DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Preston Pardus’ racing career takes another step forward this week with his debut in the Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup series at his home track, Daytona Int’l Speedway.
Pardus, 23, has been tabbed to drive the No. 42 entry for Hixson Motor Sports in a pair of 45-minute Cup events. The races, set for Thursday afternoon and Friday morning, are part of the activities that will be capped by the annual Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.
“We are excited and honored to have Preston part of the HMS program,” Bryan Hixon said. “He brings a wealth of knowledge, experience and racecraft to our efforts.”
Pardus will have only two half-hour practice sessions to get acclimated to a car that’s vastly different from the Spec Miata he drove to a second SCCA national championship last fall.
“These things have a sequential gearbox in them, so all you have to do is pull a lever to go up and down a gear. So in that respect, it’s more of a sports car,” Pardus said. “It makes about 50 or so more horsepower than the Spec Miata, so lap times are probably going to be anywhere from five to eight seconds quicker.
“The MX-5s also have ABS (anti-lock braking systems) on them, so you can go in the corner and really jam on the brake pedal. There’s no roof, so that provides a big draft because of the amount of air that kicks up. You can break away from the pack with the Spec Miata, but you definitely can’t in these.”
The Pardus-Hixson pairing is a natural fit, being that the team is based in Holly Hill, Fla., which is – like the speedway – in Volusia County. The team manager is Shea Holbrook, who in 2011 became the first woman to win a Pirelli World Challenge Touring Car event when she took the checkered flag at Long Beach, Calif.
Pardus is coming off a stellar 2020 season. He earned an SCCA Super Sweep by winning a Majors Conference championship, the Super Tour national points title, and the SCCA National Runoffs.
Those accomplishments were rewarded with the recent presentation of the SCCA Presidents Cup, which was first awarded in 1954 and is emblematic of ability, competitiveness and success at the National Championship Runoffs. Previous winners include Roger Penske, Paul Newman, Skip Barber, Bobby Rahal and Jimmy Vasser.
Pardus also competed in four NASCAR Xfinity Series events last year. He finished 10th at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and followed that with a career-best eighth at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. He was well into the top 10 at Daytona last August when he was caught up in a crash that brought out the event’s final caution flag.
Pardus’ 2020 successes have rolled over into his ’21 SCCA season. He took first and second in Spec Miata races at Homestead, Fla., and he won both events last weekend at Sebring (Fla.) Int’l Raceway.
Now he’s set to return to Daytona for his first crack at MX-5 competition. He will be back at the speedway in late February for a NASCAR Xfinity race on the road course.
“Track time never hurts,” Pardus said, “especially with how little track time people are getting these days. This is one of the few opportunities anyone could get back on track at Daytona until the NASCAR deal. It’s always good to be in the car, and I always enjoy racing a ‘momentum car’ like the Mazda MX-5.”