MX-5: Series Millville rounds 3, 4 preview

MX-5 Cup Readies for New Jersey Doubleheader MILLVILLE, N.J. (June 11, 2009) -- After a month-long hiatus, the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup is back in a big way, with a doubleheader and live TV at New Jersey Motorsports Park, June 12...

MX-5 Cup Readies for New Jersey Doubleheader

MILLVILLE, N.J. (June 11, 2009) -- After a month-long hiatus, the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup is back in a big way, with a doubleheader and live TV at New Jersey Motorsports Park, June 12 -- 14, as part of the Mazda Formula X weekend.

The timing couldn't be better for the first-ever live TV broadcast of MX-5 Cup on HDNet. This weekend offers not one, but two thrilling races on a track still fresh to the road racing world. New Jersey Motorsports Park is only in its second season, and with the ever-changing damp conditions MX-5 Cup competitors faced last year on their first visit to the track, it's unlikely any team walked away with a firm grip on car setup.

Team MER earned their first podium sweep at New Jersey Motorsports Park last year, with Robert Huffmaster taking the win, followed by Eric Foss and Ryan Schimsk. With Foss off to World Challenge and Huffmaster and Schimsk not on the roster this season, it will be up to point leader Marc Miller and teammates Zach Ply, Nick Mancuso, Chris Rhoades, Jeff Mosing and brothers Mike and Mark Jenkins to repeat.

Though he may not have had the seat time last year, Miller still knows a thing or two about the track, serving as lead engineer for Team MER since 2007. Driving the No. 28 MOCA/RaceNowforAutism/Sparco MX-5, Miller can learn more about the track's nuances from Mark Jenkins, who finished fifth in New Jersey last year. Jenkins recently topped that career-high performance in the No. Traxxas/BFG/Simpson/Amsoil MX-5 at Road Atlanta, where he stood next to Miller on the podium.

Following the trio of Team MER driver across the finish line at New Jersey Motorsports Park last year was Ara Malkhassian, owner of ALARA Racing. Malkhassian is off to a slow start this season. Though he's qualified on the front row for Rounds One and Two, the driver of the No. 11 ALARA Racing MX-5 has had difficulty translating his qualifying success into race results. With a 10th-place finish at Road Atlanta and a trip to the sand trap at Mazda Raceway, Malkhassian is currently 10th in the standings, but has an excellent point scoring opportunity this weekend with the doubleheader.

Fellow ALARA Racing driver Justin Piscitell has wasted no time demonstrating why he was selected as this year's MAZDASPEED MX-5 Cup Shootout winner. Piscitell has piloted his No. 89 DAMGRacing/Mazdaspeed/ALARA MX-5 to a podium finish in Round One and a sixth-place result in Round Two. The 20-year old arrives in New Jersey just 18 points behind Championship leader Miller.

ALARA Racing has also found success with Lyonel Kent, driver of the No. 13 ALARA Racing eData Solutions MX-5, who qualified on pole in his first MX-5 Cup race at Road Atlanta. Gearbox problems regulated Kent to a seventh-place finish in that race and he crossed the finish line at Mazda Raceway with another top-10 performance. Kent currently sits sixth in the Drivers' Championship.

A former New Jersey resident, Brett Smrz enters Rounds Three and Four of the 2009 season, still searching for his first win. The 18-year old has been impressively quick since his first MX-5 Cup outing in 2007 and not even having a portion of his left leg amputated after a trampoline accident in April of 2007 has slowed him down. With two top-five finishes driving the No. 6 SmrzRacing/InTouchPhysicalTherapy MX-5 for Atlanta Motorsports Group, Smrz is currently third in the Championship, chasing Piscitell.

In only his second MX-5 Cup appearance, Todd Lamb took the field by surprise in Round Two at Mazda Raceway, qualifying on the pole and taking the win for Atlanta Motorsports Group behind the wheel of the No. 84 AMG/Traqmate/Luna-C Racing MX-5. Though Lamb missed Round One, MX-5 Cup points allow for one drop, so he is by no means out of the Championship.

A third-place at Mazda Raceway wasn't the win Stan Wilson was gunning for, but it nearly felt like one for Wilson and Hale Motorsports, who celebrated the team's first podium finish in MX-5 Cup. Coupled with a top-10 finish at Road Atlanta, Wilson, driver of the No. 92 Patron/NetEvidence/Alliance 1 MX-5, finds himself fifth in the Championship heading into Rounds Three and Four this weekend.

The teams still have a lot to learn about New Jersey Motorsports Park as well as each other with only two rounds under their belts. A doubleheader weekend means there's no room for error and time is of the essence. Whoever makes the most of their track time and keeps their nose clean, could walk away with the Championship lead in their hands.

Race fans can watch it all unfold live on HDNet, Saturday, June 13, at 1 p.m. (EDT) and Sunday, June 14, at 1 p.m. (EDT). Those without access to HDNet can follow live timing and lap notes on or catch the rebroadcast on several syndicated cable and satellite networks.

-credit: scca pro racing

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About this article
Series SCCA
Drivers Stan Wilson , Ara Malkhassian , Todd Lamb , Nick Mancuso , Eric Foss , Brett Smrz , Justin Piscitell , Jeff Mosing , Lyonel Kent