– John Dean II takes the race win with leader Nathanial “Sparky” Sparks in tow –
BRASELTON, Georgia (September 29, 2016) – It was a near perfect 45-minute race for the Sick Sideways team, with John Dean II (No. 16 Sick Sideways), the defending series champion, scoring his first race win of the 2016 season. Dean was followed across the line 0.393 second later by his teammate Nathanial “Sparky” Sparks (No. 8 Sick Sideways), who is primed to clinch the $200,000 Mazda Road to 24 scholarship prize in the Battery Tender® Global Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires.
John Dean II was all smiles when asked about the race.
“It feels incredible to get my first win this season. Sparky has been incredibly fast this year, and it’s the way we work as a team. We don’t really have to think too much about where to put the car since we’ve been teammates for so long. And, I’m so excited to be on the podium with him winning the championship.”
Entering the weekend, four drivers were in contention for the much-sought-after Mazda Road to 24 Scholarship, which awards a $200,000 Mazda scholarship to the champion of the series. The near-perfect race by Sparks has all but clinched the championship for him and his team.
When Sparks was asked if he was more conservative in the race knowing he had to have a solid finish, he shook his head passionately.
“No, absolutely not! Have you ever played a sport and tried to back it down to nine or eight or seven? It’s harder than doing what you’ve done every single time. I knew the key to finishing well was to do what I’ve been doing—driving the way I drive. I was focused. A few of the drivers were really pushing me like Chris Stone, and it was exciting! Chris and I were racing side by side at the end of the race from turn 10 to turn 3 and oh boy, that was exciting!”
This was the 11th race in the 12-race championship, and it was a perfect all-green race with the lead draft ranging from four to eight cars. While Dean II led all but one lap, he never had more than a few tenths of a second lead. Among the challengers were ALARA Racing teammates Ara Malkhassian and Chris Stone. Malkhassian was the only other driver besides Dean to lead the race while Stone finished in third place.
Tim Probert (No. 26 ALARA Racing) was the Battery Tender® Hard Charger of the race, advancing nine positions from 24th to 15th in the 30-car field, while Corey Rueth (No. 39 Winding Road/TFB Performance) set the fast race lap at 1:39.404, breaking the MX-5 Cup lap record.
The season will conclude with the 12th and final race this afternoon at 5:45 p.m. (Eastern) and will be streamed live on http://www.ustream.tv/MazdaLIVE Dean and Sparks will be starting on the front row.
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.