The Contenders: Nathanial "Sparky" Sparks

Nathanial “Sparky” Sparks is one of four drivers in contention for the Global Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires championship entering the doubleheader season finale this weekend at Petit Le Mans in Road Atlanta.

Twenty-six-year-old Nathanial “Sparky” Sparks is on the brink of tasting victory and receiving the $200,000 Mazda Road to 24 scholarship in the Battery Tender® Global Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires.  Applying a strategy of consistency throughout the season, Sparks enters Petit Le Mans with a sixty-nine point lead despite only winning one race this season. Fans of the series will know that it’s not over yet as Sparks will still need to have a solid performance to grab the title of Global MX-5 Cup Champion.

Despite his age, many would consider Sparks a veteran of racing. He began his career in 2008 with a family-funded and built Spec Miata. Since 2008, Sparks has enjoyed progressing through the Mazda ranks. His accomplishments include a 3-time champion of the East Coast Teen Mazda Challenge, the 2011 NASA National Spec Miata Championship, and receiving an invitation to the Mazda Road to 24 Shootout twice, where Mazda provides a $100,000 scholarship to a grassroots racer to compete in the Battery Tender® MX-5 Cup.

In 2012, Sparks and his father aimed higher with professional aspirations in racing. They soon decided to build a Mazda MX-5 Cup car in the family garage and shortly competed in their very first professional race. Halfway through the 2012 season, Sparks teamed up with John Dean II and Sick Sideways to increase his competitiveness and to gain knowledge from fellow racers. After joining forces with Sick Sideways, Sparks dedication was evident. He moved to Sebring, Florida to start work as a mechanic for the team which allowed him to further his knowledge of the car.

Since joining Sick Sideways, Sparks’ progress as a driver has been evident but it wasn’t until 2016 did he garner his first top place finish at VIRginia International Raceway. He followed the win with a championship crown in the inaugural Global Mazda MX-5 Cup Invitational.

Sparks will try to ride the momentum of his most recent successes into Road Atlanta but others are looking to thwart his championship run . He will have 3 other competitors in contention for the prize – a mixed bag of veterans and newbies. Two races remain and Sparks will have the biggest test of his career. Will the driver/mechanic who started off his career as a father-son team hold off the competition or buckle under pressure?

Sparks says he isn’t letting the pressure get to him, “Going into Road Atlanta, being the point’s leader was not something I expected. I think working on my car keeps my head in the game, but by doing what I’ve been doing, I’ll be in good shape for the point standings.”

Both 45-minute long races will be lived streamed on http://www.ustream.tv/MazdaLIVE
8:00 a.m. (Eastern) Thursday, September 29, 2016 – Race #1
5:45 p.m. (Eastern) Thursday, September 29, 2016 – Race #2

About MX-5 Cup
The MX-5 Cup race cars start as complete MX-5 road cars from the Mazda Hiroshima, Japan factory before being transported to engineering development partner Long Road Racing in Statesville, North Carolina where they are produced into a race car. The process includes disassembly of the production car, welding and paint of a full roll cage and interior, and assembly of the race car, adding more than 250 motorsports-specific parts. Other components of the car, including the Mazda SKYACTIV 2.0 liter engine are sealed to ensure even competition and a cost-effective platform.

The Battery Tender® Global Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires is the signature spec series for the Mazda Road to 24 (#MRT24), the sports car counterpart to the Mazda Road to Indy (#MRTI). On both paths, Mazda-powered champions earn a Mazda scholarship to advance their career. The MX-5 Cup champion earns a $200,000 scholarship.

Information on the car is online at www.mazdamotorsports.com.

About Mazda Motorsports
Mazda Motorsports boasts the most comprehensive auto racing development ladder system of any auto manufacturer in the world. The Mazda Road to 24 program offers a number of scholarships to advance drivers up the sports car racing ladder, beginning with the Global MX-5 Cup series and culminating with the Mazda Prototype team. The Mazda Road to Indy is a similar program that includes Mazda-powered categories of USF2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights. In grassroots road racing, more Mazdas race on any given weekend in North America than any other manufacturer. Mazda is also the title sponsor of the renowned Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. Follow all of the latest news at MazdaMotorsports.com, @MazdaRacing on Twitter, and MazdaMotorsports on Instagram and Facebook.