MX-5 Cup: Millville preview

A Trans-Continental Trek for MX-5 Cup Millville, N.J. (Sept. 25, 2008) -- From Utah to New Jersey, the teams of the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup haven't had a minute to rest as Round Seven will get underway Sept. 26 -- 28, at the...

A Trans-Continental Trek for MX-5 Cup

Millville, N.J. (Sept. 25, 2008) -- From Utah to New Jersey, the teams of the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup haven't had a minute to rest as Round Seven will get underway Sept. 26 -- 28, at the new Thunderbolt Raceway, part of New Jersey Motorsports Park.

Thunderbolt Raceway is the only new venue on this year's MX-5 Cup schedule and it comes at a critical point in the season: the penultimate round. Just a week ago at Miller Motorsports Park, the top three in the Championship shuffled, as Brad Rampelberg took his second win of the season in the No. 14 Hooverspeed/Mazda/Patron Tequila MX-5, pushing him ahead of Todd Buras and into second, 42 points behind leader Eric Foss.

While Round Six at Miller Motorsports Park may have been disappointing for Foss, who finished outside the top three for the first time this season, a fourth-place finish in the No. 28 Team MER/Autobarn Mazda MX-5 was enough to maintain his Championship lead. Foss certainly faired better than Buras who was forced to pit with a flat tire and was unable to make up ground on the lengthy track. He finished 18th in the No. 56 Hooverspeed/Pancreaticcure.org MX-5 and dropped a spot in the Championship to third, where he now trails Rampelberg by four points. With 60 points on the line for a win, this order could be shuffled once again before the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca finale in October.

Though long shots, Ryan Schimsk, Robert Huffmaster and Ara Malkhassain are mathematically still in the hunt with two rounds remaining. Schimsk is hoping to return to the podium for the first time since his maiden race win at Road America in August. Schimsk's appeared to be en route to a podium finish in the No. 81 Team MER/Airco Mechanical MX-5 at Miller, before a last-lap pass attempt cost him the spot and then some. That same move handed Huffmaster and his No. 27 Team MER/Huffmaster Co. MX-5 the runner-up spot however, his second podium of the season including a win at Mosport. It pulled Huffmaster to within four points of Schimsk.

Malkhassian meanwhile, has found his second wind in the later half of the season. The No. 11 Alara Racing MX-5 driver just scored his second podium finish in-a-row at Miller Motorsports Park.

Though a new course might possibly level the playing field, new courses have yet to prove an obstacle for Foss, Rampelberg, Schimsk and Huffmaster who are all in their first year of MX-5 Cup competition and have never been to many of the tracks on the schedule. Each driver has even scored a win on a course that was brand new to them. What could really serve as the great equalizer this weekend is rain, which is in the forecast all weekend, with Sunday having the smallest chance for precipitation. Should it rain, keep your eyes on Huffmaster, who scored his first-ever win in a downpour at Mosport.

Keep track of all the MX-5 Cup action from Thunderbolt Raceway at www.mx-5cup.com, where live timing and notes are available on the New Jersey Motorsports Park event page. Following three rounds of practice on Friday, qualifying is scheduled for 9:25 a.m. (EDT) on Saturday. The 45-minute race will commence at 10:15 a.m. on Sunday.

The race will air on Dish Newtwork, DIRECTV and regional cable sports networks the week of October 27. The program will be posted to the MX-5 Cup You Tube Channel following the initial broadcast at www.youtube.com/MazdaMX5Cup.

-credit: scca pro racing

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About this article
Series SCCA
Drivers Brad Rampelberg , Todd Buras , Eric Foss
Teams Alara Racing