Monticello is spelled F-A-N-C-Y – The final race weekend of the 2018 Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich will be something unlike anything the series has experienced before.
Serving as the host for the season finale is Monticello Motor Club (MMC), a truly unique venue. Dubbed as an “automotive country club,” MMC is a far cry from Portland International, or Mid-Ohio. According to a video on the clubs website, MMC offers over four miles of racing surface that fits 12 different configurations. The track doesn’t just feature a lot of asphalt though. A helipad, and private landing strip for the “fly and drive” crowd (a fraternity that many think I belong to, but actually I do not ever since my jet was repossessed). Track president, Ari Straus calls MMC a “playground” for its members to drive cars the way they were meant to be driven. Which MX-5 driver will turn MMC in to their personal playground this weekend?
MMC and MMR – In that same four and a half minute informational video produced by MMC you will see several shots of Steven McAleer, co-owner of MX-5 Cup team McCumbee McAleer Racing. As a resident of New York State, McAleer splits his time between coaching and working with drivers at MMC, and popular North East karting track, Oakland Valley Race Park. The team’s website also features a Monticello Motor Club logo in the top right hand corner. It is no secret that McAleer has plenty of laps himself on the track that will crown this season’s champion. Could 2017 Rookie of the Year Robert Stout, who is fourth in the standings and races for MMR, benefit from all this? He thinks so. But Stout also acknowledges that at a track that features the longest straightaway of the year, the one thing you can’t study for will also be the deciding factor: drafting.
Championship POINT battle – The Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup Championship presented by BFGoodrich is intense. We know that by now. 12 races last season decided by less than four seconds. Races featuring literally hundreds of passes, and tight championship battles are what make up the Mazda MX-5 Cup series.
2018 though, might just be as tight as the championship battles get. As the series heads to its final weekend of the season, championship point leader Niko Reger holds a razor thin lead over Mazda scholarship racer Selin Rollan. How thin? One point thin.
The 20-year old from Houston, Texas took over the point lead with a sweep at weekend number two of the year in Alabama and has been consistently clean. But it was the round two winner from Orlando, Florida resurfacing to the top of the podium at round 10 back in Portland. Rollan was recently quoted as saying “I’ve been in championship battles before and the biggest thing is to just be smart about who you are racing, and make sure to keep that as your focus.” But Rollan will have to worry about more than just the #01 of Reger. Bryan Ortiz, Robert Stout, Nathaniel Sparks and Luke Oxner will be elbows up from the first green flag of the weekend.
Lookin’ Fly – If you thought the racing on track this year looked good, just wait until you see the drivers and team members this Saturday night when the lights come on and the trophies get handed out at the championship banquet. My favorite memory of the 2017 Mazda MX-5 Cup season was the year end banquet and the undeniable family feeling that floated through the room as the top-10 were honored as the champion and Rookie of the Year checks were handed out. Photos from photography legend Al Arena highlighted another great year of racing. All that and more will take place on Saturday night as we cap off another marvelous year of Mazda MX-5 Cup racing. The only question is… who the heck is going to stand on the championship podium, and in what order?!
The Mazda MX-5 Cup finale at Monticello Motor Club will get underway on Friday, September 28, with a two-race shootout for the championship on Saturday, September 29.