The penultimate event for the Battery Tender Global Mazda MX-5 Cup season was hosted last weekend at a new venue for the series, New Jersey Motorsports Park. It was added to make up for another lost event this season, and it was the first time many of the drivers had been there.
I’ve got some fond memories from when the circuit first opened and Grand-Am ran there. I got to drive both the Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5 and the Dempsey Racing Mazda RX-8 GT car at NJMP. The circuit presents many technical aspects with slight elevation changes and a variety of corner types.
For the MX-5 Cup competitors, it was apparent that the teams and drivers were going to have to learn the nuances of NJMP very efficiently in order to be competitive in time for the two races. The series had been at the same track for the two events leading up to New Jersey, running a total of four races at Mid-Ohio. Then the series took a turn from staying at the same track to visiting new venues for the final two events of the season. That really changes things up for these teams. The series is even finishing on a street course: they head to the streets of St. Petersburg later this month!
The challenges that new circuits present can really make or break a team in their quest for the championship. We saw a first-time winner at New Jersey: Mazda Scholarship driver and series rookie Jared Thomas not only won his first race in the series, but he also started from the pole position for both races. He took that win in dramatic fashion, crossing the line 0.0009 seconds ahead of second place for the closest win in series history. The challenges that this new circuit presented were something that some drivers clearly adapted to quickly!
After all the excitement in New Jersey, I am now getting ready to head to the traditional Petit LeMans weekend at Road Atlanta. I’m really excited to be attending this event because it is filled with special memories for me, and it has produced some exciting racing for me in the past!