Devin's No. 35 Mazda MX-5 at Road America.

Devin’s No. 35 Mazda MX-5 at Road America.

The Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup Series was at Road America this weekend for rounds 9 and 10 of their season. It was a little bit of a different scenario than the recent IMSA weekend at that track because the series was racing with the NASCAR Xfinity Series.

I was working with Devin Jones once again. Devin is in his second full season of MX-5 Cup after moving over from the NASCAR side, so he was definitely in his element over the weekend. He has done a great job getting adjusted to the sports car side of racing.

The Thursday test day gave us a lot of track time to get up to speed and optimize the car setup for Road America, and official practice began later that afternoon. By the end of the day, Devin was very pleased with his performance since he was among the top five in practice.

The next morning was busy with qualifying followed by the first race. With a top-ten qualifying performance, we knew it was going to be an exciting race for Devin. There were so many evenly-matched cars in the race: the top dozen cars all qualified within just over one second of each other!

We knew we’d have to take a methodical approach to working toward the front of the field. With it being a 45-minute race, we needed to be smart and have the right strategy. Devin worked the plan perfectly. He got a great start and worked with his teammates to draft. That allowed him to pick up positions throughout the first half of the race.

Devin got up to sixth, but an untimely full-course yellow repacked the field. On the restart, the car ahead of Devin had an issue and came up short, and a whole swarm of cars got bottlenecked. Devin lost a couple of spots and had to work hard to regain them. He ended up 7th in a race that ended under caution. The phrase “yellows breed yellows” absolutely applied in this situation!

It was great to see Danny Bender at Road America, too. He last drove at that track with Freedom Autosport, and he was also competing in the MX-5 Cup series this weekend. Danny won Saturday’s race in the rain. Congratulations to him on a big accomplishment!

35_NASCARAfter Friday’s race, I headed back to the Carolinas before traveling to Virginia International Raceway for the NASCAR K&N Series road course race. I enjoy being able to work with various young NASCAR drivers every year at that event. It’s fun because it’s a different arena with it being stock cars and it’s a different crop of drivers each year because it’s a development series.

This year, I worked with Rico Abreu, who is a very successful dirt sprint car racer who has moved up to the K&N Series. I’ve never done dirt racing, and Rico had only ever raced on one road course! It was obvious that he was a quick learner. We had minimal practice time, but Rico really got the hang of the track and quickly learned to apply road course racing techniques to qualify in the top ten. The entire team was optimistic about the race because of that great momentum. Unfortunately, though, a mechanical issue plagued Rico’s car in the race, and he had to pit before the end. It was a somber end to a promising day, but it showed us what diverse talent Rico has, so it will be fun to see his success as he progresses. He really has a bright motorsports career ahead of him.