Rookie Koch Takes MX-5 Cup Win

Rookie Kenton Koch, of Glendora, Calif., started his bid for the 2014 SCCA Pro Racing Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich® Tires Championship on the right foot, winning Round 1 at Sebring International Raceway as part of the 62nd Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from Florida. Hometown favorite John Dean finished second after leading most of the race, followed by Sebastian Landy, of Great Falls, Va., in third.

Driving the No. 12 ALARA Racing/Mazda Motorsports Development MX-5, Koch was scored as the leader only once during the race that averaged 77.919mph around the 17-turn, 3.74-mile circuit. However, it happened to be the most important lap, the last one.

Koch spent the entire 16-lap race in the lead group of cars, but most of the time he was in second, trying to force then-leader Dean into a mistake. All the while, Koch was holding off challenges from Landy.

Koch had to wait until the last turn of the last lap to make his move for the lead. On the approach to Turn 17, Koch was able to take the inside line. Driving through the dirty, unused part of the inside of the turn, Koch was able to hang on and win the drag race to the line.

The marks the second year that a last-lap, last-corner pass was the decisive move of a Mazda MX-5 Cup race at Sebring. Last year, Elliott Skeer took a win over Christian Szymczak in much the same fashion.

Throughout the race, Dean did everything he could have done to bring home the win. Starting from the pole in his No. 16 Projections Research/PPG MX-5, Dean led the first two laps. Dean Copeland then took a turn at the front on lap three, until Dean reclaimed the lead one lap later. Two laps later, Copeland was back in the lead for two laps before his clutch gave out. Dean reclaimed the point and held it until lap 16.

Landy recorded his best career finish in the series driving his brand new 2014 Motorsports Group MX-5 hard, constantly threatening to get around the leaders if a mistake was made. Landy also successfully defended his position after battling with Ara Malkhassian for the final podium position.

In the No. 11 ALARA Racing MX-5, Malkhassian made sure it wasn’t just a young man’s game at the front. He showed the mistake-free, quick pace commensurate with his experience in the series. He made sure young Landy earned his third-place finish.

Rookie Lucas Catania also made a good showing in his maiden race, finishing fifth in this Mazda MX-5 Cup field. Driving his No. 17 Atlanta Motorsports Group/N.Y. Spine & Wellness/SOS MX-5, Catania was the second Atlanta Motorsports Group-supported car in the top five.

In the Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge class, Drake Kemper, of Toluca Lake, Calif., notched his second career win in the class. Driving the No. 99 Royal Rugby SBMX-5, Kemper kept his nose clean, taking advantage of then-leader Robby Foley getting tangled up with another car.

The race was the first of two races at Sebring, with the second taking place Friday morning.