LEXINGTON, Ohio (Aug. 27, 2005) – Tom Long, of Raleigh, N.C., captured his third SCCA Pro Racing Mazdaspeed Miata Cup Presented by Hankook race win of 2005 and tied defending series Champion Payton Wilson for the point lead today at the penultimate round of the Atlantic Tour, part of the EMCO Gears Classic at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
The win was not without controversy, though, as Long survived contact with two separate cars en route to a 6.008-second win over Todd Buras, of Melbourne, Fla. Elivan Goulart, of Huntington, Conn., was third.
With a damp track quickly drying, Long started from the pole in his No. 16 Race Sports/Race Engineering 1990 Mazda Miata with Wilson, a 17-point leader in the Championship coming into the race, along side in his No. 1 King RAT/OG Racing 1999 Mazda Miata. As the two entered the first corner after the green, Long’s car appeared to skate on the damp track, making side-to-side contact with Wilson and forcing the point leader off course and into a spin back to 30th.
From there, Long held the point until lap eight, when Jim Daniels, who started seventh in his No. 47 specmiata.com 1990 Miata, made his move to the lead on the back straight. Daniels led Long and Buras in a three-car breakaway initially, and then on lap 13 it was just a two-car battle for the lead as Buras fell slightly behind.
After taking the white flag, Long made his move to the lead exiting turn one. Daniels countered with a deep out-braking maneuver at the end of the back straight. As Daniels’ car tracked out, Long made a move back to the inside, brushing Daniels’ rear bumper and sending him off on the outside of the track.
Daniels recovered to finish ninth. Wilson recovered from the first lap incident to finish 11th.
“It feels great to get my third win, but I hated that it came down to how it happened,” Long said after the race. “I was on dry tires, and at the start on the inside it was a little wet and there was nothing I could do. I really hate it for Payton.
“We had an awesome race. Burt Mills put the setup on the car and the dry race conditions came to us. At the end, I got a little banzai move from Jim Daniels, and he slid right underneath and just slid right off. It was a good move on his part, but it didn’t stick.”
The win promoted Long into a tie atop the point standings with Wilson at 192 with only Sunday’s race remaining. Buras’ runner-up finish in the No. 56 Krispy Kreme Doughnuts/BSI Racing 1994 Miata kept him in contention, nine points behind the leaders.
“We saw a weather radar with a big cell coming about four or five miles away, so we decided to go with the rain tires,” Buras said. “We’d never been on the rains before so we kind of guessed on the setup and we nailed it right on the head. The car was good the entire race, I stayed clean. We’re still in the Championship and looking forward to tomorrow.”
Goulart started eighth and had a solid run in his No. 70 Dolphin Motorsports/Red Line Oil 1994 Miata to earn his first podium finish. Goulart also chose a wet setup, and was pleased with his third place run.
“The wet setup definitely wasn’t the right choice,” Goulart said. “But it turned out okay and we’re third.”
Jason Saini, of Lake Forest, Ill., was fourth, followed by Benjamin Hohn, of Easton, Conn.
Charlie Putman, who started 34th in his Pesco/LuckyTaco.com 1990 Mazda Miata, moved to finish 17th, earning the Sunoco Hard Charger award in the process.
Sunday’s final round of the SCCA Mazdaspeed Miata Cup Presented by Hankook Atlantic Tour is scheduled to take the green flag at 4:30 p.m. (EDT).