MX-5: Portland round three preview

MX-5 Cup Resumes at Portland PORTLAND, Ore. (July 24, 2008) -- Finally, after 10 long weeks, the engines are being fired at Portland International Raceway for Round Three of the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup. PIR will be the ...

MX-5 Cup Resumes at Portland

PORTLAND, Ore. (July 24, 2008) -- Finally, after 10 long weeks, the engines are being fired at Portland International Raceway for Round Three of the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup.

PIR will be the center of all things Zoom-Zoom this weekend as the Mazda Grand Prix of Portland rolls into town. The 1.967-mile road course has produced some memorable MX-5 Cup racing in seasons past, which could explain why PIR has been a staple on the schedule since the days of the Miata Cup.

Last year Andrew Caddell, of nearby Graham, Wash., scored his first MX-5 Cup win by a considerable margin, while the frantic dance of wild passing moves behind him was one of the best shows of the 2007 season. At PIR, it's impossible not to witness some hairy moments when you have a pack of MX-5s heading toward the Festival Curves at 110 mph.

Although he's been absent from the opening two rounds of the 2008 MX-5 Cup season, Caddell is back for his hometown race in the No. 30 Victory Lane Data/Traxxas MX-5. Rest assured no one in the paddock doubts the comeback abilities of the 2007 Championship runner-up just because he missed the first two races. Caddell made it obvious last year that he knows his way around PIR, wet or dry.

Another local driver poised to take the field by storm is Brad McAllister in the No. 39 ACE Surgical MX-5. The Portland driver's career-best finish came here in 2006 when he finished second to Jim Daniels. In 2007, McAllister collected his first-ever series pole during a rainy qualifying session, but the dry race conditions and nose-to-tail racing shuffled McAllister down the running order. If he could combine those two Portland weekends into one, he may be looking at his first MX-5 Cup win.

Standing in Caddell and McAllister's way are the Team MER and Hooverspeed team leaders: Eric Foss and Todd Buras.

Foss is two-for-two when it comes for MX-5 Cup poles this season and followed up his Road Atlanta victory with a runner-up finish at Mosport. From those two races alone we've seen Foss can conquer whatever weather mother nature throws at the No. 28 Autobarn MX-5, but can he survive a storm of MX-5s heading into the Festival Curves?

Buras was a close second to Foss at Road Atlanta and charged through the rain at Mosport to finish fifth after starting ninth, but his highest MX-5 Cup finish at Portland is eighth. Driving the No. 56 pancreaticcure.org/pancan.org MX-5, Buras is currently 16 points behind Foss in the Championship.

A pair of SCCA Champions follow Foss and Buras in the Championship point race. SCCA Spec Miata Champion Brad Rampelberg and SCCA Touring 3 Champion Robert Huffmaster were both invited to the Mazdaspeed Motorsports Development Ladder shootout to win an MX-5 Cup car and parts for the 2008 season. Rampelberg was awarded the car, now the No. 14 Mazda/Hooverspeed MX-5, and sits 10 points ahead of Huffmaster in the Championship, but Huffmaster is no slouch in the No. 27 Huffmaster Companies MX-5. He's the most recent MX-5 Cup winner, putting on a rain racing clinic at Mosport, and he's clocked the fastest lap of the race at both rounds thus far.

Two youngsters are currently tied for the sixth spot in the Championship at the moment. Both 22 year-old Ryan Schimsk and 17 year-old Christian Franck have 87 points apiece. Driving the No. 81 Airco Mechanical MX-5, Schimsk tied his teammate Foss for the fastest qualifying lap at Road Atlanta, but started second based on second-fastest lap time. He led several laps of the race before a costly bobble sent him back to fourth. Schimsk is now looking to recover from a disappointing weekend at Mosport where he finished 13th after qualifying fourth. Franck, too, had a considerably better race at Road Atlanta than he did at water-logged Mosport. The No. 16 Select Painting MX-5 pilot picked up seven positions in the Road Atlanta race where he finished fifth. At Mosport, Franck qualified third, but struggled in the rain and fell back to 11th.

Round Three at Portland will bring us a race inside a race as writers Sam Moses and Garth Stein will compete to see who the fastest author is. Race fans recognize Moses' as the former Sports Illustrated writer who penned "Fast Guys, Rich Guys and Idiots," about his adventures in the racing world, while Stein's latest book "The Art of Racing in the Rain," tells the story of the Swift family as seen through the eyes of their SPEED Channel-loving dog Enzo. Both writers will pilot MX-5s adorned with their respective book's cover artwork.

There's no rain in the forecast for Portland this weekend, but that doesn't mean that the MX-5 Cup cars won't be challenging the grip of their Kumho tires at Portland International Raceway. MX-5 fans have witnessed the kind of racing this Pacific Northwest track produces and the entire paddock itself is preparing for some close-quarters racing. Follow live timing and lap notes at www.mx-5cup.com and mark the week of August 18 on your calendars when the race will begin broadcasting on DIRECTV, Dish Network and regional cable networks.

-credit: scca pro racing

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About this article
Series SCCA
Drivers Brad Rampelberg , Todd Buras , Jim Daniels , Andrew Caddell , Eric Foss