LEXINGTON, Ohio (June 24, 2006) – Jim Daniels, of Germantown, Tenn., held off Team MER teammate Jason Saini, of Forth Worth, Texas, by 0.174-second to win Round Four of the SCCA Pro Racing SIRIUS Satellite Radio Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by Hankook Saturday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The MX-5 Cup race was part of the EMCO Gears Classic presented by Keybank race weekend. Todd Buras, of Melbourne, Fla., finished third.-30-
After surviving severe weather conditions at Mid-Ohio on Thursday afternoon and a steady rain on Friday morning, the MX-5 Cup series got a near perfect day for racing on Saturday. Polesitter Daniels nearly led every lap in his No. 76 Team specmiata.com/Team MER Mazda MX-5 en route to capturing his second win of the season. In fact, Daniels had a more than two second lead early in the race, until Saini caught him going down the backstraight on lap five. For the next 13 laps, Daniels and Saini would battle for the lead, with Saini taking the lead coming out of the Esses on lap 20. But, on lap 21 Daniels would regain the lead and go on to win the 28-lap, 63.224-mile event, by 0.174-second at an average of 82.559 mph.
“I wanted to win this one for my family because they could not make it [to the race],” Daniels said of his second MX-5 Cup win. “It is pretty sweet.
“What a battle. We came out fighting and we immediately knew we had the other guys because we were putting some pretty good splits [times] on them. I did not know what pace to run, either fast or slow. We don’t normally call splits between teammates, but I had to call him [Saini] because I knew he was coming. And, I tried to maintain the split, missed a shift and that let him catch up to me on the backside. We went through the Esses for a couple of laps side-by-side. Then he would slip and I would get ahead of him. I don’t think there is any better racing than this series and this group of competitors.”
Starting fourth on the grid in his No. 28 MER/specmiata.com/Autobarn Mazda MX-5, Saini dropped a few spots at the start, but quickly regained those and was in second by lap five. On lap 14, Saini continued to narrow the gap between him and the race leader, as he turned the race’s fastest lap with a 1:40.181 (81.141 mph). The fast lap not only helped him cut the lead to a little more than a second, but it also won him the Hawk Hot Lap Award. With Saini filling Daniels review mirror, Saini attempted to pass his teammate in the Esses on two consecutive laps before he actually made the pass and ultimately led lap 20. But, Saini would get no closer and would capture his first MX-5 Cup podium.
“I got a little bit of a bad start and dropped back,” Saini said of his race. “But, we fought back and made up the ground. I think that hurt the tires a little bit. But, my car started to come in again towards the end and so did Jim’s [Daniels]. The two of us had a real good car at the end. We had a big lead on third place. So, we just decided to battle for it [the lead]. And, he raced me clean every corner. It was one of the most fun races I’ve ever had.”
Buras, who is the current MX-5 Cup point leader, started fifth on the grid and spent 17 laps in a tight back-and-forth battle for third with BSI Racing teammate Carlos Garcia before Garcia’s No. 60 BSI Racing/ Miami Dade Health Mazda MX-5 began to experience mechanical problems and fell off the pace. Buras, who is coming off three consecutive podium finishes, powered his No. 56 BSI Racing/supportthem.com Mazda MX-5 to his fourth podium finish in as many tries.
“Carlos [Garcia] is a great teammate,” Buras said of his battle for third place with Garcia. “This was the first time in the car for him and his first time at this track. He had such a run on me. And, going into the braking zone, he had six to eight more miles an hour on me. So, instead of hitting me, he would have to pull out and brake way beyond me. Then we were door-to-door and that slowed us down. After a while we said, ‘You know we have to stop racing [each other] and go after the leaders, but it was too late.’ He was strong and raced me clean. It was a good time. We were racing for third and fourth and we didn’t have anything for them [Daniels and Saini]. This was their [Team MER] home track and they had this placed dialed in. So, I am happy to get out of here with third and the points lead.”
Making his series debut, Larry Wright, of Evanston, Ill., finished fourth in his No. 3 Anchor Companies Mazda MX-5, while Anders Hainer, of Hidden Hills, Calif., finished fifth in his No. 13 Under Armour Mazda MX-5. Pratt Cole, of Salt Lake City, won the Sunoco Hard Charger Award after starting 19th and finishing sixth.
For more information about the SCCA Pro Racing SIRIUS Satellite Radio Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by Hankook, including the Round Five event at Portland International Raceway, visit www.mx-5cup.com.
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