Birmingham, Ala. (18 April 2017) - Dress rehearsals are over, and following a very busy Spring Training test last month, the 2017 Battery Tender Global MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires championship will kick off with a double-header at Barber Motorsports Park this weekend as part of the Verizon IndyCar Series event. Two 45-minute races on Saturday will kick off the 12th season of competition for the Global MX-5 Cup series, which puts the results into the drivers’ hands thanks to the incredible parity that comes with a uniformly-sourced car. Built to a homologated spec by Long Road Racing, the SKYACTIV-engine Global MX-5 Cup machines will once again put the focus on driver performance in 2017. The visit to Barber Motorsports Park also marks the first event under the management of Andersen Promotions for the Mazda-owned series, which is now sanctioned by INDYCAR with Vince Kremer serving as Race Director. The focus on parity and affordability is well reflected in the 34-car entry list, which features drivers from 17 states and two countries. With such close competition and a deep field of talent, it would be a challenge to pick a winner with any certainty, and that was underscored during the Spring Training in March that saw six different drivers top each of the six sessions at the 2.38-mile circuit. Nikko Reger posted the fastest time of Spring Training with a lap of 1:40.0932-seconds, while Justin Piscitell, Tim Barber, Patrick Wilmot, Nathanial Sparks and Mark Drennan each closed out a session on top. Also adding to the competitive mix will be the $50,000 scholarship on offer from Mazda that will go to the highest finishing rookie in 2017. There are seven first-year racers who will look to get a fast start towards that prize this weekend at Barber Motorsports Park. 2016 Global MX-5 Cup champion Nathanial Sparks will look to convert the $200,000 scholarship that he earned with the title last year into a successful title defense. Making his first professional race start will be Matt Cresci, who won the 2016 Mazda Road to 24 Shootout. “We are thrilled to be starting our 12th season of Battery Tender Global MX-5 Cup competition this weekend at Barber Motorsports Park with a very deep field of racers,” said David Cook, Manager, Mazda Motorsports Business Development. “Being a part of the IndyCar events is something that our teams and drivers really appreciate, and we expect that we will have two great races for the fans this weekend to kick off the season. The response to the Global MX-5 Cup car has been outstanding and everyone at Mazda is working to continue to grow the series internationally.” Battery Tender Global MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires News and Notes: — Going Global: the Global MX-5 Cup is the North American edition of the all MX-5 championship, with Mazda’s vision being to create multiple championships around the globe all utilizing the same MX-5 Global Cup car. While 2017 marks just the second season with the new Global MX-5 Cup platform, there is already inertia with new international championships. Official tests for the GLOBAL MX-5 Cup Japan were carried out in March at Sportsland SUGO, Miyagi Prefecture where 10 MX-5 Cup cars took part as a first official step forward to building a championship in Japan. —Big Oak Ranch visit reflects Mazda’s big hearts: With the support of Mazda and Andersen Promotions, defending MX-5 Cup Champion Nathanial Sparks will host guests this weekend from the Big Oak Ranch (http://www.bigoak.org), a home for children needing a chance. The young visitors will get a behind the scenes look at a race weekend as well as some special opportunities to meet the drivers in the series and see the Global MX-5 Cup machine in person. —The Barber Motorsports Park entry list includes drivers from 17 states as well as Canada. —Both races will be streamed LIVE on www.MazdaLive.com on Saturday, April 22. Race 1 starts at 10:00 am (CT) with Race 2 at 5:40 pm (CT). —The 2017 season will see the introduction of a rookie championship-within-a-championship, with a $50,000 scholarship going to the top-finishing first-year racer. The 2017 class of Global MX-5 Cup rookies: 07 Joe DaSilva, Acushnet, MA. -- Ives Motorsports, Ives Motorsports 28 Robert Stout, Palm Springs, CA. – McCumbee McAleer Racing, Lucas Oil/SC Fuels 31 Luis Gavignano, Fairfax Station, VA. -- Atlanta Speedwerks, McDonalds 47 Chris Kopitski, Sioux Falls, SD. -- Copeland Motorsports, Kopitski Racing 51 Matt Cresci, San Jose, CA. -- Slipstream Performance, Mazda Motorsports 77 Luke Oxner, Greely, CO. -- White Racing, Wine Country Motorsports 90 Dillon Dexter, Central City, NE. -- Copeland Motorsports, Dexter Racing 97 Frank Garcia, Frostproof, FL. -- Universal Motorsports, Universal Shooting Academy/Ron Automotive —Youth, and experience: while there is a healthy roster of rookies, there is also a lot of experience in the field. Three former series champions: John Dean II (2015) , Nathaniel Sparks (2016), and Todd Lamb (2009) will all return for full-season campaigns. The driver with the most series experience is Ara Malkhassian, who has been in 110 of the 112 races run since 2006. — 2017 is the 12th season for the Global MX-5 Cup series, second for the Long Road Racing-built Global MX-5 Cup machine. — The Barber Motorsports Park race weekend is the first race event with INDYCAR sanctioning and Andersen Promotions management for the Global MX-5 Cup series. — Key marketing and commercial partners for the series include Mazda, Battery Tender, BFGoodrich Tires, Pagid Racing, and VP Racing Fuels. — The Global MX-5 Cup car had its first season of competition in 2016, with the field of drivers completing 23,852.08 miles of competition. The circumference of the earth is 24,901 miles. — Battery Tender Global MX-5 Cup Autograph session: 1:30 pm – 2:00 pm Friday at the IndyCar Fan Village — Local Flavor: While there are drivers arriving in Alabama from all around the country, there are several for whom this is their home event: 06 Patrick Wilmot, Villa Rica, GA. -- GB Racing 03 Ashton Harrison, Villa Rica, GA. -- GB Racing 8 Nathanial Sparks, Spanish Fort, AL. -- SickSideways Racing 94 Topher Everett, Bogart, GA. -- Atlanta Speedwerks 84 Todd Lamb, Atlanta, GA. -- Atlanta Speedwerks 2017 Battery Tender Global MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires Schedule: Rounds 1 & 2 Barber Motorsports Park April 21-23 Rounds 3 & 4 Indianapolis Motor Speedway June 16-18 Rounds 5 & 6 Road America June 23-25 Rounds 7 & 8 Streets of Toronto July 14-16 Rounds 9 & 10 Watkins Glen International September 1-3 Rounds 11 & 12 Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca September 22-4 Global Invitational Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca October 13-15 About: The MX-5 Cup race cars start as complete MX-5 road cars from the Hiroshima, Japan factory before being transported to engineering development partner Long Road Racing in Statesville, North Carolina where they are produced into a race car. The process includes disassembly of the production car, welding and paint of a full roll cage and interior, and assembly of the race car, adding more than 250 motorsports-specific parts. Other components of the car, including the SKYACTIV 2.0 liter engine are sealed to ensure even competition and a cost-effective platform. The current price of the car is $58,900. Details and ordering information can be found online at www.mazdamotorsports.com. The Battery Tender Global MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires is the signature spec series for the Mazda Road to 24 (#MRT24), the sports car counterpart to the Mazda Road to Indy (#MRTI). On both paths, Mazda-powered champions earn a Mazda scholarship to advance their career. The MX-5 Cup champion earns a $200,000 scholarship. Find out more at http://www.mx-5cup.com.