Dean takes a narrow points lead over Gallagher in the Battery Tender® Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires.
John Dean took his second win of the season in the Battery Tender® Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires to leave Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca with the points lead, while Patrick Gallagher, who led most of the Round Five race that Dean won, held on to take his first series victory in Round Six.
The weekend at Mazda’s home track included some special additions to the MX-5 field. During test sessions on Thursday and Friday, Tom Long, Andrew Carbonell and Kenton Koch tested the 2016 Global MX-5 Cup cars on track with the current competitors. Then on Sunday, the largest MX-5 Cup field ever took the green as the race also included 20 National Auto Sport Association (NASA) champions vying to win the Mazda Race of NASA Champions.
Dean of Sebring, Florida, added another victory to his 2015 resume as the result of a Turn 11 pass in the closing laps of Round Five on Saturday.
Dean led only the final four laps of the 23-lap Round Five race at the 11-turn, 2.238-mile road course, in his No. 16 Bulb Jacket/PPG MX-5, but it proved to be enough to cross the finish line in first. The race was slowed by two full-course yellows that totaled three laps. However, Dean made his pass for the lead happen under green-flag conditions.
For the opening 19 circuits of the course, it seemed like Gallagher, of Thornville, Ohio, was the class of the field as he pulled out a multi-car gap on two occasions. Dean worked his way within striking distance and got a clean run off Turn 11 to take the lead. From there, Dean never looked back. Gallagher’s teammate Peter Portante, of Plainville, Conn., was third.
In the Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge series, Sam Adams, of Richfield, Wisconsin, scored his first career victory. Adams was the benefactor of an incident that took out then class leader Ben Albano. The collision was the cause of the second full-course yellow period.
On Sunday, after three years of trying, Gallagher took his first victory in Round Six in his No. 44 Howard Concrete Pumping MX-5. While Gallagher officially led all but one lap of the 25-lap race, that only tells part of the story. Gallagher took the lead from polesitter John Dean by the completion of lap one, but was unable to break away from the rest of the lead group.
On lap nine, while trying to go for the lead, Drake Kemper got on the inside of Gallagher going into Turn 2. As a result, Kemper went wide and pushed Gallagher out to the edge of the track. That opened the door for Portante to take the lead. Portante completed the move, holding the lead until they completed the lap. On lap 10, Gallagher made his way back around his teammate on the approach to the Corkscrew to retake the lead.
Portante ended up second in his No. 24 Intercity Lines MX-5. Kemper drove the wheels of his No 99 Royal Rugby/Mazda Motorsports Development/BFGoodrich Tires MX-5, evidenced by his brief lead and eventual third-place finish.
In the Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge series, Albano forgot his disappointment of the day before with a victory. Albano had a good start from the pole in his No. 61 Project Yellow Light/Manfredi Jewels SBMX-5, but utilized traffic to his advantage to get to the lead position.
In the Mazda Race of NASA Champions (see separate story), Matthew Powers, of San Rafael, California, was victorious. He was followed to the line by pole sitter Corey Rueth of Manchaca, Texas, and Jeremy Croiset of Tehachapi, California.
Dean leaves Mazda Raceway as the leader of the Championship Drivers’ Standings with 338 points. With his win, Gallagher made hay in the standings, coming within two markers of Dean. He is followed by Dean Copeland, who has 305 points.
In the Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge standings, Robby Foley holds the lead with 335 points. Reger sits second, nine markers behind, while Sam Adams is third with 324 points.