Kent Takes Wild MX-5 Cup Season Finale; Lamb Claims 2009 Championship ALTON, Va. (Oct. 4, 2009) -- Lyonel Kent, of Powell, Tenn., survived a wild race at VIRginia International Raceway to win Round 10 of the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5...
Kent Takes Wild MX-5 Cup Season Finale; Lamb Claims 2009 Championship
ALTON, Va. (Oct. 4, 2009) -- Lyonel Kent, of Powell, Tenn., survived a wild race at VIRginia International Raceway to win Round 10 of the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup, part of the Bosch Engineering Oktoberfest Weekend. Justin Piscitell, of Patterson, N.Y., and Mark Jenkins, of Fairview, Texas, completed the podium at the 2009 season finale.
Todd Lamb, of Atlanta, Ga., clinched the season-long Championship.
Starting from second in the No. 13 ALARA Racing/eData Solutions MX-5, Kent immediately charged for the lead, pulling alongside polesitter Marc Miller entering Turn One. The move gave Kent the lead briefly, but ultimately dropped him back several positions on the opening lap.
"I was on the outside in Turn One and instantly realized that the outside of Turn One is not where you want to be," Kent said. "I slid out wide, but I was able to make the move stick and got Marc [Miller] going into Turn Three, but I still had a lot of clag on the tires when I got there, so the car got real loose. I went sideways and a few people got by me. I wasn't too worried about it though, because I knew the draft was awesome. My MX-5 has drafted well all weekend long. We were fast straight off the truck. I knew the draft would be key and if I was just patient and let the race come to me, that it could happen."
Kent didn't have to wait long for the race to come to him, as an incident in Turn Six not only promoted Kent back to second, but required a thorough clean up, bringing out the pace car for a full-course yellow. One of the cars involved was none other than Championship leader Lamb, who would pit twice during the full-course caution, but later work his way back up to the front.
On the lap-five restart, Kent was able to retake the lead from Miller, but was unable to shake him loose and the No. 28 Team MER/MOCA/Race Now for Autism became a fixture in Kent's rear-view mirror.
Working with teammate Ara Malkhassian in the No. 11 ALARA Racing MX-5, Kent was able to draft past Miller when he briefly re-took the lead on lap nine, but Miller managed to re-pass both of the ALARA teammates on the following lap, only this time he had Championship leader Lamb in tow. Kent once again bided his time as Miller and Lamb battled ahead of him. When Miller was shuffled back to fourth on lap 11, Kent made his move on Lamb, taking the lead on the back stretch of the 17-turn, 3.27-mile course on lap 12.
"I was very restrained in the [Round Nine] race yesterday," Kent said. "I had a goal of a podium for the end of the year. I didn't want to get mixed up with the Todds. I just wanted to get in a rhythm at the end and that worked out. So I knew today, if the same scenario took place, I felt like I had their number. I had a strategy for them. One of my key moves of the race was getting past Todd Lamb down the back stretch, just like I did yesterday."
With his teammate Malkhassian working as a wingman, embroiled in a battle with Lamb and Miller for the final podium spots, Kent was able to focus on turning consistent laps all the way to the finish line.
"After the caution, we got a couple of clean laps before it got crazy," Kent recalled. "I was very fortunate to be ahead of most that carnage. Really, that was the key to this whole thing, was being ahead of the mayhem. The BFGoodrich Tires held up the whole race, the car was consistent and as driver that's all you can ask for.
"I was very glad to have [teammate Ara Malkhassian] behind me and take a lot of the brunt of what went on. I knew that he wasn't going to do anything stupid and work with me. That was our whole plan from the beginning, to get the yellow cars together and take the A-Train to the front. I was glad to see my teammate, my good pal Justin [Piscitell] behind me at the end as well. The last few laps I was as calm as could be. It was up to me to do the same thing over and over again."
Kent won the 17-lap, 55.59-mile race by 1.593 seconds, averaging 72.388 mph. After winning the pole in the season opener, Kent found a win in the season finale to be the perfect ending to his first season of MX-5 Cup.
"I don't like to not finish what I start. I started the season with a pole, why not end it with a win?"
Piscitell was the largest beneficiary of the messy race. Starting 11th, the driver of the No. 89 ALARA/DAMG Racing/MAZDASPEED MX-5 was already up to fifth on lap one. After being demoted to sixth by Todd Buras in the No. 14 AMG MX-5 on lap 12, Piscitell miraculously found himself in the runner-up spot on lap 14.
"I think it was the number 14 car that got four-wheels off at Oak Tree and that gave me a clean nose to chase down the guys in front," Piscitell said. "Then, I come over the hill in Turn 14 and I see three cars side-by-side, squeezing each other, just go straight off the track. It looked like they were fighting so hard through the brake zone that they forgot to use it. By the time I got to the corner, the track was clear and I just went on through."
As Malkhassian, Lamb and Miller spun off into the tires at Turn 14, Piscitell breezed through to claim second place, where he remained on his own until the checked flag. The 20 year-old's charge from 11th to second also earned him the Carbotech Hard Charger of the Race Award.
"ALARA gave me an awesome car," Piscitell said. "The car was great the entire race. We kept our nose clean and it was just adrenaline the whole way. There were people going off and some wild bumping and banging, but we kept it together and my ALARA Racing/DAMG MAZDASPEED MX-5 ran great today.
"I'm feeling real good. This is my best finish of the season; a great way to end the season in my opinion."
Jenkins benefitted from the same incident that promoted Piscitell to second. Starting ninth in the No. 25 Team MER/JBR/Traxxas/BFG/Simpson/Amsoil MX-5, Jenkins fell back to 10th initially, where he remained until lap seven. From lap 12 to lap 15, Jenkins picked up four positions, just by keeping his nose clean and brought the car home in third.
"We started the race off with a turn that only holds two cars two-wide," Jenkins recalled. "Anything more than that and you're going for a ride in the sand. Then we go up through a series of twin Esses up the hill and there's not a lot of room. What happened on the first lap was people going bumper-to-tail and things got ugly. It didn't get much better after they cleaned the mess up. It was a day of over-aggression out there. Ironically, I dialed myself back, had a clean race and ended up on the box in third.
"I'm not taking credit for why I'm here today. Team MER gave me a great platform to work with. I was just the monkey behind the wheel and did my job. I just turned consistent laps today. The car never fell off, the tires stayed right under me start-to-finish and I've got to thank BFGoodrich for that."
After a second-place finish in Saturday's Round Nine race, Buras, of Melbourne, Fla., finished Round 10 just shy of the podium in fourth.
Newcomer Dennis Bize, of New York, N.Y., who started 10th in the No. 18 AMG/CaviNYC.com MX-5, finished fifth.
Jeff Mosing finished a career-best sixth, followed by Tim Probert, Ryan Ellis Alfred Ciaola and Brian Audet.
Miller set a new lap record during the race, recording a 2:14.008 (87.845 mph).
Though the two main rivals in the 2009 SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup Championship exited the race on lap 14, their positions in the point standings remained as they were when the race began. In the final Championship tally (which dropped the lowest scoring race from each drivers' total), Lamb claimed the Title by 51 points over Miller (530 to 479). Pisctell ended the season in third (475) followed by Jenkins (394) and Kent (390).
Rounds Nine and 10 of the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup will air on syndicated cable and satellite networks at a later date. Rounds One through Seven are currently available on demand at www.youtube.com/MazdaMX5Cup. News and results are always available on www.mx-5cup.com. MX-5 Cup is also on Twitter @MazdaMX5Cup
-credit: scca pro racing