SEBRING, Fla. – Local hero John Dean captured the pole position for Thursday’s first race of the 2014 SCCA Pro Racing Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires season on Wednesday.
Kenton Koch will start second, followed by Nathanial Sparks in third.
Dean snatched the top spot with a fastest lap of 2:30.612 (88.439 mph) around the 17-turn, 3.74-mile Sebring International Raceway permanent airport course.
Driving the No. 16 Projections Research/PPG MX-5, Dean asserted himself as a candidate for pole early in the session. By the end of lap two, Dean topped the time sheet. He was bested by Dean Copeland on lap three, however Dean retook the top spot after the next circuit. From that point on, Dean was only challenged for the top spot by Sparks for the remainder of the 30-minute session.
“I came out of the gates really hard,” Dean said. “I was able to gap the driver behind me fairly well and that just freed the mirrors up. Then, I just kept my head down, pushing hard.”
“We are just really happy. Before the session we had to make a transmission change and then we found we had a bad wheel bearing. That part was changed minutes before we left for the grid. The car worked flawlessly and was just awesome.
“We’ve got three generations of John Deans here. We have such a great team, a great collaboration of people. It’s just so great to make this happen here, at home.”
Koch spent the entire session amongst the top-five positions throughout the entire qualifying run. At the controls of his No. 12 ALARA Racing/Mazda Motorsports Development MX-5, Koch put in consistently fast laps, slowly bringing his lap times down. In the end, Koch posted a best lap of 2:31.612 (88.091 mph).
“As a racer you always want to do better,” Koch said. “But, you can’t expect to be on the pole every race. You take what you can get, and P2 is definitely a good thing. It will be cool to start on the front row at Sebring. It’s such a historical track and I’m pretty excited about it.
“ALARA Racing, and Ken [Murillo], did a great job putting the car together. In the last practice, the car was pretty tight. So, we took a big swing at it and went in the right direction. We didn’t hit a homerun, but we made it to the wall.”
In the No. 8 OOTSK Performance/Bimmerworld MX-5, Sparks qualified third with a best lap of 2:31.282 (88.047 mph). The top-three starting position put to rest some of the concerns Sparks had regarding his outright speed during the two practice sessions.
“The whole weekend has been pretty worrisome,” Sparks said. “We had some really old tires on there and were really slow. I was banking on the fact that new tires would affect that and allow us to pick up the pace.”
“I felt good and was P1 for a while. Unfortunately, I was knocked out by my teammate, John Dean. I’m going to give him a hard time about that tomorrow, but I’m really glad we’re here. I’m looking very forward to the race tomorrow. I’m planning to follow my teammate into Turn One tomorrow, so we’ll see where that takes us.”
Sebastian Landy will start Thursday’s race from the fourth position in his No. 41 Excitations.com/Atlanta Motorsports Group MX-5. He did that by setting a fast time of 2:31.364 (87.999 mph).
Dean Copeland will take to the lights for the standing start in the fifth position. In the No. 7 Copeland Motorsports/SyncSpeed Inc. MX-5, Copeland earned the starting spot a best time of 2:31.691 (87.810 mph).
Bryan Hixon took pole position in the Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge class. In the No. 63 Blackmore Partners/xBorder Foods & Wine SBMX-5, Hixon tripped the timers with a best lap of 2:34.055 (86.462 mph).