MX-5: Season finale preview

THE CURTAIN FALLS ON SEASON TWO Season two of the SCCA Pro Racing SIRIUS Satellite Radio Mazda MX-5 Cup comes to a close much the same way season one did. Like Jim Daniels in 2006, Jason Saini enters the final round with the championship ...

THE CURTAIN FALLS ON SEASON TWO

Season two of the SCCA Pro Racing SIRIUS Satellite Radio Mazda MX-5 Cup comes to a close much the same way season one did. Like Jim Daniels in 2006, Jason Saini enters the final round with the championship already clinched. The venues for the two season finales is also similar. Last year's finale took place at the long and fast Road America, this year the series takes it up a notch, to the country's longest road course -- Miller Motorsports Park.

Saini might have the Championship in hand, but don't expect him to take it easy by any means. The Team MER driver's first series victory came at last year's season finale and he finished second here in 2006 following a tight battle with Jim Daniels and Anders Hainer. Saini will also be on a quest to ensure he finishes the season with a top-three finish at every single race, an impressive accomplishment in such a competitive series and the foundation of his 2007 Championship.

The newly-crowned Champion will have to battle the largest field in MX-5 Cup history this weekend. Should every car make it to the starting grid, 31 cars will take part in Round Eight of the MX-5 Cup. The surge in entries is courtesy of an season-ending all star line-up that include Grey's Anatomy star Patrick Dempsey, Frankie Muniz current Champ Car Atlantic driver and former star of Malcom in the Middle, Ian Ziering of Beverly Hills 90210 fame and recent contestant on Dancing With the Stars, as well as Champ Car Atlantic standout and one of the top female racers in the country, Simona De Silvestro.

The celebrity ensemble will find themselves in the midst of several Championship point battles. This includes Saini's MER teammate, Andrew Caddell, who currently sits second in the points, only seven points ahead of ALARA Racing team leader Ara Malkhassian. Both drivers earned their first-career wins this season and Caddell has yet to finish outside the top three since his win at Portland. Malkhassian certainly has the speed to catch Caddell this weekend, he's collected three Hawk Hot Laps this season and finished fourth here last year.

Currently fourth in the Championship, Jesse Combs is coming off a rough Round Seven at Trois-Rivières, where he finished 16th. Combs will need to return to his top-five form again this weekend to have a shot at finishing the season inside the top three in points and to hold off Matt Cross and Pratt Cole.

Cross and Cole are fifth and sixth in the Championship, respectively, separated by a mere two points. Like Combs, Cross had a rough go of it at Trois-Rivières, retiring early with transmission woes. Meanwhile, Salt Lake City native Cole was having one of his best runs of the season, qualifying second and finishing fifth. All eyes will be on Cole this weekend to see if the local driver can put in a performance that pushes him into the top five in points.

Also not so far behind, sitting seventh in points is 17-year-old Andrew Carbonell. The Team BSI driver has been improving with each round, notching a career-best fourth in Cleveland and fighting his way to ninth at the tight confines of Trois-Rivières. The wide open spaces of Miller Motorsports Park might give this young talent a chance to stretch his wings this weekend.

Speaking of young talent, the MX-5 Cup family is happy to welcome back 16-year-old Brett Smrz to the paddock this weekend. The young gun who caught everyone's attention at the season opener in Houston by winning pole in his first professional car race, returns as a guest for the season finale after undergoing surgery in May to remove a portion of his left leg, the result of a trampoline accident. Smrz was recently outfitted with a prosthetic leg and foot and is already making preparations to return to MX-5 Cup next year.

-credit: scca pro racing

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Series SCCA
Drivers Pratt Cole , Ara Malkhassian , Anders Hainer , Patrick Dempsey , Jim Daniels , Jason Saini , Andrew Caddell , Brett Smrz , Jesse Combs , Frankie Muniz