Sebring native John Dean took a thrilling SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup win on Friday at Sebring International Raceway, leading Elliott Skeer across the finish line by just 0.045sec to take the Round 2 win. Dean's ProMoMo racing teammate Christian Szymczak completed the podium after holding the lead with two corners to go during the 60th Anniversary Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring week.
Officially, the lead changed hands six times among three drivers, and many more times unofficially before the start/finish line, before Szymczak's No. 34 Projections Research/Sick Sideways Mazda MX-5 led the three top finishers across the stripe for the final lap. Going into Turn 15, contact between the teammates Turn 15 moved Szymczak wide and let Dean and Skeer slip by.
Dean's No. 16 Projections Research/Sick Sideways MX-5 and Skeer ran side by side out of the last corner, with Dean earning his first career win during his first professional weekend at his home track. The field averaged 87.681mph during the 12-lap, 44.4-mile race at the 17-turn, 3.7-mile circuit.
“We have a lot of friends and family here, obviously, it's the home track,” Dean said of his local history. “My dad was the announcer at the 12 Hours of Sebring for 21 years, so I grew up around it.
“It was obviously a very important race. The victory here is a little bit bittersweet; I'm really happy about the victory but Christian and I made a little contact in Turn 15 and that pushed him back a little bit. I feel terrible about that. If you look at the results, it's still Sick Sideways on the podium, both of us, and for us and the team and Projections Research it means a lot to start the season off on such a good foot.”
Skeer, who began the race from the pole in his No. 17 MAZDASPEED/Sparco/Pelican Windows & Remodeling MX-5, leaves with a pair of runner-up finishes in his professional debut. Those finishes and the qualifying bonus points are enough for the Championship lead heading to Round Three at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
“The CJ Wilson crew did a great job getting the car set up great,” Skeer said. “I was just trying to keep it with my teammate and see if we could work together and see if we could pull something off like yesterday. It didn't quite work that way. There seemed to be a fair amount of battling going on, which I've learned to expect in the MX-5 Cup.
“At the end, I noticed they were hooked up and trying to go together. I almost had to beg for something to happen and obviously it did in Turn 15 and helped me out a fair amount. It was so close coming to the line, maybe if it was just a little different through [Turn 17] I would have had it. The whole team did a great job, it was a great weekend and a really great first professional weekend.”
Szymczak was disappointed to see his win slip away in the closing corners, but leaves with a podium finish in his first Playboy MX-5 Cup weekend.
“We both went into 15 and he went to the inside of me and I turned in and we hit, and that's what happened,” Szymczak said. “Hopefully this is shaping up to be a great season and a good season for Sick Sideways where we can collect some points in all these races. Hopefully finish on the podium every time and keep clicking them off and get some good championship points in there.”
Stevan McAleer, a Scotland native living in Putnam Valley, N.Y., was a second CJ Wilson Racing driver mixing it up with the leaders early in the race. The No. 28 Children's Charities/Blue Mercury Capital/RUfocused.com/Sambo Website Design Mazda MX-5 officially led the fifth and seventh lap, but spun coming onto the front straight at the end of lap eight and lost touch with the leaders. McAleer finished seventh after his opening round win. McAleer did turn the fastest lap of the race in 2:31.087 (88.161 mph).
Until just after the midway point of the 30-minute timed race, the battle for the lead was a nine car train of MX-5s jockeying for position. Lyonel Kent's No. 12 ALARA Racing MX-5 went off the track and into the tires in Turn Three, also on the eighth lap, and forced him out of the pack. McAleer's spin eliminated one more car, and the battle for fourth let the podium finishers get away.
Dean Copeland's No. 7 Sync Speed/Copeland Motorsports MX-5 created a gap in the action for fourth and was just behind the leaders at the finish. Nathan Sparks' No. 3 OOTSK Performance MX-5 moved past the No. 11 ALARA Racing MX-5 of Ara Malkhassian with three laps to go for fifth and held the position to the finish.
Chad McCumbee's No. 29 ModSpace/CJ Wilson Racing MX-5 qualified third and finished eighth, just ahead of Dan Bender's No. 06 Atlanta Motorsports Group MX-5. Richard Picut (No. 6 LIQUFLOW MX-5) completed the top 10.
Skeer's strong finishes give him a two-point advantage in the championship after two of 11 races, holding a 117-115 point lead over Dean. McAleer is four points behind the leader, with Szymczak (103) and Copeland (102) just behind.
In the Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Series class running concurrently with the Playboy MX-5 Cup, Dennis Trebing , of Cape Coral, Fla., took his second-consecutive win in the No. 66 Trebing Tile/Uwe Alden Automotive MX-5. Zachry Lee and Dan Moen completed the podium.
The Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup returns to action for Round Three at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, May 10-12. More information and results are available at www.mx-5cup.com.
Follow the Playboy MX-5 Cup on Twitter @MazdaMX5Cup.
SEBRING, Fla. - Results from Friday's 12-lap, 44.4-mile SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup Round Two race, part of the 60th Anniversary Mobil One 12 Hours of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway, with finishing position, class, starting position in parentheses, driver, hometown, car, laps and reason out (if any).
1. MX, (5), John Dean_II(R), Sebring, Fla., MX-5, 12.
2. MX, (1), Elliott Skeer(R), Vista, Calif., MX-5, 12, -.045.
3. MX, (4), Christian Szymczak(R), Palos Verdes, Calif., MX-5, 12, -2.530.
4. MX, (10), Dean Copeland, Bowie, Md., MX-5, 12, -3.206.
5. MX, (9), Nathanial Sparks(R), Spanish Fort, Ala., MX-5, 12, -7.556.
6. MX, (6), Ara Malkhassian, Houston, Texas, MX-5, 12, -7.941.
7. MX, (2), Stevan MCAleer(R), Glascow, Scotland, MX-5, 12, -8.189.
8. MX, (3), Chad McCumbee, Supply, N.C., MX-5, 12, -11.662.
9. MX, (8), Dan Bender, Glencoe, Ill., SBMX-5, 12, -12.623.
10. MX, (13), Richard Picut, Garwood, N.J., MX-5, 12, -27.856.
11. MX, (12), Tim Probert, Houston, Texas, MX-5, 12, -28.706.
12. MX, (16), Christian Tetzlaff, Athens, Ga., MX-5, 12, -47.086.
13. MX, (7), Lyonel Kent, Powell, Ky., MX-5, 12, -50.295.
14. MX, (19), Thomas Neel(R), Madison, Ala., MX-5, 12, -53.852.
15. MX, (14), Brent Mosing(R), Lafayette, La., MX-5, 12, -1:01.550.
16. MX, (18), Beth Chryst, Herndon, Va., MX-5, 12, -1:03.935.
17. MX, (17), Emilee Tominovich(R), Clarksville, Md., MX-5, 12, -1:31.277.
18. MX, (15), Charles Paquin, Ottawa, Ontario, MX-5, 7, Crash.
19. MX, (11), Harrison Williams, Houston, Texas, MX-5, 0, Mech.
20. SBMX, (20), Dennis Trebing, Cape Coral, Fla., Barber MX-5, 12, -27.202.
21. SBMX, (22), Zachry Lee, San Antonio, Texas, Barber MX-5, 12, -49.951.
22. SBMX, (23), Dan Moen, Wilbraham, Mass., Barber MX-5, 12, -1:02.121.
23. SBMX, (24), Bryan Hixon, San Antonio, Texas, Barber MX-5, 12, -1:04.180.
24. SBMX, (25), Paul Minichiello_Jr, Amesbury, Mass., Barber MX-5, 12, -1:28.142.
25. SBMX, (21), David Knight, Ludlow, Vt., Barber MX-5, 12, -1:28.943.
26. SBMX, (26), Javier Ripoll, Doral, Fla., Barber MX-5, 12, -1:29.604.
27. SBMX, (27), Douglas Brown, Wilmington, Mass., Barber MX-5, 12, -2:31.163.
Time of race: 30min, 33.836sec
Average speed: 87.161mph
Margin of victory: .045sec
Lap leaders: laps 1-2, #34 Christian Szymczak(R); laps 3-4, #16 John Dean_II(R); laps 5-5, #28 Stevan MCAleer(R); laps 6-6, #16 John Dean_II(R); laps 7-7, #28 Stevan MCAleer(R); laps 8-12, #16 John Dean_II(R)
Fastest race lap: #28 Stevan MCAleer(R), 2:31.087 (88.161mph)
Fastest qualifier: #17 Elliott Skeer(R), 2:29.155 (89.303mph)
Image: John Dean leads the field on his way to a win.
Credit: Mark Weber/SCCA