Thomas Takes Mazda MX-5 Cup Race Two at Road America

The Heart of Racing Scores Pole with New GTD PRO Track Record at Road America
August 5, 2023
Lundqvist Impresses in First INDYCAR Qualifying for Meyer Shank Racing
August 5, 2023
Show all

Thomas Takes Mazda MX-5 Cup Race Two at Road America

ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (Aug. 5, 2023) – Starting from sixth on the Road America Race Two grid, reigning Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich® Tires Champion Jared Thomas (No. 96 JTR Motorsports Engineering) captured his second win of the season, making it a double podium weekend for him. Thomas swapped places with Race One winner Gresham Wagner (No. 5 Spark Performance) who finished second.

The 45-minute race got off to a rocky start when three cars tangled in Turn Two on the opening lap. The first and only full-course yellow of the race came out for Jeremy Fletcher (No. 22 Copeland Motorsports) and Selin Rollan (No. 87 Hixon Motor Sports) who were unable to continue from Turn Two.

After three laps behind the safety car, green flag racing resumed with polesitter Max Opalski (No. 2 Copeland Motorsports) out front. Now in his sophomore season of Mazda MX-5 Cup, Opalski looked like a series veteran, leading four more laps before Thomas and Wagner pounced.

What started as a nine-car train, dwindled to four, as Wagner, Thomas, Opalski and Robert Noaker (No. 13 Robert Noaker Racing) broke away from the field.

The quartet swapped positions numerous times while running nose-to-tail for the final five laps.

Thomas led the way at the white flag, but the power of the draft at Road America meant he was still in a vulnerable position. Luckily for him, the scrum amongst Wagner, Opalski and Noaker gave him just enough breathing room to exit the final turn and hold them off for the win by 0.138-second.

“I tried to run mistake free basically at the front and never give them an opportunity to get by, and just try to make sure I was always in the right place and if they did want to pass, they were going to have to go the long way around,” said Thomas, who recalled watching his dad race at the track. “I’ve been the bridesmaid at LEAST three times here! I saw a picture yesterday my grandpa sent me from like 23 years ago as a little kid in Canada Corner watching my dad race here. This is very cool to win here. I raced here in karts but never got on the podium so, you know, I’m just so happy to finally win here. It was definitely a good weekend for the championship.”

In Race One it was Wagner who led Thomas to the finish line, but the two former champions swapped positions this time around, with Wagner following Thomas to the checkered flag.

“I wouldn’t say we were working together, but I recognized that he was up there and going to be contending for the win and he knew the same about me,” said Gresham about his battle with Thomas out front. “So, you know, it’s always better when you can slim the field down and make it a fight for the podium instead of fight for the top five.

“He [Thomas] was defending well the last couple laps and had his own game plan coming to the white flag. And credit where it’s due, he knew what he wanted to do, he did it right and it worked for him this time. I’m just happy to be up there and fighting for the win after the win this morning.”

Thomas and Wagner will each leave Road America with $11,000 in prize money for their performances over the weekend.

Opalski and Noaker had a photo finish for third. Opalski took the spot by just 0.018-second over Noaker for his first-ever MX-5 Cup podium.

“I’ve been in the lead pack before, but I’ve never really been in the lead pack in the closing laps,” a jubilant Opalski said. “Coming down to the last lap, I wanted to win so bad. I was hoping Gresham [Wagner] would pull out (of the draft to pass for the lead) with me, but he had Noaker behind him. So unfortunately we got third instead of first.  But I’ll take it-this feels really good to be on the podium!”

John Jodoin (No. 39 McCumbee McAleer Racing) completed the top five with teammate Nate Cicero (No. 83 McCumbee McAleer Racing) finishing sixth, the highest of the rookies.

The championship battle for $250,000 tightened up after points leader Aaron Jeansonne (No. 24 JTR Motorsports Engineering) suffered a mechanical DNF shortly after Rollan, who was second in the championship, ended his race in the Turn Two grass.

Next up for the Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup is VIRginia International Raceway August 25 – 27.