Mazda MX-5 Cup reveals Battery Tender, schedule, global ambitions

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It’s been a big couple days for the Mazda MX-5 Cup series, one of the more entertaining sports car series in the U.S.

Starting Monday at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas, the series announced Battery Tender as its new title sponsor. The official series name is Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires. Here’s the full release.

For the 2014 season, the total series payout was in excess of $500,000. The top prize of the Mazda MX-5 Cup is a Mazda Scholarship towards the next higher rung of the Mazda SportsCar Racing Academy ladder. 2014 Mazda MX-5 Cup Champion Kenton Koch will use his scholarship to move up to IMSA Prototype Lites for the 2015 season.

The 2015 season will consist of six weekends supporting the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, Verizon IndyCar Series, and the NASCAR XFINITY Series. All weekends will be doubleheaders.

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March 18-20  Rounds 1 & 2 Sebring (with TUDOR)
April 10-12  Rounds 3 & 4 NOLA (with IndyCar)
May 1-3      Rounds 5 & 6 Mazda Raceway (with TUDOR)
July 10-12   Rounds 7 & 8 CTMP (with TUDOR)
August 28-30 Rounds 9 & 10 Road America (with NASCAR)
October 1-2  Rounds 11 & 12 Road Atlanta (with TUDOR)

Additionally, the company also announced that the new, just revealed, 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata will be raced in a new Global Cup series, in North America, Europe and Asia.

Starting in 2016, there will be multiple Mazda Global MX-5 Cup series around the world, all using identically-prepared cars. Full details of the Global MX-5 Cup, including which countries will be involved and when the races will take place, will be announced as they are confirmed. The Global MX-5 Cup will culminate at the end of 2016 with a Global Shootout at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California, to crown the series champion. Among other prizes, the series champion will receive a one-day test in Mazda’s top-level TUDOR United States SportsCar Championship SKYACTIV prototype race car.

“Since the first Mazda MX-5 Miata took the green flag back in 1990, the car has been the ideal platform for both veterans and rookies alike,” John Doonan, director of motorsports for Mazda North American operations, said. “Because the MX-5 is inherently such a good car to drive, it is an ideal platform to learn basic and advanced racecraft, and this has made the professional MX-5 Cup series very successful to date.”

Meyer Shank Racing wins Petit Le Mans to take final DPi championship in dramatic finale

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Meyer Shank Racing outdueled Wayne Taylor Racing to win the Petit Le Mans and clinch the championship in a thrilling final race for the DPi division.

Tom Blomqvist, who started from the pole position, drove the No. 60 Acura ARX-05 to a 4.369-second victory over Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac.

“That was incredible,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports’ Matt Yocum. “I’ve never dug so deep in my life. The adrenaline. I did that for the guys. I was so motivated to win this thing this weekend. But I’ve got to thank everyone on the whole team.”

With co-drivers Oliver Jarvis and Helio Castroneves, Blomqvist helped MSR bookend its season-opening victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona by winning Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale at Michelin Road Atlanta.

In between those two victories, the No. 60 earned five runner-up finishes to stay in the thick of the championship hunt and trail WTR’s No. 10 Acura by 14 points entering Saturday’s race.

WTR’s Filipe Albuquerque had a lead of more than 10 seconds over Blomqvist with less than 50 minutes remaining in the 10-hour race.

But a Turn 1 crash between the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillacs brought out a yellow that sent both Acuras into the pits from the top two positions.

Though he entered in second, Blomqvist barely beat Albuquerque out of the pits, and he held the lead for the final 45 minutes.

Blomqvist said he gained the lead because of a shorter fuel fill after he had worked on being efficient in the second-to-last stint.

“The team asked a big job of me with the fuel; I had a big fuel number to hit,” Blomqvist said. “We knew that was probably our only chance. The yellow came at the right time and obviously we had a bit less fuel to fill up, so I was able to jump him and then it was just a matter of going gung-ho and not leaving anything on the line. And obviously, the opposition had to try too hard to make it work. I’m so thankful.”

Albuquerque closed within a few car lengths of Blomqvist with 14 minutes remaining, but he damaged his suspension because of contact with a GT car in Turn 1.

It’s the first prototype championship for Meyer Shank Racing, which also won the 2021 Indy 500 with Castroneves.

“We’ve had in the last four years, three championships for Acura, the Indy 500 win and the Rolex 24, it doesn’t get any better,” team co-owner Mike Shank told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee.

It’s the third consecutive runner-up finish in the points standings for Wayne Taylor Racing, which won the first Daytona Prototype international championship in 2017. The premier category will be rebranded as the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with the LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Kamui Kobayashi finished third in the No. 48 Cadillac of Action Express that also includes Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

The podium showing marked Johnson’s last scheduled race in IMSA’s top prototype division. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has raced in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac lineup as the Action Express entry has run the Endurance Cup races.

Johnson said a lack of inventory will preclude him having a 2023 ride in the top category. But he still is hopeful of racing the Garage 56 Next Gen Camaro in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and possibly running in a lower class for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I’d love to be at Le Mans next year,” Johnson told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch after his final stint Saturday. “I’d love to be at the Rolex 24. The series is going through a shake-up with the reconfiguration of the rules and classes, so I don’t have anything locked down yet, but I’m so thankful for this experience with Action. The support Ally has given us, Mr. Hendrick, Chad Knaus, all of Hendrick Motorsports. It’s been a fun two years, and I certainly hope I’m on the grid again next year.”