Patrick Gallagher put his stamp on the 2017 Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich® Tires season as the champion scored his eighth victory on Saturday at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Gallagher (No. 29 McCumbee McAleer Racing) once again trailed Robby Foley (No. 54 Hooverspeed) for the opening 12 laps before moving to take the lead. Despite a full course caution that bunched the field on lap 18, Gallagher was able to hold his advantage on the restart and take another victory to close out a season for the books.
The two were joined on the podium by Bryan Ortiz, who came home in third place. The podium position was the fifth of the season for Ortiz, but wasn’t enough to prevent Robert Stout (No. 28 McCumbee McAleer Racing) from locking in the 2017 Rookie of the Year award and the $50,000 Mazda scholarship that goes with it as Stout finished fifth.
Also up on stage for the post-race celebrations was Tom Martin III (No. 21 Winding Road Team TFB) as he locked in the Idemitsu “Hard Charger” award by making up more positions than anyone else during the 45-minute race to end his season on another high note.
“The Winding Road guys dialed it in for this race so I had a little bit more confidence,” said Martin. “I tried to be patient and make moves when I could and let other people make the mistakes instead of me.”
The race saw the field put on another great show with racing all through the pack. Three full course cautions and subsequent restarts added to the mix as Gallagher made the most of his track position.
“Honestly I thought it was a long shot to win for the first 15-minutes or so,” said Gallagher. “Then once I got around Foley and got into open air I seemed to have the speed to stay in front. I was then able to start dropping him but then that yellow came out and I thought that it would make for an exciting finish. We were running side-by-side for the first couple of corners and put on a show; I have donuts on the side of the Modspace car! I’m really proud of these MMR guys and they showed why they are the best in the business.”
With a keen eye on the Mazda MX-5 Cup Global Challenge event at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on October 13-15, Foley had a productive weekend as he targets the $75,000 prize on offer next month.
“Patrick (Gallagher) definitely had the faster car so it was just a matter of keeping him behind me in the first few laps,” said Foley. “I tried for as long as I could but he ended up getting me in the corkscrew. I could stay with him, but I just didn’t have anything for him. I didn’t want to see the last yellow because the guys behind caught up. The last restart was pretty hectic. I had a couple shots at Patrick but I couldn’t do much with it. I ended up finishing second which is good. Two second places in the weekend is good for us. We are going to take this weekend and learn from it and come back in a few weeks for the Global Challenge.”
With his run to fifth place, Stout was able to lock in the rookie honors to go along with his victories at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Toronto street circuit.
“Winning Rookie of the Year was the next best thing to winning the championship,” said Stout. “After our early season problems, my focus immediately went from championship to rookie of the year. Ortiz and I were glued together all season. Like Ortiz, we each had a few DNFs, so it was very close. I’m extremely happy. Mazda has been so good putting up the money and opportunities that we’ll be planning to come back next year.
Working to keep his focus on the racing despite the massive setbacks at home following Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico native Ortiz put the disappointment of Friday’s race behind him to score another podium result with his run to third place.
“It’s been a very emotional weekend for us,” said Ortiz. “Yesterday I had an issue with the ECU and it was showing zero fuel pressure with a lap and a half to finish. It definitely made it a little bit more interesting for today’s rookie battle. The car was good and I wanted to race clean and stay behind everyone and then try to push at the end. We were very close that last lap and I kept thinking that if they (Gallagher and Foley) did something, then I would have a shot. I don’t know if I had the speed that they had and to hold them off but I know I had the speed to be with them. I tried to race smart and we finished third. I have been trying to concentrate and have my focus on the race when everything is really bad back home. Obviously this weekend was for them. We will head back today and see what we can do to keep trying to get the country to move forward.”
In response to the devastation that Puerto Rico is experiencing, Mazda Motorsports has stepped up to match the contingency funding that Ortiz has earned this year to go towards hurricane relief in his home state.
“Bryan (Oritz) has quickly become a member of the Mazda family and our hearts go out to his family, friends, and neighbors back home in Puerto Rico,” said John Doonan, Director, Mazda Motorsports. “Mazda Motorsports is doubling Bryan’s Mazda Motorsports prize money from today to be donated to relief efforts in Puerto Rico.”
The Mazda MX-5 Cup Global Challenge event at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on October 13-15 will be a $110,000 two-race shootout which will see the winner emerge with $75,000 in prize money, and the runner-up taking home $25,000 and third place set for $10,000.