MONTEREY, Calif. (May 16, 2009) – Competing in just his second SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup race, Todd Lamb, of Atlanta, Ga., captured a hard-earned win in Round Two of the 2009 Championship at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, part of the Verizon Festival of Speed Presented by SPEEDCOM. Marc Miller, of Holland, Mich., and Stan Wilson, of Mt. Juliet, Tenn., completed the podium.
Lamb may have started and finished the race in the top spot, but there was plenty of action between the green and checkered flags. Driving the No. 84 AMG Racing MX-5, Lamb was already shaking off advances from Miller on lap two of the 24-lap, 53.712-mile race. Miller finally got the job done on lap six, but was only able to hold the lead until lap eight, when Lamb retook the position, diving to the inside in Turn 11.
Miller continued to hound Lamb for the lead, but also had to contend with Ara Malkhassian in the No. 11 ALARA Racing MX-5, who set the fastest lap of the race in pursuit of the leaders, a 1:43.716 (77.681 mph). Malkhassian was removed from the equation on lap 16, when he slid deep into the gravel at Turn Six, necessitating a full-course caution so his car could be extracted.
With the race more than half complete, the yellow flags were just what Lamb was hoping for and exactly what Miller didn’t want.
“I was pretty happy to see the yellow come out,” Lamb said. “It let me cool my tires down, regroup and get back to it when the green flag came out.”
“I was not happy to see the yellow flags,” Miller countered. “We had a good gap. I was very comfortable and set into a rhythm. We had set up our car for longer runs. It seemed like Todd was starting to pick up a little bit of an understeer and my car was getting more of an oversteer on exit, which was keeping it nice and free. I had a great run coming up the hill out of Turn Six and then I see Todd waving his hand and the double yellow. I thought, ‘well, that’s it then.’”
When green flag racing resumed on lap 20, Lamb and Miller held their positions, while Stan Wilson launched past three cars and suddenly found himself in third.
“Over the course of my career I’ve had the fortune of timing restarts well,” Wilson said. “I think it was a little bit of a blessing in addition to skill, because the guys in front of me seemed to check up at the last minute and went two-wide, so that allowed me to pass three cars on the inside going into Turn One.”
Wilson proceeded to crank up the pressure on Miller who thought he was setting up Lamb for a pass on lap 21, when he was actually opening up a window of opportunity for Wilson.
“I’d been so good through Three and Four,” Miller recalled. “I would roll through there and get a good run on Todd, so I checked up just a little bit and that seemed to be the lap that Stan got an even better run through Turn Four. He got alongside me going into Turn Five. We came out side-by-side and I had a little bit of a better run. I thought, ‘if he’s nice, he’ll let me take him in Six, if not, I’ll have to give it up,’ and he wasn’t so nice about it, so I let him have it.”
No sooner was Wilson around Miller, than Miller took the spot right back the following lap. With only two laps remaining in the race, Miller ran out of time to catch Lamb, who took the win by 0.205-second.
“We didn’t do a lot of long runs this weekend,” Lamb said. “We just didn’t have the car quite ready to go at the beginning. All-in-all, it came around and ended up being a lot better than I thought it was going to be. I thought I was going to pick up a huge push throughout the race, but it ended up being pretty neutral till the end.
“When I saw Marc and Stan side-by-side I figured it was going to slow them down a little bit, so I tried to keep a steady pace and started to pull away. I even backed off a little bit to make sure I wasn’t making any mistakes. That allowed Marc to close up a little at the end, but that was fine with me, because I just needed to be ahead at the checkered.”
Lamb averaged 68.470 mph en route to his first MX-5 Cup win in only his second race with the series, his first coming back in 2006 at Mosport.
“I didn’t expect this,” Lamb said. “I was hoping, but I knew that there’s some tough competitors in this series. I didn’t know what to expect really. I knew we were going to do our best and get the car handling right, but from there it was just up to me driving. We’ll be back for New Jersey and hopefully the rest of the season.
“MX-5 Cup is a lot of fun. There’s a lot of close, tight, fast racing. This is a great group of guys and there’s a lot of comradery in this paddock. This series is just fantastic.”
Finishing second, Miller holds onto his lead in the MX-5 Cup Drivers’ Championship. The driver of the No. 28 Team MER/MOCA/RaceforAutism MX-5 holds an 18-point lead over Justin Piscitell, followed by Brett Smrz, Zach Ply and Wilson.
“The first part of the track I was a bit quicker [than Lamb],” Miller said. “In Turns Three, Four I gave up a little bit, and in Turn Five, but through Turn Six I tended to get a pretty good run up the hill. Todd was a bit of a machine through Nine and 10, so it was pretty evenly matched. It seemed like whoever was following the other could take advantage of the draft and capitalize on any little mistake.
“I’ve got to give it to Todd, I felt like I didn’t make any mistakes, but Todd didn’t make any mistakes either. I think it was a really clean race. Certainly it feels good for Team MER to finish second. We’re carrying a pretty good legacy and I hope to continue this success throughout the year.”
Shortly after losing the second spot to Miller, Wilson nearly saw a podium finish slip away, as Piscitell dove his No. 89 ALARA Racing/DAMG Racing/MAZDASPEED MX-5 to the inside of Wilson’s No. 92 Hale Motorsports/Wilson Racing MX-5 exiting Turn Six.
“Justin was faster up the hill, from Turn Six to the Corkscrew,” Wilson said. “He made a clean pass. He had me on the left side, which is where you want to be set up going into the braking zone for the Corkscrew. I thought, ‘well, I don’t want to go side-by-side through the Corkscrew, because one of us will end up four wheels off the track,’ so I tucked in behind him.
“I stayed on him all the way through Turns Nine and Ten, thinking that if there was any chance, I could maybe get a better launch out of Turn 11. I had mentally decided that there wouldn’t be any chance, but at the last minute, with as hard as I pushed him into the braking zone, figuratively speaking, he overshot the corner and got his car sideways. I was able to drop into second gear and launch out of Turn 11 faster, and that allowed me to beat him to the flag.”
In addition to the podium finish, which was a first for Hale Motorsports, Wilson collected the Carbotech Hard Charger of the Race Award for advancing 10 positions in the race.
“This whole effort with Hale Motorsports has been about focus from the beginning,” concluded Wilson. “The team hasn’t been able to celebrate a podium finish before. I had my head down today and I was determined.
“This feels fantastic. I haven’t been on the podium for a Pro race since 2007. It wasn’t expected. I was focused on moving up in the points. The Hard Charger would have been nice, because of our dismal qualifying position, but making the podium was like winning the race.”
Taking advantage of Piscitell’s mistake, Smrz, of Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, picked up a spot on the final corner to finish fourth in the No. 6 AMG/InTouchPhysicalTherapy MX-5. He was followed across the line by Ply, of Joliet, Ill., in the No. 27 Team MER/Insight Beverage Co. MX-5 who finished fifth.
Piscitell recovered to finish sixth.
Jeff Mosing, Robert Michaelian, Max Riddle and Lyonel Kent completed the top 10.
Round Two of the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup will begin airing on syndicated cable and satellite networks on June 12. A full broadcast schedule is available at www.mx-5cup.com.
MX-5 Cup Rounds Three and Four will take place June 12 – 14, at Thunderbolt Raceway, in Millville, N.J.
MONTEREY, Calif. - Results from Saturday's 24-lap, 53.712-mile SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup Round Two race, part of the Verizon Festival of Speed Presented by SPEEDCOM at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, with finishing position, starting position in parentheses, driver, hometown, car, laps and reason out (if any).
1. (1), Todd Lamb, Atlanta, Ga., MX-5, 24.
2. (3), Marc Miller, Holland, Mich., MX-5, 24, -.205.
3. (13), Stan Wilson, Mt. Juliet, Tenn., MX-5, 24, -2.052.
4. (7), Brett Smrz, Coeur D'Alene, Idaho, MX-5, 24, -3.291.
5. (10), Zach Ply, Joliet, Ill., MX-5, 24, -3.980.
6. (4), Justin Piscitell, Patterson, N.Y., MX-5, 24, -4.729.
7. (11), Jeff Mosing, Austin, Texas, MX-5, 24, -10.091.
8. (8), Robert Michaelian, Seal Beach, Calif., MX-5, 24.
9. (9), Max Riddle, Vancouver, British Columbia, MX-5, 24, -10.658.
10. (6), Lyonel Kent, Powell, Tenn., MX-5, 24, -11.136.
11. (14), Steve Bottom, Newport Beach, Calif., MX-5, 24, -15.890.
12. (5), Nick Mancuso, Mettawa, Ill., MX-5, 24, -16.579.
13. (12), Tim Probert, Houston, Texas, MX-5, 24, -19.095.
14. (19), Randy Hale_III, Haddam, Conn., MX-5, 24, -23.508.
15. (17), Bob Neal, Harbor City, Calif., MX-5, 24, -25.530.
16. (20), Chris Brown, Portsmouth, N.H., MX-5, 24, -26.693.
17. (18), Brad Adams, New Orleans, La., MX-5, 24, -30.211.
18. (16), Harrison Williams, Houston, Texas, MX-5, 24, -35.033.
19. (21), Kenny Kun Yim, Los Angeles, Calif., MX-5, 22, Mech.
20. (15), Alfred Caiola, New York, N.Y., MX-5, 22, -2 laps.
21. (2), Ara Malkhassian, Sonoma, Calif., MX-5, 15, Crash.
Time of race: 45 minutes, 06.374 seconds.
Average speed: 71.447 mph
Margin of victory: 0.205 Seconds
Lap leaders: Laps 1-5, #84 Todd Lamb; laps 6-7, #28 Marc Miller; laps 8-24, #84 Todd Lamb
Cautions: One for two laps
Fastest race lap: #11 Ara Malkhassian, 1:43.716 (77.681 mph)
Fastest qualifier: #84 Todd Lamb, 1:42.382 (78.693 mph)
Carbotech Hard Charger of the Race: #92 Stan Wilson advances 10 positions in the race.
SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup Driver Championship Points
After Two of 10 Rounds
Ps., Driver, Pts. (Wins)
1, Marc Miller, 120 (1)
2, Justin Piscitell, 102
3, Brett Smrz, 100
4, Zach Ply, 96
5, Stan Wilson, 94
6, Lyonel Kent, 88
7, Tim Probert, 72
8, Robert Michaelian, 69
9, Randy Hale III, 68
10, Ara Malkhassian, 65