This past weekend was a gorgeous one at Road America.  I was there with the Mazda MX-5 Cup Series, which was joining NASCAR for the weekend. Although IMSA is owned by NASCAR, it’s rare for one of the sports car series to race on the same weekend as a NASCAR series. This was one of those unique opportunities for fans who don’t traditionally follow sports car racing to get a glimpse of what IMSA has to offer.

It was a stunning weekend for both the competitors and the fans. It was a packed house at Road America, which is always one of my favorite places to be in the summer, with its well-manicured track and beautiful surrounding areas, including the nearby downtown Elkhart Lake.

On track, it was nothing short of fierce competition, with the ultra-tight racing that we have come to expect from the MX-5 Cup Series. Despite the variability that the series produces—with close competition and position changes in virtually every corner—this weekend was Scholarship winner Connor Zilisch’s time to shine. He swept both pole positions and both race wins during the double-header event. It’s so rare for one person to get all of those things in one weekend! It certainly didn’t come easy for Connor. The margins of victory were narrow, and Connor didn’t lead every lap, but he was up front when it counted!

Also of note at Road America was special guest Parker Kligerman, who is not only an NBC Sports commentator but also a part-time NASCAR driver. Parker split his weekend duties between pit lane reporting for NBC Sports and getting his first experience in the Mazda MX-5 Cup Series.

Parker's car for the weekend was a little different than what he usually drives!

Parker’s car for the weekend was a little different than what he usually drives!

The series has been gaining tremendous notoriety among the NASCAR paddock, ever since it became a part of the Rolex 24 at Daytona weekend. Parker is just one of the many drivers and other key people in NASCAR who have been paying attention to the series, but he’s definitely among the first to actually race in it.

Parker really enjoyed his experience, including the way the car drove. He came up to speed really quickly in the car and even managed to qualify on the front row for race two on Sunday.  Granted, Parker has a fair bit of road course experience under his belt, but it was still impressive to see a new driver in the series be instantly competitive in one of the most competitive series there is.

Unfortunately, the final race results didn’t turn out as well for Parker, but I sure hope he and other NASCAR drivers see his experience as an example of what a great opportunity this series represents to them.