final three stops for the series.

“At Mosport, Sparky really raced well last year,” Dean said. “He had a little bit of an issue in one the races, where he clipped a curb pretty hard with the right front in traffic and he had a wheel-bearing failure resulting from that impact, but up until then he was in second place, running top two in both of those races. He was attacking for the lead in both races at Mosport and I expect he’ll be right there again this year.”

Sparks followed that up with a pair of podium finishes at Road America and while the team struggled a bit at Road Atlanta, he has plenty of experience at the track and knows it quite well.

Dean said that teamwork is going to play a big part in the final three races, especially at Road America and Road Atlanta.

“Road America is a four-mile track with really long straightaways so drafting and teamwork is really going to come into play there,” he said. “Hopefully the three of us are able to work really together and finish in front of the other teams.

“Road Atlanta at the end of the season, with Petit Le Mans, is another kind of horsepower and teamwork type of track.”

Dean said having three cars can be an advantage, although car set-ups are pretty much dialed in at this point. Where it can pay dividends is drafting.

“We don’t have to change the cars very much once we get to the track, just some little tweaks and tunes,” he said. “It will really help for track position during the race, drafting strategy and position strategy.”

Dean said Mosport was definitely one of his favorite tracks and he was optimistic about the second half of the season.

“These next three tracks are good for me and I think Sparky will be stronger in the last half of the season, too,” he said. “We definitely have good cars and good drivers, so hopefully we’re able to have some good luck and work together well, especially at Road America. If we work together really well there’s a chance we could beat the other guys.”

– See more at: http://highlandstoday.com/hi/sports/dean-ready-for-2nd-half-of-season-20150617/#sthash.k32y3b2Q.dpuf

Dean maintains points lead

MONTEREY, Calif. — Sebring’s John Dean II came away with a win and a fourth-place finish in the two SCCA Pro Racing Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca over the weekend.

As a result, Dean has 338 points on the season to have a two-point lead over Patrick Gallagher. Dean Copeland is third with 305 points.

In Saturday’s race, Dean brought his No. 16 Sick Sideways Bulb Jacket/PPG MX-5 in home first, using a late pass when Gallagher had gearbox problems to win his second race of the season. Gallagher finished second and Peter Portante was third.

Sick Sideways driver Drake Kemper finished fifth and Nathanial Sparks placed seventh.

On Sunday, Gallagher won his first-ever Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup race after a hard-fought battle for the lead. While Gallagher officially led all but one lap of the 25-lap race at the 11-turn, 2.238-mile course, that only tells part of the story. On lap nine, while trying to go for the lead, Kemper got on the inside of Gallagher going into Turn Two. As a result, Kemper went wide and pushed Gallagher out to the edge of the track. That opened the door for Peter Portante to take the lead. Portante completed the move holding the lead until they completed the lap. On lap 10, Gallagher made his way back around his teammate on the approach to the ‘Corkscrew’ to retake the lead. Gallagher’s lead would once again be challenged during a restart following two laps of a full-course yellow, on laps 13 and 14. However, Gallagher was able to stand up to the challenge and seal the victory.

Portnate placed second and Kemper hit the podium with a third-place finish. “The question is what didn’t happen during that race?” Kemper said. “I was in second for the first part of the race, behind Gallagher, and went for a pass in Turn Two. We both went wide and Portante slipped through to take the lead. So, that didn’t work well.

“After the restart, Dean caught up to us. In the closing laps, I ran wide in Turn Six which allowed him to get around me. From that point, I knew I had two laps to move forward. So, I just put my head down and put in some fast laps. I made it back up to Dean by the last lap when we hit traffic in Turn 11. It was just a dead sprint from the corner to the line, at that point.”

Dean finished fourth to keep his lead in the season standings.

The series is now at the halfway point, with six races remaining. The next two races will be at Canada’s Mosport Park in July, with a trip to Wisconsin for two races at Road America in August.The series will conclude as it has for every year since 2007, with the final two races taking place at Road Atlanta as a support race for Petit Le Mans.

Dean Scores Win in Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup Race One at Mazda Raceway

John Dean made a pass in Turn 11 in the closing laps of Saturday’s Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup Round Five race to take the win at Mazda Raceway. (Al Merion Padron)
MONTEREY, Calif. (May 2, 2015) – John Dean, of Sebring, Florida, added another victory to his 2015 resume as the result of a Turn 11 pass in the closing laps of Round Five of the SCCA Pro Racing Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires, at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca as part of the Monterey Grand Prix. Patrick Gallagher, of Thornville, Ohio, finished second followed by his teammate Peter Portante, of Plainville, Connecticut.Dean led only the final four laps of the 23-lap Round Five race at the 11-turn, 2.238-mile road course, in his No. 16 Bulb Jacket/PPG MX-5, but it proved to be enough to cross the finish line in first. The race was slowed by two full-course yellows that totaled three laps. However, Dean made his pass for the lead happen under green-flag conditions.

For the opening 19 circuits of the course, it seemed like Gallagher was the class of the field as he pulled out a multi-car gap on two occasions. Dean worked his way within striking distance and got a clean run off Turn 11 to take the lead. From there, Dean never looked back.

“I started on the right side of the track,” Dean said. “Since this track is mostly left turns, that’s not the best place to be. I was running with my teammate Drake [Kemper] for a while, and he was right behind me helping with the draft. Then we had the first restart, which didn’t really affect the running order of the front guys.

“After the second restart, I had worked my way close enough to Patrick [Gallagher] to be within distance to make a move. But, every time I would get right up on him I would make a little error. Toward the end of the race, Gallagher made a couple mistakes that allowed me to get right up to his bumper. He missed a shift coming out of the last corner and I was able to get him right there.”

In his No. 44 Howard Concrete Pumping MX-5, Gallagher finished second. Following the race Gallagher looked gutted after coming within four laps of scoring his first career win in the series. In this race, Gallagher said he ran a flawless race until the gearbox let him down going through Turn 11, on lap 20. For the final four laps, the gearbox was not the same causing Gallagher to slow.

“The yellow flag sessions hurt my chances quite a bit,” Gallagher said. “Every time we could build a little gap, another yellow would come out and erase all of that. I knew the guys behind me were a little better up the hill, but I felt like we had a better car everywhere else. My plan was to just keep the gap behind me and drive the perfect race.

“We had a great car. I don’t think I dropped a wheel off the entire race. We jumped over the curbing in Turn 11 and the car pops out of gear. I thought it wasn’t a big deal, but the same thing happened on the next lap. It’s just frustrating. We’re changing the gearbox, but I just don’t know what we have to do to win one of these things.”

Open-wheel veteran Portante scored his first podium finish during his first season as part of the series. Driving the No. 24 Intercity Lines MX-5, Portante showed patience as he stayed in the lead pack throughout the 23-lap race. Portante was shuffled as low as sixth, but fought his way back to third by lap 17 and held that position.

“The yellow-flag sessions didn’t really help me or hurt me,” Portante said. “So, I think I was pretty lucky there. Early on, I tried to run down Gallagher but made a mistake in Turn Six. That allowed Dean to catch me a bit. From there it was a Sick Sideways slaughter, which caused me to drop back a little more.

“I wish that hadn’t happened, because it really made me do more work than I needed to do. We started catching the leaders toward the end of the race. It’s great to be on the podium, but it should have happened earlier this year. We’ve been in some situations that have resulted in damaged racecars, that haven’t been our fault this year. It’s racing, and that happens, but it’s nice to get a little payoff.”

Ara Malkhassian, of Houston, finished fourth in his No. 11 ALARA Racing MX-5. On the long runs, Malkhassian seemed to bring his car to life. Malkhassian was playing the patience game making opportunistic passes when the situation presented itself.

Drake Kemper, of Toluca Lake, California, finished in fifth after a hard-fought battle throughout the race. In the No. 99 Royal Rugby/Mazda Motorsports Development/BFGoodrich Tires MX-5, Kemper started third but was engulfed in an intense battle for position right off the start. Kemper was as far up the field as third, on lap 16, but dropped back to sixth on the next lap. He improved to his finishing position, of fifth, by lap 21.

In the Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge series, Sam Adams, of Richfield, Wisconsin, scored his first career victory. Adams was the benefactor of an incident that took out then class leader Ben Albano. The collision was the cause of the second full-course yellow period.

“Ben Albano was really quick,” Adams said. “It seemed like it was going to be Robby [Foley], Albano and me fighting it out for the lead. Albano was involved in the second incident that brought out the full-course yellow, which allowed me to take over the lead. After that it was all about focusing on my race and doing what I needed to do.

“Leading up to the incident, I didn’t know what I would have for the guys up front. Ben was running quick laps and Robby is so hard to pass here. I wasn’t sure if we were going to be able to run with those guys, but I was going to try.”

Nikko Reger, of Houston, followed his NOLA win with a second-place finish at Mazda Raceway. Bryan Hixon, of San Antonio, Texas, crossed the line in third place.

Hernan Palermo, of Houston, took home the Battery Tender Hard Charger award. In his No. 77 CMS/Brimtek/Sync Speed Inc. MX-5, Palermo improved four positions from his 18th place starting spot.

Round Six of the SCCA Pro Racing Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires is set to start Sunday, at 9:10 a.m. (PDT). Included in the field will be the 20 drivers that make up the Mazda Race of NASA Champions.