Rollan Makes Mazda MX-5 Cup Victory Lane Return at Watkins Glen

Jeansonne Gets Second Consecutive Mazda MX-5 Cup Win at Watkins Glen
June 23, 2023
Winning Weekend for Racing to End Alzheimer’s
June 24, 2023
Show all

Rollan Makes Mazda MX-5 Cup Victory Lane Return at Watkins Glen

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (June 24, 2023) – After a winless streak that lasted more than a year, Selin Rollan (No. 87 Hixon Motor Sports) made his return to the top step of the Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich® Tires podium at Watkins Glen International. He started and finished the race at the front of the field, but it was not an easy drive to victory lane. Gresham Wagner (No. 5 Spark Performance) lost a drag race to the finish to score second place as Robert Noaker (No. 13 Robert Noaker Racing) took third in the Round Seven race.

Rollan may have started and finished the 40-minute race at the front of the field, but it was by no means easy.

The race got off to a dramatic start as a three-wide scramble at the top of the high-speed Watkins Glen Esses saw Matthew Dirks (No. 76 McCumbee McAleer Racing) get sideways and into the path of the ensuing field. Seven cars were entangled in the incident with no way to avoid contact.

One of the cars caught up in the mayhem was guest driver James Hinchcliffe (No. 3 JTR Motorsports Engineering), who had started eighth. The IndyCar veteran was able to sneak through but damaged the left side of his car. During the safety car period, the car’s rocker-panel started to drag and he was called into the pits by race control to remove the debris. He rejoined at the back of the field.

After a lengthy caution period to clean up the debris, Rollan led the way to the restart, but was freight-trained by a pack of cars and fell to fifth.

Reigning series champion Jared Thomas (No. 96 JTR Motorsports Engineering) and Wagner then took over the fight for the lead. The pair seemed to be creating a gap to the rest of the pack until Wagner had a big moment through the grass in the Bus Stop. From then on it was a five-car battle for the win.

Rollan benefited from having his teammate Thomas Annunziata (No. 10 Hixon Motor Sports) join the lead pack with four laps to go. The two worked together to carve a way through the competition and eventually to the front.

Wagner would not give up his shot at a win easily. He dispatched Annunziata quickly and made every attempt at passing Rollan on the final lap but couldn’t make anything stick.

Rollan took the win by 0.062-second after drag racing Wagner to the finish line.

“It feels really, really great to be back up on the top step of the podium,” Rollan said. “We haven’t had the best year—it has been a good year as far as being consistent, and being in contention, but we just haven’t really been all the way up there. I’m really happy to get my first win of the season and to get Austin Hatcher Foundation into Victory Lane here.”

The 2018 MX-5 Cup Rookie of the Year was quick to thank his team for the overnight repairs made to his car following a big hit in Friday’s race.

“I’m thankful for Hixon Motor Sports, the whole crew, my dad, everyone on the team stayed late into the night last night to get this car ready to race after the crash. I am sorry Brian [Hixon] and Karen [Hixon] weren’t here, but thanks to them and Shea [Holbrook] and everyone working on this team. I had a lot of help to get to the win—a big thank you to Thomas [Annunziata] for all the pushes, that was really selfless of him. We worked together and both got decent finishes, and I’m looking forward to keeping this going!”

Wagner, who started the race from 12th, was relieved to be on the podium after contact with the wall on Friday ended his race early.

“It was mainly just bodywork thankfully from the crash yesterday and luckily the crash looked worse than it was,” Wagner said.  “It’s tough here. Everyone says Road America is the super speedway, but this place is the craziest. You can go from the lead to fifth or sixth just like that. I got lucky that they were racing behind me so I could focus ahead. I thought I had a shot at it, but me and Selin have been doing this a long time and I knew he’d be hard to beat and that it was going to be hard but clean. But still really happy to get second after the race yesterday.”

Noaker captured his first podium of the season, finishing third. He has returned to MX-5 Cup competition after a two-year hiatus and admitted he struggled to come to grips with the new (to him) car earlier in the season.

“It feels great,” Noaker said of his podium. “We’ve been struggling the first part of the year just trying to get our feet back into it. With the changes in the car the setup seems to be a good bit different from when we raced it last. We did some testing before this weekend here, found a lot of stuff and throughout the weekend we had pace the whole time, but qualifying didn’t quite work out for us for the first race. Half of the race today was under caution, but the shorter race, at the end, kind of makes it more exciting. I just want to thank Velocity Mazda, Slipstream Performance and Robert Noaker Racing and everyone there. Without them it wouldn’t be possible”

Annunziata narrowly earned his second podium in-a-row but came up one spot short in fourth.

Thomas completed the top five.

Hinchcliffe ultimately finished 10th after dropping to the back of the field.

“We had a much better start than yesterday and picked up a couple of spots,” Hinchcliffe said. “I just got a little bit of body work damage. We’re running sixth and I tried everything to shake it off, but unfortunately it didn’t come off on its own. So we had to come in under yellow and get it taken off. That dropped us back, but I think it still made for a fun race for me.
“It was such a fun weekend,” Hinchcliffe added. “I can’t thank Mazda and JTR enough for the opportunity to come do it. And hopefully they will call me back to do it again because it was as much fun as I’ve had in a race car in a very long time.”

Mazda MX-5 Cup teams will have some time off before Rounds Nine and 10 at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, August 4 – 6. All MX-5 Cup races are available to re-watch on the IMSA YouTube channel.