Skeer Wins Battle But Szymczak Wins War

Elliott Skeer leads the pack en route to winning round 12 of the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup at Road Atlanta on Friday. (Alison Merion Padron Photo)
Elliott Skeer leads the pack en route to winning round 12 of the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup at Road Atlanta on Friday. (Alison Merion Padron Photo)
Elliott Skeer leads the pack en route to winning round 12 of the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup at Road Atlanta on Friday. (Alison Merion Padron Photo)

BRASELTON, Ga. – Elliott Skeer notched the Round 12 win in the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup, however it wasn’t enough to take the championship away from Christian Szymczak.

John Dean finished second, followed by Patrick Gallagher in third.

Driving the No. 17 Pelican Replacement Windows/
Alpinestars MX-5, Skeer did what he could do to secure the season-long title by leading each of the 20 laps, which averaged 67.240 mph, at the 12-turn, 2.53-mile road course. When the dust settled, only 4 points separated Skeer from Szymczak in the championship battle.

“I knew it was going to be pretty tough to win the championship unless something happened to Christian [Szymczak],” Skeer said. “ I just needed to do what I could do, which was to go win the race. With the help of John [Dean] and Patrick [Gallagher], I was able to get that done today.

“The CJ Wilson guys did a great job preparing the car all season. We ended up with five wins, so I can’t be upset about that. At the beginning of the season, we thought all we needed to do was finish each race on the podium. But, the competitive pace of Szymczak made the championship fight a lot closer.”

The race was slowed by a lengthy two-lap caution period following Russell Muck’s heavy collision with a concrete barrier outside Turn One. Muck exited the car under his own power and reported no injuries, but extra time was needed to extricate his machine and reset the concrete barrier before the lap 10 restart.

Dean scored a second-place finish on the heels of his win in Thursday’s Round 11. Driving the No. 16 Projections Research/Sick Sideways MX-5, Dean wasted little time getting to the front of the field after starting in fourth and completing lap one on Skeer’s bumper.

“My race was pretty boring until Gallagher got back to the front,” Dean said. “Skeer and I were trying to break away from the field for a while there and it really wasn’t working, no matter how hard we tried.

“I think I was strong all season, but we had just a little bad luck in qualifying during the middle of the season. These other guys never seemed to have bad luck throughout the season, so congratulations to them.”

Gallagher notched his second podium of the season by finishing Friday’s race in the third position, at the controls of the No. 28 MAZDASPEED/Howard Concrete Pumping/CTL Engineering MX-5. After starting fifth, Gallagher dropped back to 13th on lap three following contact with Jeff Mosing. Gallagher then charged back through the field, cracking the top-five by lap 10.

“That race summed up our season pretty well,” Gallagher said. “We go booted off, at the start, but I just put my head down after that and worked through traffic. With four laps to go I looked and saw that I was nose-to-tail with the leaders.

“I think our car was the fastest. We could have won that race if we hadn’t been involved in the early contact.”

Szymczak finished fourth in the No. 34 ALARA Racing MX-5, holding up his end of the deal regarding the championship battle. He needed a top-six finish to clinch the title.

“I started out the week working to be as fast as possible,” Szymczak said. “It didn’t take long to realize we were up againt some pretty heavy competition. It looked like there were four to five other really fast guys. So, that made it tough.

“This year felt a lot more competitive. It seems like everyone stepped up their game. I know Elliott [Skeer] did, quite a bit. John [Dean] has always been fast, while Patrick [Gallagher] and a couple other guys were consistently quick. It seemed like everyone was a lot more closely matched this year.”

Driving the No. 11 ALARA Garage/ALARA Racing MX-5, Ara Malkhassian finished fifth, behind his teammate Szymczak.

In the Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge, Kenton Koch ended his season on top by winning Friday’s Round 12. The driver of the No. 63 Skip Barber Racing School SBMX-5 clinched the championship following Thursday’s race, but punctuated his season-long performance with a win.

“I felt like I had the chance to learn a lot in this class that I couldn’t have picked up in the Cup series,” Koch said. “This year has been one to remember. I couldn’t have done it without the help of all the Skip Barber mechanics. They are the hardest working group out here because they have four or five guys to prepare nine cars. Having reliable cars was the key to winning this championship.”

Lucas Bize finished second, and in doing so took second in the championship ahead of Robby Foley who finished third in both Friday’s race and the year-end standings.