Keith Grant and Eric Prill make it three Mazda victories on the first day of races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Keith Grant became the first Mazda-powered winner at Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the 2017 SCCA National Championship Runoffs, taking the Formula Atlantic title in his Mazda/Hoosier/Polestar Swift 016a Mazda. Polesitter Sedat Yelkin, also in a Swift 016a Mazda, led the first six laps until Grant took the lead in Turn 1 to begin lap 7. Once in front, Grant stretched the lead to claim his first Formula Atlantic title, and his second National Championship.
Contrary to some paddock predictions, 72 Spec Miatas made it through Turn 1 relatively cleanly as they began a caution-free race. Polesitter Chris Haldeman held the lead early in his X-Factor Racing 1999 Miata, with Preston Pardus’ No. 42 Danus Utilities/5X Racing/ESR/PR Mazda Miata and several others in tow. But within only a couple of laps, things started to change rapidly – and often.
For most of the 19-lap event around the 15-turn, 2.592-mile Indianapolis road circuit, there were as many as six SM challengers who made up the front pack. Contenders throughout included Tyler Kicera, Michael Gagliardo, Daniel Bender, and Michael Carter and, up from his 10th starting position, Sellin Rollan.
Rollan held the lead as the pack came down the front straight on the final lap; Rollan, holding the slightest advantage. Going into Turn 1, Pardus positioned himself outside Rollan and right up against the outside wall. Pardus held his braking until the last moment to gain the advantage – and a lead he never relinquished – as he went on to become the 2017 Spec Miata Runoffs champion.
“This is big – this is awesome,” Pardus said after the race. “The historical significance of this track is major. It’s paved the way for the past 100 years. To say I’ve actually got to race here is incredible. And to make it a Runoffs win is even more incredible.”
Following post-race tech, Rollan finished second in his BSI Racing/Rossini/Apex Alignment ’99 with polesitter Haldeman finishing third and Carter fourth.
In what was surely one of the most popular victories of the day, SCCA Vice President and Chief Operations Officer Eric Prill, after several years of coming oh-so-close, took the F Production victory in his MaxtonsFight.org/JPM/Hoosier 1990 Miata in dominating fashion. In a race punctuated by two full-course cautions, Prill pulled away at the green and each subsequent restart to claim his first SCCA National Championship.
“To come to Indianapolis and stand on the podium where the greatest race car drivers in the world have stood, and now to be part of that history, feels really special,” Prill said as his eyes filled with tears. “I’ve been the perennial bridesmaid of the Runoffs for so long, that this win feels like a long time coming.”
Miata drivers completed the podium in FP, as Bob Perona finished second in his Brown’s Oil Service/Lucas Oil ’91 and Sam Henry was third in his SpringfieldDyno/Mazda/Hoosier/Hawk ’93.
Several classes where Mazdas will feature prominently are on tap for Saturday at the SCCA National Championship Runoffs, including GT-3, Formula Mazda, E Production and Super Touring Lite. You can follow along live, thanks to help from Mazda, at SCCA.com.