New Southeast Conference initiative from Mazda Motorsports gets into full swing at the first event of the season
The first SCCA U.S. Majors Tour event of the year took place in Florida this past weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Aside from being a successful weekend for many Mazda racers, it was also a successful debut for Mazda Motorsports’ Southeast Conference initiative, which included the presence of a parts support truck, Mazda Motorsports staff to help with technical issues and even a barbecue for Mazda racers.
“Steve Strickland was there with the parts trailer, Josh Smith was there for technical support, and [Mazda Motorsports Manager, Business Development] David Cook was there,” said Tom Fowler of Spec Miata prep shop OPM Autosports. “They did lunch for us, and I think it was very well received by the Mazda people that were there racing. Josh and I sat down a couple of times, people with Spec Miatas were having some technical issues, some wiring and electrical, and having him there to bounce ideas off of was very helpful.”
Strickland, who races a Touring 4 MX-5, brought the parts trailer to Homestead (and will have it at other Southeast Conference races as well), plus he helped put on the barbecue.
“We were a little uncertain what the interest would be, but I think almost all the Mazda racers made it by some time during the weekend,” Strickland said. “We had a nice social – the cookout was right after the Spec Miata race on Saturday, so a lot of competitors came by and bench raced. Plus, we were able to provide a lot of racers with parts they wouldn’t have been able to acquire at the track otherwise.”
On the racing side, Spec Miata produced its usual nose-to-tail drafting with lots of position changes. Michael Carter and Preston Pardus swapped wins, with Carter taking the victory on Saturday and Pardus on Sunday.
“As always, Spec Miata never disappoints with tough competition, three of the top four from the 2017 Runoffs made the trip down to Homestead with a bunch of other quick guys racing as well,” said Pardus. “Homestead is one of the tracks on the circuit that requires drafting help to run a quick time. Todd Buras and I were great partners all weekend – we ran together every session we went on track. In Saturday’s race, Todd and I were split up at the start of the race. Unfortunately for me, I got shuffled all the way back to seventh at one point. With a few laps left, Todd and I were able to hook back up. We were able to knock out some fast laps in the closing stages of the race that allowed us to finish second and third.
“Sunday went a lot different for us – we were able to hook up together rather early in the race and break away from the lead pack, which in turn allowed us to race it out at the end. It feels awesome to get my first Majors win; it’s never easy to win one of these conference races. The win would not be possible without the great support and effort my father puts in my racing endeavors as well as the rest of my family. Jim Drago and the guys at East Street Racing also deserve a ton of credit for helping make Todd’s and my cars go around the track like they do. Hopefully we can use the momentum from this past weekend and carry it into this weekend’s Hoosier Super Tour at Sebring International Raceway.”
Other Mazda winners include Mark Weber winning F Production on Sunday; Dudley Fleck and Jacek Mucha splitting Prototype 1 victories in their Mazda-powered sports racers; Nick Leverone doing the double in his Super Touring Lite Miata; and Gresham Wagner taking Touring 4 on Saturday in an MX-5 formerly raced by Ryan Kovaleski.
Many of the same racers will take to the track again this weekend in the first Hoosier Super Tour of the year at Sebring International Raceway, with the same Mazda support on hand. Meanwhile, the US. Majors Tour gets started on the West Coast as well, with the Western Conference hosting its first race of the season at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.