HOUSTON, Texas (April 20, 2007) – Under the lights of JAGFlo Speedway at Reliant Park, Jason Saini, of Fort Worth, Texas, led practice Friday for Round One of the SCCA Pro Racing SIRIUS Satellite Radio Mazda MX-5 Cup, part of the Grand Prix of Houston. Matt Cross, of Folsom, Calif., and 16-year-old Brett Smrz, of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, were second and third fastest, respectively.
Seven months after winning the 2006 MX-5 Cup finale, Saini was able to top the field once again in the hour-long night practice through the parking lots of Reliant Park. Saini put his No. 28 Autobarn Mazda/Saferacer.com Mazda MX-5 to the top of the time sheets shortly after the session’s only red flag period, which was brought out for the No. 52 Hooverspeed Mazda MX-5 of Donna Gilio, of Carson City, Nev., who was stopped in Turn Two after contact with the wall.
Saini continued to improve his time around the 10-turn, 1.7-mile temporary street course through the closing minutes of the session, when he turned his fast time of a 1:25.271 (71.771 mph).
“I love the track,” Saini said. “I’ve always loved street courses. I started racing because I went to a street course as a spectator and fell in love with it. It’s a lot like autocross, which is where I came from. Heck, we’re running it in the parking lot out here, so I’m used to that.
“A lot of hard work went into getting here by the Team MER crew. Late nights, so much blood, sweat and tears to get here. It was nice to get in the first session and do well with so many Team MER cars in the top five.”
Cross ended the evening second fastest with a time of 1:25.361 (71.695 mph) in his No. 80 JasonHooverMtrsprts/Hooverspeed Mazda MX-5. Cross was followed by the No. 29 Team MER Mazda MX-5 of Smrz, who posted fast time of 1:25.753 (71.367 mph).
2006 SCCA Spec Miata National Champion Andrew Caddell, of Graham, Wash., led practice briefly in his Mazda MX-5 Cup debut, but finished the session in fourth, driving his No. 30 Team MER/AimSport/PinnacleMazda Mazda MX-5 to a time of 1:25.881 (71.261 mph). Bob Michaelian, of Seal Beach, Calif., completed the top-five with a 1:26.262 (70.946 mph).
Jesse Combs, Pratt Cole, Rick Bellew, Barry A. Fromberg and Ben McCrackin completed the top-ten.
Qualifying for Round One of the MX-5 Cup is schedule to go green Saturday at 4:20 p.m. (CDT). The 45-minute race will take place the same evening, at 8:45 p.m., following the American LeMans Series race.
For full results, live timing and lap notes visit www.mx-5cup.com.