IMSA kicked off the racing season at Daytona International Speedway last week. It’s always great to dive right in with the Rolex 24! This year, although there was a limited number of fans, the event still had that special, iconic feeling. That wasn’t just for the Rolex 24, but also for the now IMSA-sanctioned Mazda MX-5 Cup Series.
There were a bunch of drivers who were making their MX-5 Cup Series debut as well as a lot who were racing at Daytona for the first time. That made the double-header weekend even more special: not only was the series competing at a legendary venue for the first time, but it was also a significant milestone for a lot of drivers. And, as expected, the racing did not disappoint.
It was fun to watch the teams and drivers that got the drafting technique figured out the quickest. Those drivers made big gains in practice, and we saw a lot of tandem drafting throughout qualifying as teammates worked together to get their best lap times. We saw speeds approaching 150mph as the cars came through the tri-oval, with lap times far quicker than anyone had anticipated. It was a real thrill!
When it came time for the races, there was a lot of anticipation about what the actual racing might look like. Even competitors weren’t quite sure what to expect since it was the first race for the series at Daytona. I commend all the drivers for doing such an incredible job of respecting each other on the high banks and for having a remarkably clean two races!
Race one had a green-white-checker finish because of a late full-course caution. The final laps were nothing less than sensational, with eight cars crossing the line (including a five-wide pack!) in less than one second. The finish was unbelievable!
If you missed the livestream, be sure to tune into NBC Sports (NBCSN) on February 10 at 4pm ET for a one-hour recap of the two races. In the meantime, enjoy this exciting clip of the race one finish!
Getting that first race completed made me feel proud, accomplished and relieved, all at the same time. We came out and showed the true colors of the MX-5 Cup Series on a world stage, and we really turned some heads in the IMSA paddock. Everyone was talking about it, both at the track and online. Race two was another clean, competitive race, too, making the entire weekend a positive and exciting experience. In that race, the mandatory spotter rule really paid off for the winner, who made his move for the lead just before the sole caution.
I’m so proud to play a role in the Mazda MX-5 Cup Series and to help create an environment where these drivers and teams can come enjoy such competitive, safe racing. Everyone in the IMSA organization was extremely impressed and excited to have this series joining their family.