2022 marks the 3rd year Mazda has held its Spec MX-5 Shootout in which two young drivers earn a race season in Mazda’s club racing factory team program.
Some of the best karters and quarter midget drivers in North America were nominated to join Mazda’s club racing factory team for 2023. To help determine who should be nominated, Mazda turned to eKartingNews.com as the primary guide, as well as some current and former Spec MX-5 racers who competed at the highest levels in karting.
Each Spec MX-5 Shootout nominee had the opportunity to submit a video discussing his or her on- and off-track efforts to become a sustainable, professional racer, as well as a racing resume and bio.
Mazda Motorsports, current Mazda scholarship driver Connor Zilisch and the 2021 Mazda scholarship driver Chris Nunes reviewed the submissions, selecting the nine drivers to move on to the Spec MX-5 Shootout to be held later this year (date and location TBA).
The Shootout: The two-day Spec MX-5 Shootout, which will run congruently with the MX-5 Cup Shootout, will test the drivers both on and off the track. Two-time 24 Hour At Daytona winner Max Papis (as seen above), current Mazda MX-5 Cup scholarship recipient Connor Zilisch, 2021 Mazda scholarship driver Chris Nunes, Jim Emerson from PAGID Racing, and Mazda Motorsports will judge the Spec MX-5 Shootout. The finalists will be judged on a combination of on-track speed and consistency, data comprehension, professionalism, preparation, and more. At the conclusion of the Shootout, two racers will become Mazda’s 2023 club racing factory drivers, earning full rides in the 2023 Spec MX-5 Challenge Series presented by Toyo Tires as NASA Teen Mazda Challenge competitors.
Mazda’s Support: The factory drivers will earn their NASA and SCCA competition licenses, receive testing days to further prepare for the race season, and then compete in the national series on four professional/bucket list tracks during the regular season, better preparing them for the pro racing circuit. The two drivers will then compete at the championship event later in the year.
As part of the journey, the factory drivers will be provided a mentor to help them better understand the racing industry and what it takes to sustain a pro racing career. At the track, the drivers will work with a Mazda professional driver and coach, as well as an engineer and crew. The Mazda race cars will fly Mazda scholarship colors; all parts consumables will be provided, including the spec tires selected for Spec MX-5 – Toyo Tires’ Proxes RR – for each race event and pre-season testing; the racers will have their entry fees covered; and receive travel and parts damage budgets.
Series Prizes: The Spec MX-5 Challenge presented by Toyo Tires offers more contingency awards per event than any other club racing series. Each regular season event offers more than $12,000 in contingency awards. The racer who wins the regular season national series, where the two club racing factory drivers will compete, will earn an additional $15,000. The racers who win any of the regular season regional championships will each earn $10,000. Any SMX racer who competed in the regular season will be eligible to compete at the national championship event (venue TBD), where the overall champion will earn an additional $30,000 and an automatic nomination to the 2023 MX-5 Cup Shootout; second place will earn $20,000, third place overall series finisher will earn $10,000; the Master’s champion will earn $5,000.
The 2022 Spec MX-5 Shootout Finalists
- Chase Jones, Indianapolis, IND
- Dalton Hanes, High Point, NC
- Finnegan Bayliff, Cincinnati, OH
- Gavin Bayliff, Cincinnati, OH
- Hannah Greenemeier, Parker, CO
- Hayden Jones, Blacksburg, VA
- Macy Williams, Littleton, CO
- Nolan Allison, Bloomfield Hills, MI
- Reid Sweeney, St. Louis, MO