MX-5: Series Utah round eight preview

MX-5 Cup Back in Action at Miller Motorsports Park TOOELE, Utah (Sept. 16, 2009) -- After a month of rest and relaxation, the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup is eager to return to the track and discover the next twist in the 2009 ...

MX-5 Cup Back in Action at Miller Motorsports Park

TOOELE, Utah (Sept. 16, 2009) -- After a month of rest and relaxation, the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup is eager to return to the track and discover the next twist in the 2009 Championship. For Round Eight of the 10-race season, the series heads to Miller Motorsports Park, just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah, a track at which the MX-5 Cup has stopped every year since its 2006 debut.

The Championship point standings were shaken up following Round Seven at Road America, as then-leader Marc Miller was penalized 29 points for contact during the race. The penalty dropped Miller to second in the Championship and promoted Todd Lamb to the lead. With three races remaining, Lamb now leads Miller by eight points. Every driver will be allowed to drop his or her lowest scoring race from their point total at the end of the season. If Lamb were to drop his non-appearance at Road Atlanta, and Miller his penalized Road America race, Lamb would still be leading Miller in the Championship by a healthy 37 points. For Miller, the writing is on the wall: he needs to win and he needs Lamb to have some bad races.

The numbers are certainly in Lamb's favor; six race wins and five pole positions in the No. 84 AMG/Traqmate/Luna-C Racing MX-5. Including his lone race start in 2006, that gives Lamb a career winning percentage of 75 percent. That's better than any of the previous MX-5 Cup Champions thus far, including Jim Daniels' five wins in the eight-race 2006 season. Expecting anything but more race wins from Lamb this season is a stretch.

The overwhelming success of Lamb and Atlanta Motorsports Group has left Team MER scratching their heads. The team has produced the MX-5 Cup Championship-winning driver every season since the series was created in 2006 (Daniels in 2006, Jason Saini in 2007 and Eric Foss in 2008). But now, its top candidate, Miller, who has worked as an engineer and driving coach for the team since 2007, is running out of time to catch Lamb in the point standings. If hard work alone could get them there, the battle for the Championship would go down to the wire, but it will likely take a little magic and a little luck for the No. 28 Team MER/MOCA/RaceNowForAutism/MMP MX-5 to beat Lamb to the Title.

There is one driver in the paddock who can claim to have beaten Lamb, and that's Justin Piscitell, who beat Lamb to the Road America pole position in Round Eight. Driving the No. 89 ALARA/DAMG Racing MX-5, Piscitell snapped Lamb's streak of pole positions by taking the first of his career. The 20-year-old was unable to translate his qualifying success into a podium finish at Road America, but with Miller's penalty, he was still able to make up ground in the Championship and is now only eight points out of second place.

Zach Ply has really picked up the pace in the second half of the season. The driver of the No. 27 Team MER/Insight Beverage Co. MX-5 has scored two consecutive podium finishes and moved into fourth in the Championship. Ply has already stated that he's looking forward to racing at Miller Motorsports Park, which reminds him of his home track, Autobahn Country Club.

After a rough couple of races, Stan Wilson was finally able to show his true speed in the No. 92 Hale Motorsports/NetEvidence/Alliance 1 MX-5 at Road America. Qualifying fourth, Wilson was in the hunt for his first win for much of the race, but was eventually shuffled back to fourth at the checkered flag. Though that might be a successful weekend in most drivers' books, Wilson left Wisconsin disappointed, but looking forward to giving it another go in Utah.

Ara Malkhassian returns to the MX-5 Cup grid once again after missing Round Eight. The driver of the No. 11 ALARA MX-5 looked like he had a second-place finish wrapped up at Miller Motorsports Park last year, before a last-lap incident dropped him to third. A fourth-place finisher here in 2006, look for him to charge to the front once again.

An unusual schedule awaits MX-5 Cup in Tooele, with the first official practice session taking place late Thursday and only one practice session on Friday. Qualifying and the 45-minute race will both take place on Saturday with little more than two hours between sessions. The series Web site, www.mx-5cup.com will offer live timing and notes for all official sessions as well as news and results from throughout the weekend. The series is also on Twitter @MazdaMX5Cup.

-credit: scca pro racing

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Series SCCA
Drivers Stan Wilson , Ara Malkhassian , Todd Lamb , Jim Daniels , Jason Saini , Eric Foss , Justin Piscitell , Marc Miller