Saini Closes MX-5 Cup Season At Road America With First-Ever Win ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (Sept. 24, 2006) - Jason Saini, of Fort Worth, Texas, held on to capture his first-career SCCA Pro Racing SIRIUS Satellite Radio Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by...
Saini Closes MX-5 Cup Season At Road America With First-Ever Win
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (Sept. 24, 2006) - Jason Saini, of Fort Worth, Texas, held on to capture his first-career SCCA Pro Racing SIRIUS Satellite Radio Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by Hankook win in the season's final race at Road America. Ara Malkhassian, of Houston, Texas, and Drew Staveley, of Walnut, Calif., completed the top three.
Saini started second in his No. 28 MER/specmiata.com/Autobarn Mazda Mazda MX-5 and traded the lead with teammate Jim Daniels, of Germantown, Tenn., at least 11 times (seven times at the stripe) in the first 15 laps before Daniels No. 76 saferacer.com/Team MER entry had a mechanical failure of some sort and crashed in the high-speed kink. Already crowned the series Champion at the penultimate round, Daniels (No. 76 saferacer.com/Team MER) was shaken up in the incident, but released from track medical after a quick checkup.
Once by himself, Saini cruised to the win by 27.127 seconds, averaging 90.872 mph in the 17-lap, 68.815-mile race.
When the two cars were battling for the lead, the margin between first and second was rarely over 0.1-second and never more than 0.2-second at the timing line.
"Jim [Daniels] already won the Championship and I hadn't won a race yet so we may have looked like we were just playing out there, but we were playing for keeps," Saini said. "I really wish we could have raced to the finish today and I hope Jim is okay. He had a big, scary crash out there. Nobody likes to see anybody crash in the kink."
Driving the No. 11 Alara Racing/DriverSource Mazda MX-5, Malkhassian scored his career-best finish after a race-long battle with Staveley. The duo was part of an early four-car battle for the lead, but when the two Team MER cars hooked up and worked together, they were able to gain separation from the group.
"We tried to work together to keep up with Daniels and Saini and when that didn't work, we figured 'what the heck, let's have some fun,'" Malkhassian said. "So we started just racing and battling each other in every corner. It was just awesome!"
Staveley, who also recorded his career-best finish in the No. 2 AJSRacing.com Mazda MX-5, echoed Malkhassian's sentiments.
"We were within inches of each other over half of the last lap, it was great racing with Ara [Malkhassian]," Staveley said. "We both had a lot of trust in each other to go in so deep into corners and it paid off for both of us."
Deborah Loth, of Fort Worth, Texas, was a career-best fourth in her No. 23 Team MER/Loth Endodontics Mazda MX-5 and was named the Sunoco Hard Charger after advancing from 18th on the starting grid.
Ben Hohn, of Easton, Conn., completed the top five in his No. 40 P1-Motorsports.com/Hale Motorsports Mazda MX-5, a career-best for him as well.
In addition to his maiden win, Saini also took home the Hawk Hot Lap award for the fastest race lap of 2:38.713 (91.818 mph).
Polesitter Payton Wilson, of Chantilly, Va., finished 21st, five laps down, in his No. 59 BSI Racing/Miami Dade Health entry after pitting for hub repairs after just a couple of laps.
Daniels, who clinched the inaugural MX-5 Cup title after his win a Miller Motorsports Park, finished with 226 points. Saini moved into second after his win, with 163 points. Todd Buras, who limped home to a 22nd-place finish after sustaining crash damage early, finished third, with 145 points, followed by Malkhassian and Loth, with 140 each.
All SCCA Pro Racing SIRIUS Satellite Radio Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by Hankook races will be broadcast on SPEED Channel on Saturdays this December at 4 and 4:30 p.m. (Eastern).
For more information, please visit www.mx-5cup.com