Saini Wins at Trois-RiviÃ¨res, Clinches MX-5 Cup Championship TROIS-RIVIÃˆRES, Que. (Aug. 19, 2007) -- Starting on pole and leading all 29 laps, Jason Saini, of Fort Worth, Texas, not only won Round Seven of the SCCA Pro Racing SIRIUS...
Saini Wins at Trois-Rivières, Clinches MX-5 Cup Championship
TROIS-RIVIÈRES, Que. (Aug. 19, 2007) -- Starting on pole and leading all 29 laps, Jason Saini, of Fort Worth, Texas, not only won Round Seven of the SCCA Pro Racing SIRIUS Satellite Radio Mazda MX-5 Cup at the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivièrs, but also clinched the 2007 MX-5 Cup Championship. Todd Buras, of Fort Worth, Texas, and Andrew Caddell, of Graham, Wash., completed the podium.
The MX-5 Cup race at Trois-Rivières might have looked like a breeze for Saini, who lead the entire race unchallenged, but three full-course caution periods for disabled cars on course, made the 45-minute, 44.109-mile race seem like an eternity to the driver of the No. 28 Autobarn Mazda/SafeRacer.com MX-5.
"I went out there and was able to pull away a little bit," Saini said. "But, then the caution came out. I pulled away a little more on the restart and another caution came out. I was thinking 'this is the longest race I've done in my entire life.' I just wanted some green flag. Eventually we got a long green flag run and I was able to pull a gap, but when the yellow flag came out again I thought there was going to be a last lap scrap. I would have been ready for that."
In the end it wouldn't be a last lap scrap and the race would finish under yellow, for the No. 09 O Water/Alex's Lemonade MX-5 of John Kuitwaard, disabled in Turn One. Taking the checkered flag behind the pace car couldn't stop Saini from savoring the victory however, as the win earned him enough points to clinch the 2007 MX-5 Cup Championship ahead of the final round at Miller Motorsports Park in September. As the Champion, Saini has won himself a ride in the 2008 SCCA SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Championship courtesy of Mazda.
"This is pretty indescribable," Saini beamed. "Racing has always been a dream of mine. I've worked really hard and I've had a ton of support from so many people. I can't even put into words what it feels like to get a professional championship. What Mazda has put up for a prize is just a dream come true for me. I grew up watching World Challenge and its predecessors and always hoped that I'd have a chance to drive there and now getting the opportunity to do that, I'm just thrilled.
"I have to thank Team MER and the whole crew for putting together an awesome car. We tweaked it every session and got a little faster every session. Half the time you do changes and you go backwards, but every one of ours went forwards and it was even better for the race."
Rounds Seven was a clean sweep for Saini. In addition to qualifying on pole and leading every lap, he reset the MX-5 Cup lap record, entering a fast time of 1:16.170 (71.886 mph) around the 11-turn, 1.521-mile temporary street circuit and taking home the Hawk Hot Lap award. The three caution periods slowed the average speed of the race to 58.109 mph.
Buras collected his best finish of the season and best career-finish at Trois-Rivières with a run from sixth to finish second. Driving the No. 56 BSI/Team Garcia/MOMO/Joe Gibbs MX-5, Buras used the two restarts pick up spots in the race, but wasn't prepared to challenge Saini.
"When the yellows came out I was putting together a strategy to get by Jason, but I was also trying to save the gearbox." Buras said. "I think if that wasn't in the back of my mind I could have maybe had something for him. He got hot lap, but I was only two tenths off.
"The BSI Team put together a really good car this weekend. From the first lap to the last lap the car didn't change at all. I've got to say thanks to my wife and the new baby, to Stu and the entire crew. I've also got to thank Mazda and SIRIUS for putting this series together and especially Three Rivers. This is a great place and a lot of fun, it just clicks for me. I've been real fast since the first time I came here. I like the walls and I don't mind getting real close. I got a couple stripes today, but it doesn't bother me."
Starting third, Caddell was one of two drivers with a mathematical shot at stopping Saini from clinching the Championship this season, but a third-place finish was not enough for the driver of the No. 30 Team MER/AimSport/Pinnacle Mazda MX-5 to halt his teammate's Championship run. Caddell, however, was happy with his race.
"Jason got a really good start, so I just followed him through Turn One, but Pratt [Cole] kept it in there in Turn Two," Caddell said. "I couldn't do anything about it, so I just wound up in third. Then Todd got up there after the first full-course yellow and Jesse [Combs] got past me. I was content to ride there, but then Jesse missed a shift, so I got back by him. After that I was just trying to hold off Pratt and those guys back there.
"It was all and all a good race. The car was set-up all right for the beginning of the race. The short run was really good, but once we had that long run I had nothing for them. The second yellow was good for me, but the third yellow was bad, because all those guys were right up on me and I was thinking 'oh, here we go.' I was a little nervous for that restart, but then we ended up finishing under yellow."
The other driver that had the potential to catch Saini in the Championship was Ara Malkhassian, of Sonoma, Calif. Driving the No. 11 Alara Racing MX-5, Malkhassian worked his way up from seventh on the grid to finish fourth. Pratt Cole, of Salt Lake City, Utah, finished fifth in his No. 88 DEX/Western Companies/RPM MX-5.
Mark Jenkins, Brad McAllister, Mike Jenkins, Andrew Carbonell and Forest Barber completed the top ten.
Actor and Grey's Anatomy star Patrick Dempsey just missed the top-ten, finishing 11th after starting 16th in the No. 29 AutismSpeaks.org/TeamMER MX-5.
Saini exits Round Seven with 218 points and the Championship clinched. He is followed by Caddell with 169 points and Malkhassian with 161 points.
The final round of the Mazda MX-5 Cup will take place September 13 -- 15 at Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah. For all the latest news visit www.mx-5cup.com.