Elliott Skeer won the second half of the the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup doubleheader at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, propelling him to the top of the championship standings. Patrick Gallagher finished second, with Ara Malkhassian, in tow, finishing third.
Driving the No. 17 Pelican Replacement Windows/ZoomZoomNation.com/Alpinestars MX-5, Skeer moved around polesitter Christian Szymczak and his ALARA Racing teammate Malkhassian on lap one at the 2.238-mile, 11-turn road course. Skeer held off early challenges by the ALARA teammates, until Szymczak's No. 34 ALARA Racing MX-5 came to a rest near turn eight with a mechanical issue.
Skeer eventually pulled out to a 5.3-second victory in the 55.95-mile race, averaging 74.705mph.
“After yesterday, where Christian [Szymczak] walked away from us all, we were really trying to figure out how we were going to combat that, and get back up there,” Skeer said. “It was a pretty good start. Ara [Malkhassian] got me, so, it was an ALARA 1-2. I was a little nervous that was going to happen, but made it back to the front.
“We led and started to pull a little bit, then Christian [Szymczak] started to fade with, I guess, some sort of mechanical. I don't want to have to take the win in that sort of circumstance, but you take it how you get it. As soon as he fell back, that lap and the next two, I was able to open up a little bit of a gap and go into time-trial mode, just hitting my apexes, trying to make every lap within a tenth of the last lap, just trying to stay consistent.”
Gallagher, driving the No. 28 MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development MX-5, finished a career-best second, following his top-five finish on Friday. By lap eight, he had moved from his fifth-place grid position to the rear bumper of Malkhassian, who held second at the time. That battle lasted for six laps, until Gallagher was able to make a pass stick, taking second from Malkhassian for good
“I got stuck there in the middle of the front pack for a majority of the race,” Gallagher said. “I was able to get close to Elliott [Skeer] at the front, but being in traffic held me back. I just had to deal with each and every person, and get by them. It was a tough second-place finish.”
Malkhassian took the last step of the podium from John Dean on a last-lap pass. Driving the No.11 ALARA Racing/ALARA Garage MX-5, Malkhassian had a good jump off the line, slotting in behind teammate Szymczak. Following the start, the rest of the field was able to catch up. After settling into fourth on lap 15, Malkhassian began working on the rear bumper of Dean for five laps, swapping positions back and forth with Dean, before completing the pass that stuck.
“The race started the way I wanted it to,” Malkhassian, who set the race's fastest lap at 1:42.223 (78.816 mph), said. “I was able to tuck in behind Christian [Szymczak] and get into a one-two situation early on. Christian's car, unfortunately, was challenged today with some mechanical issues. When he bobbled, I popped out into an early lead, but there was so much pressure from behind.
“Elliott [Skeer], jumped up to the front, and even though we were matching pace with him, once the pack caught up to me it became more of a dice. We made it a little easy for Elliott, as we had a good battle behind him.”
After starting from the back of the field due to mechanical issues in qualifying, Dean drove the wheels off his No. 16 Projections Research/PPG MX-5 for the entire 26-lap race, hanging the back end out on each turn, getting the most from his BFGoodrich g-Force R1 tires, to finish fourth.
Russell Walker took fifth in his first weekend of the Mazda MX-5 Cup campaign. In the No. 20 Pauecon MX-5, Walker was able to hold off a charging Bryan Hixon in the No. 12 MAZDASPEED/ALARA Racing MX-5.
Kenton Koch won his fourth-straight Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Series class race, leading flag-to-flag. Lucas Bize and Robby Foley duplicated the podium from Round 3.
Following his second win of the season, Skeer became the new championship leader, with a total of 230 points. Following the DNF, two-time winner Szymczak is 11 markers behind, with Dean, who has collected 214 points, sitting in third.
The next stop for the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup is the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for another doubleheader event, June 14-16.
Follow the Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup on Twitter @MazdaMX5Cup and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/48522898534.
1. MX, (2), Elliott Skeer, Vista, Calif., MX-5, $3500, 25.
2. MX, (5), Patrick Gallagher(R), Thornville, Ohio, MX-5, $2500, 25, -5.302.
3. MX, (3), Ara Malkhassian, Houston, Texas, MX-5, $2000, 25, -8.329.
4. MX, (17), John Dean II, Sebring, Fla., MX-5, $1750, 25, -8.558.
5. MX, (7), Russell Walker, Dallas, Texas, MX-5, $1500, 25, -17.569.
6. MX, (9), Bryan Hixon(R), San Antonio, Texas, MX-5, $1400, 25, -17.883.
7. MX, (10), Scott Phillips(R), Tucson, Ariz., MX-5, $1300, 25, -35.302.
8. MX, (8), Tim Probert, Houston, Texas, MX-5, $1200, 25, -35.656.
9. MX, (11), Brent Mosing, Lafayette, La., MX-5, $1100, 25, -50.435.
10. MX, (12), Steve Bottom, Newport Beach, Calif., MX-5, $1000, 25, -50.926.
11. MX, (13), Harrison Williams, Houston, Texas, MX-5, 25, -54.574.
12. MX, (14), Emilee Tominovich, Clarksville, Md., MX-5, 25, -1:31.399.
13. MX, (16), Tad Segars(R), Hilton Head, S.C., MX-5, 24, -1 lap.
14. MX, (15), Charles Paquin, Ottawa, Ontario, MX-5, 24, -1 lap.
15. MX, (6), James Vance(R), Toronto, Ontario, MX-5, 10, Mech.
16. MX, (1), Christian Szymczak, Palos Verdes, Calif., MX-5, 7, Mech.
17. MX, (4), Nathanial Sparks, Spanish Fort, Ala., MX-5, 4, Mech.
18. SBMX, (18), Kenton Koch, Glendora, Calif., Barber MX-5, 25.
19. SBMX, (19), Lucas Bize, New York, N.Y., Barber MX-5, 25, -36.620.
20. SBMX, (20), Robby Foley, Randolph, N.J., Barber MX-5, 25, -52.309.
21. SBMX, (24), David Knight, Ludlow, Vt., Barber MX-5, 25, -52.904.
22. SBMX, (21), Drake Kemper, Toluca Lake, Calif., Barber MX-5, 24, -1 lap.
23. SBMX, (25), Cal Meeker, Oceanside, Calif., Barber MX-5, 24, -1 lap.
24. SBMX, (22), Greg Holloway, Melbourne Australia, Barber MX-5, 24, -1 lap.
25. SBMX, (26), Fred Chin, Henderson, Nev., Barber MX-5, 24, -1 lap.
26. SBMX, (23), Russell Muck, Grosse Pointe, Mich., Barber MX-5, 24, -1 lap.