BRASELTON, Ga. – John Dean notched his second SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup race of the season in Round 11 of the 2013 season, part of the 16th Annual Petit Le Mans Powered by Mazda.
James Vance finished second, followed by Christian Szymczak in third.
Dean scored the win in less than ideal conditions at the 12-turn, 2.54-mile road course. Rain was falling intermittently throughout the day, making the course extremely wet. Running on the BFGoodrich g-Force T/A KDW rain tires, Dean lead the 22-lap race that averaged 75.674 mph from the time the starting lights went out to the drop of the checkered flag.
Driving the No. 16 Projections Research/Sick Sideways MX-5, he made easy work of the conditions, gapping the rest of the field by nearly two seconds at one point during the race.
“If you were just watching the timing, the race may not have looked that interesting,” Dean said. “But, I definitely worked for that win. I was looking in the mirrors for Skeer, early on, then Vance and Christian [Szymczak] at the end.
“During the middle of the race, the rain started coming down making it tough to get around some of the back markers. There were a couple times where I had some really close calls. It always gave the drivers behind me a chance to catch up. But, it was great to have my new teammate on the podium with me.”
Vance finished the treacherous event with his highest career finish, scoring second-place hardware. Driving the No. 21 Exposystems MX-5, Vance was a man on a mission as he marched through the field from his 10th-place starting position. He held the quickest lap for many laps until Szymczak finally turned in the ultimate lap of the race.
“To be honest, going into a rain race you never know what’s going to happen,” Vance said. “I tried to be really patient, and saw drivers ahead making little mistakes. I just started to pick my way through the field.
“Lapped traffic played a massive role in the results. When we caught up to them, it ended up hurting the lead drivers the most. I just took advantage of it, knowing if I got behind John [Dean] the results would be good.”
From the start, Szymczak was at the center of the most intense on-track action throughout the race. He got around his championship rival, Elliott Skeer, and slotted into second following a good start from third. However, upon the completion of lap four Szymczak came across the stripe in seventh. By lap 19, Szymczak had worked himself back to fourth, driving his No. 34 ALARA Racing MX-5 in the tread marks of Vance. But, lap 20 proved to be pivotal in the race results and championship standings.
“That was the craziest race I’ve ever been involved in,” Szymczak said. “It was quite a battle that I had toward the front with James [Vance] and Daniel [Bender].
“I was behind Skeer and Vance, when they were running second and third. Vance had an inside run on Elliott [Skeer] going into Turn Seven. The inside line was rather slick and the move resulted in both cars losing momentum. That gave me the advantage coming out of Turn Seven, giving me the chance to get by Skeer.”
Skeer was able to hold on and posted a fourth-place finish in the No. 17 Pelican Replacement Windows/ZoomZoomNation.com/Alpinestars MX-5. While the finish may not be ideal for Skeer’s title hopes, the alternative results may have been worse.
In only his third event of 2013, Daniel Bender drove the No. 18 Bravo Trailers MX-5 to a fifth place finish, marking his career-best result.
Lucas Bize drove to his first career Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge victory in the damp, challenging conditions.
“The start was key,” Bize said. “I tried to get a good jump to get ahead of the pack and was able to do that, leaving the traffic behind. Kenton [Koch] was coming, but I was able to hold him off at the end.”
Kenton Koch finished Round 11 in second, but officially clinched the year-end title behind the wheel of the No. 63 Skip Barber Racing Schools SBMX-5. The polesitter, Drake Kemper finished third in the No. 99 Royal Rugby SBMX-5.
With his second-place finish, Szymczak still sits atop the championship standings with 584 points. Skeer only lost ground by two markers, but his championship hopes grow more improbable. To win the title outright, Skeer must not only win, but Szymczak must finish no higher than eighth.
If Szymczak finishes in last place, Skeer still must finish in at least 11th. In the case of a points tie, Szymczak would win the championship as both drivers have the same number of wins, but Szymczak has two more second-place finishes.