SALINAS, Calif. (April 29, 2016) - In the historic first race of the 2016 Battery Tender Global MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires, reigning 2015 series champion and Mazda Road to 24 (#MRT24) scholarship driver John Dean II (No. 16 Sick Sideways Racing) started the race on pole after an impressive qualifying session. Dean II led the 40-car field to the green flag for the start of the 45-minute race. With six lead changes and numerous position changes among the top-three, the first race of the Battery Tender MX-5 Cup was nothing short of thrilling.
Entering the first turn, Patrick Gallagher (No. 72 McCumbee McAleer Racing) fell back from second to eighth after getting trapped in the motorcycle lane in the first turn.
The incident allowed rookie Mark Drennan (No. 50 Winding Road Team TFB) to move up one spot to second while veteran Ara Malkhassian (No. 11 ALARA Racing) slid up two positions to third. Malkhassian’s place was short-lived, however, as MRT24 scholarship driver Robby Foley (No. 63 Atlanta Motorsports Group) made a move 10 minutes into the race to take the position.
Halfway into the race, only .115 seconds separated the top two drivers. As the top five continued to battle, Gallagher made his way back from mid-pack, overtaking Nikko Reger (No. 01 Copeland Motorsports) for fifth. In lap 14, at the exit of the last turn, Drennan would be punted off track, falling back to eighth. Gallagher slid into second, followed by Dean Copeland (No. 7 Copeland Motorsports) in third.
As the race continued, Copeland put pressure on Foley, eventually slotting into third. Entering the corkscrew, Drennan made an impressive and bold move to overtake Dean II, taking the lead. With 15 minutes remaining, Drennan led the pack, followed by Dean II and Copeland, respectfully.
With less than 10 minutes remaining, Dean II led the field, followed closely behind by Gallagher and Foley in third. In lap 21, Gallagher made an exciting move for the lead, overtaking Dean II; the two were separated by only .263 seconds. Reger made an assertive move in lap 21 to slide into candidacy for podium position.
With one lap remaining, Dean II had one more opportunity to overtake Gallagher, but fell short. Gallagher won the race by 0.121 seconds, followed by John Dean II. Although he crossed the line in third, Reger was penalized for his car being underweight in the post-race technical inspection; Foley took the third place podium.
“We got trapped in the motorcycle lane and my car ended up in the dirt,” recalls Gallagher, when asked about the incident early in the race. “But I knew the car was going to be good at the end of the race and that’s what we planned. I stayed calm. I knew it was a 45-minute race and I just started picking off cars one by one.”
A notable finish was Gareth Nixon (No. 3 Nixon Investments) who won the Battery Tender Hard Charger award. Nixon began the race in 40th position and picked up 23 spots to finish in 17th place.
John Doonan, Director of Motorsports, Mazda North American Operations, did the official trophy presentation and noted, “Today’s race was the combined effort of many people and companies. It was great to see 45 minutes of superb racing without a single caution flag. It was special to have so many people from Battery Tender, BFGoodrich Tires, Long Road Racing and others here with Mazda.”
The next race of the 2016 Battery Tender Global Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires will be Saturday April 30, 2016 at 12 p.m. PDT. Race 2 will be streamed on www.mazdalive.com as well as www.iRacing.com and www.fanschoice.tv.