MILLVILLE, N.J. (June 13, 2009) – Todd Lamb, of Atlanta, Ga., won the first of two SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup Races at New Jersey Motorsports Park. Marc Miller, of Holland, Mich., and Justin Piscitell, of Patterson, N.Y., completed the podium for the Round Three race, part of Mazda Formula X Presented by Cooper Tires.
Starting from pole, Lamb led the field into Turn One. Unable to find a hole, third-starting Miller hugged the inside, glued to Lamb’s bumper, enabling him to move into second, past Brett Smrz, of Coeur D’Alene, Idaho. Miller and Lamb quickly broke away from the rest of the field, working together to exploit the draft.
Racing for opposing teams, the pair didn’t work together for long, as Miller began to take looks to the inside of Lamb at the end of the front straightaway. On lap 14, Miller was able to pull his No. 28 Team MER/MOCA/RaceForAutism/Sparco MX-5 to the inside of Lamb in Turn One. As Lamb swung wide, briefly running off course, Miller took over the race lead.
“Todd made a small mistake in Turn Nine that allowed me to get just the right type of run,” Miller said. “It allowed me to get to the inside of him and we did make a little bit of contact. I don’t expect anyone to give me anymore than an inch and Todd gave me an inch. I got a little sideways in the middle of the corner, had to correct, and, unfortunately, made contact with him. We already talked about it. It was a racing incident and certainly not intentional.”
Lamb recovered quickly, re-taking the lead in the same corner the following lap.
Though Miller continued to fill the mirror’s of Lamb’s No. 84 AMG/Traqmate/Luna-C Racing MX-5, no further opportunities for a pass would present themselves, even as the pair dodged lapped traffic. Lamb won the 25-lap, 56.25-mile contest by 0.997-second, setting the fastest lap of the race, a 1:35.965 (84.405 mph).
“The best place to pass at this track is going into Turn One at the end of the front straightaway,” Lamb said. “I just needed to make sure I kept getting a good run off of Turn Nine every time. One time I did make a mistake and that’s when [Miller] by got me. The car got a tiny bit sideways because I got a bit greedy with the gas.
“I think we had a little stronger car than Marc today and I knew that the draft would help me catch back up. I just put it back down to third in the dirt, made my way back onto the track, put the hammer down and caught back up.
“I’d love to celebrate and be ecstatic, but we’re already focused on tomorrow. We’re going to go at it again and it’ll be fun.”
It was the second race in-a-row that Lamb edged out Miller for the win. While he was pleased with his MX-5 in the race, Miller is hoping Team MER will make the right adjustments for Sunday’s Round Four race.
“Team MER gave me a car that was really consistent, great under braking and it rolled through the middle of the corner really well,” Miller recalled. “In Turns One, Two and in the Chicanes it worked really well, then again through Turn Eight. Our biggest problem was coming out of Turn Nine onto the long straightaway, which is probably the most important turn, so we’ve got a little bit of work to do tonight to make it better for tomorrow.
“I felt that we ran each other clean through the whole race and it was definitely a tough race keeping up with Todd. Hopefully, if we do our homework, we’ll be able to get him tomorrow.”
Taking home his second top-three finish of the season, sixth-starting Piscitell lost some ground on the start, but was able to work his way back up to fifth. After coming out on top of a tough battle with Smrz for fourth, Piscitell, in the No. 89 ALARA Racing/DAMG/MAZDASPEED MX-5, caught Zach Ply for the final podium spot. Piscitell and Ply would continue to trade places for the duration of the race, with Piscitell getting the final world on the white flag lap.
“The battle with Zach was great,” Piscitell said. “Both of our cars were running well. I was able to put my head down early on and catch up to him. Within the last three or four laps I think we swapped places every lap. I ended up getting him on the last lap going into Turn One. I can’t say enough about the DAMG/ALARA Racing MX-5 Cup car - it was running phenomenal all day. I had a rough start today, but I was able to put my head down and come back.”
Driving the No. 27 Team MER/Insight Beverage MX-5, Ply, from Joliet, Ill., took home a career-best finish of fourth.
Out of sight from the battle for third, Ara Malkhassian, of Sonoma, Calif., finished fifth in the No. 11 ALARA Racing MX-5. He was followed by teammate Lyonel Kent who finished sixth.
After starting 14th, Stan Wilson, of Mt. Juliet, Tenn., crossed the finish line seventh in the No. 92 Hale Motorsports/NetEvidence/Alliance 1 MX-5. Making up more ground than any other driver in the race, Wilson was awarded the Carbotech Hard Charger Award. Jeff Mosing, Chris Rhoades and Dean Copeland completed the top 10.
Miller continues to lead the Championship with 178 points followed by Piscitell with 155. Ply (148), Wilson (139) and Lamb (128), who missed Round One at Road Atlanta, complete the top five. Each driver will drop his lowest scoring race for his year-end point total.
Today’s Round Three race was broadcast live on HDNet. The one-hour program will be rebroadcast on syndicated cable and satellite networks as well as posted on YouTube. A full TV schedule is posted on the series web site.
The second half of the MX-5 Cup doubleheader at New Jersey Motorsports Park will also be broadcast live on HDNet. Round Four follows the same schedule as Round Three, with qualifying at 8:45 a.m. (EDT) and racing at 1:05 p.m. Live timing and lap notes will be available at www.mx-5cup.com.