The SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup rolls into Atlanta about as close as a championship could be. That was either helped or hindered by the cancellation of the Houston race after Dario Franchitti’s IndyCar Series accident damaged the catchfence. Christian Szymczak could have extended his lead further, or Elliot Skeer could have erased that lead.
As it is, they head to Road Atlanta neck-and-neck, with only 15 points separating them, 531 points to 516. The two races scheduled for the Petit Le Mans weekend means that there is a total of 128 points available to each driver – 60 points for a win in each race, plus bonus points (one each for pole, top-five qualifying, leading a lap and leading the most laps), so the points gap between the top two is just a hair over 10 percent of the available points.
The most likely scenario is that Szymczak and Skeer leave Georgia with a points gap just about the same as it is now, meaning Szymczak would be champ. At each double event so far this season, they have split races. And when one wins, the other usually finishes second. That’s true for almost every race this season, and both drivers have four victories each. John Dean II, who is third in the points, 45 behind Szymczak, is the only other driver to win a race in 2013, at Coronado.
Both Szymczak and Skeer have only been off the podium once, although Szymczak’s worst finish, 16th, is a lot worse than Skeer’s fourth-place finish at the second Sebring race. What has made the gap as large as it is is Szymczak’s unbroken streak at pole position. He has also led the most laps in six of the nine contests so far. Those bonus points may make all the difference in the championship.
Although Dean II is technically still in the championship, it would take Szymczak finishing around 11th both races while Dean won both, assuming equal bonus points. Skeer is really the only one capable of derailing Szymczak’s championship run at this point, but it’s still going to take a little luck for him to do it.
Patrick Gallagher, the 2012 Mazda Club Racer Shootout winner, and Bryan Hixon are fighting for Rookie of the Year honors, though it looks like Gallagher has a pretty solid hold on it. Gallagher is sixth in the points with 387 and Hixon is seventh with 330.
Given that Kenton Koch has captured every pole and won every race but one in 2013, he has a solid lock on the Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge. His 98-point lead in the championship will be impossible to overcome, assuming he shows up.
The first race for the Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup at Road Atlanta takes place on Thursday afternoon at 5:05. The teams won’t have much turnaround time, because Race No. 2 is Friday morning at 8:10.