DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 28, 2022) – The non-stop excitement of Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich® Tires racing at Daytona International Speedway was slowed by three lengthy full-course yellows on Friday. But it was with Jared Thomas (No. 96 JTR Motorsports Engineering) taking the win in Round Two of the 2022 championship as the race ended under a full-course caution.
Despite a slight drizzle, all of the 31 Mazda MX-5 Cup cars were able to start on slick BFGoodrich tires. Leading them to the green flag was the latest MX5-Cup Shootout winner, Connor Zilisch (No. 72 Hixon Motor Sports).
Zilisch had no problem holding the lead through the first lap, but by lap two, Thomas had made his way into the lead with Chris Nunes (No. 32 Formidable Racing) hot on his heels. That’s when the first of three full-course cautions came out for Michael Carter (No. 08 Carter Racing Enterprises) who made contact with the wall in NASCAR Turn Four.
On the restart, defending series champion Gresham Wagner (No. 5 Spark Performance) moved into second and worked with Thomas to try and build a gap to the rest of the field. Making it to second so soon in the race was a remarkable accomplishment in itself for Wagner, who started 29th on the grid because of a crash in qualifying.
Thomas and Wagner didn’t even get a full lap of green flag before the full-course caution came out again, this time for a trio of cars that tangled at the entrance to the Bus Stop. When the cars were cleared, the return to green was just as short as the first restart as two cars came together in Turn Three and were unable to continue.
Less than 10 minutes remained on the clock when the third full-course caution was issued, which wasn’t enough time to clear the cars in Turn Three in time for a restart.
It was sweet redemption for Thomas, who nearly won at Daytona last year, but missed out because of a late full-course yellow.
“This feels great!” said Thomas. “I think we built off the momentum that we had last year. And it feels good to get one here at Daytona. Because, for one, you know, I felt like I had one taken from me last year with the caution. So to win one under caution like that, I’ll take it you know, you win and some you lose some.
“You know I’m from Indiana, so the Indianapolis 500 is always supposed to be the biggest race for you. But as a kid, watching the Rolex 24 every year was the thing I always looked forward to the most. So to finally come here to the top step of the podium is just awesome. I just tried to use my experience as far as putting the car in the right position. You know, sticking inside the corner on a slick track. You never want to be on the outside, so I kept it kept it on the inside and it paid off.”
After a crash in qualifying, and a drive-through penalty in Race One, a runner-up finish was a win as far as Wagner was concerned. The qualifying crash meant that Wagner started the race from 29th on the grid. His charge to second place also earned him the Hard Charger Award, which comes with a $1,000 check for him and a $1,000 check for his crew chief.
Earning his first Mazda MX-5 Cup podium finish was young Joey Antanasio (No. 43 Formidable Racing). The rookie came from 11th on the grid to third place and showed he was capable of a win had there been more green flag laps.
“I’ve got a lot of adrenaline running through me right now,” Antanasio said. “Yesterday in the rain I had a little trouble figuring out where the grip was, but today it was dry. I’m really proud of my team and my parents for helping me with all of this. I’m feeling great right now.
“When the first yellow came out, it was okay, but when two more came out it got a little frustrating.”
Antanasio was followed across the finish line by his teammate Chris Nunes (No. 32 Formidable Racing) who finished second in Thursday’s Round One race.
Sam Paley (No. 28 McCumbee McAleer Racing), the 2021 Mazda MX-5 Cup Rookie of the Year, finished fifth.
Selin Rollan (No. 87 Hixon Motor Sports) was third in Thursday night’s barn-burner finish, but made hard contact with the wall just after the finish line. Rollan went to a backup car for Round Two and started at the back of the field, but made his way up to sixth by the finish.
The Mazda MX-5 Cup stays in Florida for Rounds Three and Four. The Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is the only temporary street circuit on the series’ calendar and takes place February 24 – 26. Live coverage will be available on RACER.com and IMSA.com/TVlive.
About: The Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich® Tires is the signature spec series for Mazda Motorsports. The series has been operated by Andersen Promotions since 2017 and is currently sanctioned by IMSA. Mazda-powered grassroots champions can earn Mazda scholarships for this pro-level series. The Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup champion is awarded $250,000 as the top rookie nets $80,000.
Find out more at http://www.mx-5cup.com.