Jason Connole, of Raleigh, North Carolina, led a six-deep pack of Mazdas to the checkered flag on Saturday at Virginia International Raceway to take the inaugural win of the Spec MX-5 Challenge East Series.
Connole crossed the line in his Protech Bedliners/Trimark Digital/Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5 just 0.097-second ahead of Finksburg, Maryland’s Peter Ensor. Ensor had set up Connole with a draft from second position but couldn’t pull his Mazda in front at the finish.
“It was a phenomenal race,” Connole said. “It was so much fun. It was back and forth the whole race, beating and banging, and the last couple of laps I got myself to second, got to first, and then tried to hold them off. The draft on the back straight was crazy, I had a gap and every time they closed up. But I came out first at the line.”
Ensor tried to make his final push at the top of VIR’s roller coaster and headed back down the hill to the finish line but was left less than a half-car length behind. That half car length remained the difference between Connole’s $1,000 first prize and the $500 Ensor will take home.
“It was a great race. I was in the top three pretty much the whole race. We were fighting the whole race. It was a lot of fun with these cars.”
Marching through the field from his sixth spot on the grid was Zack Month, of Scarsdale, New York. Month marched through the line of traffic one at a time, bouncing onto the podium with a pass around Nick Bruni with two laps to go. Month also earned the Hard Charger and the $500 product credit from Winding Road to go with his $250 for finishing third.
“I’m not sure any words can describe this,” Month said. “I’m really happy with the finish, but it was a little hectic out there. I had the speed, it was just a matter of patience. It’s hard to do that the last 10 minutes of the race. John Allen gave me an awesome bump draft. He really came up on me going through Oak Tree and pushed me past fourth place. At the end it was me and Nick Bruni side-by-side, and I’m just really happy.”
Bruni finished fourth, followed by the Island Motor Cars/Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda of Manny Martinez. Polesitter John Allen lost his lead with a bobble coming out of turn two on the opening lap and finished sixth.
Connole picked up 20 points toward the season-ending prize of $100,000 toward the 2019 MX-5 Cup.
Spec MX-5 Challenge is an affordable pro road racing series with a focus on driver development and a top prize of $100,000. In 2018, its ten-race regular season in the East will run at Virginia International Raceway, Summit Point Raceway, Road Atlanta and Monticello Motor Club. The ten-race Central season will run at NCM Motorsports Park, Circuit of The Americas, Hallett Motor Racing Circuit and NOLA Raceway Park. The top seven drivers from each region will compete at a championship-deciding event at Road Atlanta in November. The twenty drivers selected for the series pay $45,000 and receive full arrive-and-drive services, including transport, entry fees, tires, fuel, mechanical work, engineering and the use of a race car. For more information on Spec MX-5 Challenge, visit:
Image: Jason Connole celebrates his race win.