Watkins Glen, N.Y. (1 September 2017) –Working to make his $200,000 dream championship a reality, Battery Tender Global Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires points leader Patrick Gallagher (No. 29 McCumbee McAleer Racing) moved closer to his goal in Friday’s qualifying session as he locked in pole position for both of Saturday’s 45-minute races at Watkins Glen International.
The double-race day Saturday marks the penultimate race meeting for the 2017 Global Mazda MX-5 Cup championship season as the series once again pairs with a Verizon IndyCar event.
“I don’t know what magic the MMR guys are working on my car, but it makes my job easy!” enthused Gallagher. “I’m happy to get a couple more points and finish the year off strong and wrap the championship up this weekend. If not, we’ll go to Mazda Raceway and do it there.”
While Gallagher looks to secure a championship, all of the racers around him will have a different agenda.
Starting alongside Gallagher will be 2009 series champion Todd Lamb (No. 84 Atlanta Speedwerks), who came up all of .0331-seconds short of scoring the pole position on the 3.37-mile full course in upstate New York.
“It’s great to come back and be on the front row,” said Lamb. “It was pretty close for pole there. We had a lot of fun. There were a lot of chess games on track. Ultimately, we’re happy to be back and competitive. We’ve got a different car this weekend. The crew’s done a great job and we’re excited to be on the front row.”
Rookie racer Bryan Ortiz (No. 4 Copeland Motorsports) locked in a spot on the second row with his run to third on the grid. The Puerto Rican racer is hoping to take the Rookie of the Year championship and the $50,000 scholarship from Mazda that comes with it.
“I think we’re ready,” said Ortiz. “I know the last four races will be more important than the others. The team has done an amazing job with the car, so it’s been easy for me. Obviously at this track, the draft plays a big part of it. We were able to find some draft in qualifying, but I think the race will be a big game. Everyone will be around everyone and it’ll be crazy. Hopefully we can finish up front.”
With two races on deck for Saturday, and a big picture to consider, Ortiz knows that he will have to balance aggression with patience.
“Obviously we need to race hard, but understand that there’s not a lot of time to fix the car between races,” said Ortiz. “The way we are in points, even if it was one race tomorrow and one race on Sunday, we can’t have a bad race. We need to finish and finish up front. I want to win, but I need to think about the rookie points because it’s very close and we want it!”
Starting alongside him will be 2016 series champion Nathanial “Sparky” Sparks (No. 8 Sick Sideways Racing), who still has a mathematical shot of defending his championship if he can make a late season surge.
“Two races in one day is demanding for a driver,” said Sparks. “You need a strong mental game all day long. I hope that I can drive well and if I can get a good head of steam in the first race, that’ll carry through to the second race. You’ve got to hope you don’t have any contact or mistakes, because that will cost you for race two. The championship could come down to this weekend. Patrick’s been driving super solid; all he has to do is keep doing what he’s been doing and he’ll run away with it. I’m going to run my best, try to get a podium and hopefully I’ll be able to push him all the way to the last race of the year.”
Saturday’s Round Nine race will go green at 9:35 AM ET and will be streamed live on www.racecontrol.indycar.com, as will Saturday’s Round Ten race, slated for 4:30 PM ET.