TOOELE, Utah – After a hard fought for the majority of the race, Lyonel Kent, of Knoxville, Tenn., was able to storm to his third-career SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup victory. Jesse Combs, of Houston, Texas, and Justin Piscitell, of Weston, Conn., completed the podium at Miller Motorsports Park. Finishing fourth, Brad Rampelberg, of San Jose, Calif., claimed the 2010 SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup Championship.
Lyonel Kent earned an MX-5 Cup win at the season finale.
Starting second in the No. 13 ALARA Racing/Bulldog Productions MX-5, Kent immediately took the lead from polesitter Nick Evans, of Powell, Ohio, going to the inside of Evans in Turn One. The pair continued to exchange the lead in spectacular fashion throughout the 20-lap, 60.96-mile race, but only made contact once.
“Clean doesn’t even begin to describe it,” Kent said. “The only contact that happened was when in Turn One, we were side-by-side and bumped mirrors. So I just reached out, pushed the mirror back and that was it. That was the only contact we had even though we must have swapped the lead at least a dozen times.”
The show came to an anti-climactic end with two laps to go when the No. 28 Team MER/Mazda/Sparco MX-5 of Evans began to fall off the pace, suffering from ABS failure. This left the door wide open for Kent to claim his third-career MX-5 Cup win by 6.965-second, averaging 81.002 mph. It’s the second year in-a-row Kent has closed the MX-5 Cup season with a win.
“I really have to thank Nick for racing clean with me,” Kent said. “He did a good job and I’m sorry to see what happened to him at the end.
“It’s really been a rollercoaster of a season, but this is the way we like to finish them off. We like to win!”
An equally exhilarating battle for third, fourth and fifth took place behind the leaders. Starting third, Championship contender Piscitell was shuffled back to sixth on the opening lap, well behind point leader Rampelberg who was up to third place by lap two. Rampelberg soon had his hands full with Combs in the No. 77 ALARA Racing/Coolgas.com MX-5, giving Piscitell the time to work his way back up to fifth behind the two.
Piscitell finally passed Rampelberg for fourth on lap 10 and set his sights on Combs. As Combs and Piscitell proceeded to go back-and-forth for the third spot, Rampelberg took several looks of his own, not content with a safe race, even with the Championship on the line.
When Evan’s fell back, the battle between Combs and Piscitell became a fight for second. Determined to take his first podium finish of the season, Combs took a stand on the final lap, and crossed the finish line in second.
Much like Kent and Evans’ exchanges for the lead, Combs and Piscitell kept it clean.
“On the very last lap we made contact,” Combs said. “I’ve raced Justin and Brad all year long and I feel very comfortable racing around them.
“It’s the last race of the season and I wanted to be on the podium. I haven’t been on the podium all season long. It’s been like a comedy of errors for me. I took a couple years off of racing and this is my first year back. It finally started to come together for me at the end of the season. I was racing hard. I didn’t have a championship to win, but at the same time, I didn’t want to mess up anyone else’s championship.”
Combs also set the fastest lap of the race, a 2:13.938 (81.924 mph) around the 15-turn, 3.048-mile track.
Finishing third in the No. 89 Team MER/DAMG/Worldwide Merchant Service MX-5, Piscitell had no choice but to give it everything he could in the hopes of winning a Championship.
“I’ve raced with Jesse a couple of times this season and it’s always been really clean,” Piscitell said. “We’ve been able to get side-by-side with no contact usually. He raced me hard and he raced me fair so I’m all for that.
“You always want to end up on the podium, so I don’t think I was thinking about holding back. Anything can happen. Who knows, Brad could have had an issue at the beginning of the race and if I’d finished above a certain position I might have had the Championship.”
Finishing fourth in the No. 4 AMG Racing/Mazda/Cobalt Brakes was more than enough for Rampelberg to win the 2010 SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup Championship. The final point tally (which allows each driver to drop their lowest scoring points race) shows Rampelberg with 559 points to Piscitell’s 536 points. Evans is third and Rookie of the Year with 527 points, followed by Michael Cooper (519) and Lyonel Kent (501).
“This feels great,” Rampelberg said. “The AMG guys won it last year in the same car, so winning it this year was really the only option. The pressure was on from the beginning. We didn’t have the best results in the middle, but we closed out the season with five wins, two second-place finishes and a couple of not-so-goods. AMG, Cobalt and Mazda gave me a great car.
“I feel like racing with this kids really makes me think. I have to think ahead every single lap, because these guys are awesome. I don’t know if people realize how good these guys are in Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup, so hats off to them. Iron sharpens iron and I wouldn’t be as good if I wasn’t racing against these guys.”
Michael Cooper, of Syosset, N.Y., completed the top five in the No. 84 AMG Racing/Bromante Landscaping & Design MX-5, just ahead of Evans who fell back to sixth at the checkered flag.
Mark Carpenter, Jeff Mosing, Tim Probert and Ara Malkhassian completed the top 10.
Prior to the race, Nick Evans, Lyonel Kent, and Justin Piscitell spent time with adoptable dogs from the Humane Society of Utah. Each carried Humane Society stickers on their cars for the SCCA Pro Racing MX-5 Cup 2010 season finale.
The race will air on syndicated cable. Air dates and times will be available on www.mx-5cup.com shortly.