MX-5: Series Millville rounds five, six preview

MILLVILLE, N.J. - Entering the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup, the consensus was that the championship race was going to be a wide-open battle. With the midway point of the 11-race season falling during this weekend's Mazda ...

MILLVILLE, N.J. - Entering the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup, the consensus was that the championship race was going to be a wide-open battle. With the midway point of the 11-race season falling during this weekend's Mazda Motorsports Festival presented by VisitFlorida.com, those early-season thoughts have been confirmed.

Brad Rampelberg (4) leads the MX-5 Cup into New Jersey Motorsports Park.

Through four rounds, two drivers are tied atop the championship. Only 15 points separate the first from fourth place. Only 62 points separate the leader from ninth place, which is exactly the number of points a driver can earn by winning the race, leading a lap, and qualifying in the top five. Three different drivers have won races, and eight different drivers have finished on the podium.

Brad Rampelberg and Justin Piscitell are tied atop the Championship race with 209 points, though each has gotten there from a different direction.

Rampelberg, driving the No. 4 AMG/Mazda/Cobalt Brakes Mazda MX-5, has had a feast-or-famine season, winning at VIRginia International Raceway in the season opener, and again at the most recent round at Road America. Along the way, he's also finished second at Road Atlanta, but was knocked off-track on the last lap while leading at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca to finish 17th.

Piscitell, meanwhile, hasn't seen the spectacular results, but hasn't been off the pace, either. The No. 89 Team MER/DAMG Worldwide Mazda MX-5 has finished fourth three times, and landed on the podium at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca with a third place finish to earn his 209 points.

Sitting 10 points back is Rampelberg's AMG teammate, Michael Cooper. The MX-5 Cup rookie finished on the podium in his series debut, and has added a pair of fifth place finishes to earn his points in the No. 84 AMG/Bromante Landscaping & Design MX-5.

Nick Evans, one of three former MAZDASPEED Shootout winners in the series (along with Rampelberg and Piscitell), is 15 points in arrears in fourth place. Evans is driving the No. 28 Team MER/Mazda/Sparco MX-5, as a teammate to Piscitell in his first season in a production car-based race series after the 21-year-old began his career racing open-wheel cars.

Sitting fifth and still in the hunt with 181 points is ALARA Racing's Jesse Combs in the No. 77 ALARA Racing/coolgas.com MX-5. Combs has a best finish of fourth this season.

Though he sits the highest in the Championship, he's not the only ALARA Racing driver to keep an eye on in Millville. Ara Malkhassian, driving the No. 11 ALARA Racing/Bulldog Productions machine, has had two consecutive runner-up finishes. Lyonel Kent, driving the No. 13 ALARA Racing/Bulldog Productions MX-5, has a win under his belt this season at Road Atlanta.

Also bolstering the Team MER stable is Jeff Mosing, who with four top-10 finishes in the No. 30 Frank's International/RaceNowForAutism MX-5, sits sixth in the Championship.

Mark Carpenter, an SCCA Club Racing National Champion , has steadily improved throughout the season behind the wheel of his No. 14 AMG Racing/GGS Technical Publications and sits seventh in the Championship hunt.

Kristine Craine visits New Jersey Motorsports Park off of her best career finish of eighth at Road America in the No. 39 Pinktop Racing MX-5. John Tancredi returns to his home track in his No. 63 DILYSI Racing MX-5 after one previous appearance in the Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup, a 15th place finish at Road Atlanta.

The beauty of running a spec-series is that driver talent really has a chance to shine through. In MX-5 Cup, however, the additional alluring aspect is the car; the nimble, dependable and undeniably fun Mazda MX-5.

-source: scca pro racing

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Series SCCA
Drivers Nick Evans , Brad Rampelberg , Ara Malkhassian , Justin Piscitell , Michael Cooper , Jeff Mosing , Lyonel Kent