TOOELE, Utah (Sept. 18, 2008) – Following a five-week break, the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup heads to Miller Motorsports Park for Round Six with the Drivers’ Championship wide open.
MX-5 Cup teams have a busy schedule ahead of them as practice, qualifying and racing are squeezed into two days at Miller Motorsports Park. The paddock will then have to pack up in a hurry, with Round Seven the following weekend at New Jersey Motorsports Park, more than 2,000 miles away. Back-to-back weekends make finishing the race in one piece crucial, but thankfully there’s not much to hit at the sprawling 24-turn, 4.5-mile course in the Utah desert…except maybe another MX-5 Cup car.
Last year, Miller Motorsports Park was site of the MX-5 Cup season finale, though Jason Saini had already clinched the Championship a round prior. Things couldn’t be any different in 2008. Two more rounds remain after the checkered flag falls at Miller Motorsports Park and there are several drivers within reach of the title.
Current point leader Eric Foss became the first repeat winner this season following a flag-to-flag victory at The Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières. The win also extended Foss’ podium-finish streak to a perfect five-for-five. Foss might as well paint a bullseye on his No. 28 Team MER/Autobarn Mazda MX-5, since the rest of the field will be aiming to beat him this weekend.
Chasing Foss in the Championship is the only driver in the top five still searching for a win this season, Todd Buras. Driving the No. 56 Hooverspeed/Pancreaticcure.org MX-5, Buras has kept his place near the top of the drivers’ standings via consistent finishes, all of which have been in the top five thus far. His improved qualifying performance has been crucial to his success this season and a front-row start this weekend could result in his first win, a must-have should he expect to takeover the Championship lead.
Brad Rampelberg’s Championship hopes took a hit at Trois-Rivières where he finished 16th after late-race contact with the wall in the No. 14 Hooverspeed/Mazda/Patron Tequila MX-5. It was the first finish outside the top five for the Portland race winner. He currently finds himself third in the Championship, 31 points behind Buras. The gap from himself back to Road America race winner Ryan Schimsk is much closer. Only two points separate Rampelberg from Schimsk, driver of the No. 81 Team MER/Airco Mechanical MX-5.
Trois-Rivières was also unkind to Robert Huffmaster. A brush with the wall early in the race required multiple visits to pit lane during the race and resulted in a 15th-place finish for the No. 27 Team MER/Huffmaster Companies MX-5 driver. Huffmaster is now dangerously close to being caught in the point standings by Ara Malkhassian, who finished third at Trois-Rivières. It was the first top-three finish of the year for Malkhassian, who just missed the podium here in 2006.
Robert Michaelian has also stood on the Miller Motorsports Park podium. He finished a career-high second here last year and could be in for another big weekend behind the wheel of the No. 19 Hooverspeed MX-5.
As always, live timing and lap notes will be available throughout the weekend at www.mx-5cup.com. Two rounds of practice are scheduled for Friday, Sept. 19, before qualifying gets underway at 5:00 p.m. (MDT). Round Six of the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup will go green at 9:55 a.m. The race will air on DirecTV, Dish Network and regional cable networks the week of Oct. 13. Check the MX-5 Cup Web site for broadcast times.