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U.S. drivers selected for first Mazda MX-5 Cup Global Invitational

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The 10 drivers from the U.S. have been selected for the first Mazda MX-5 Cup Global Invitational, which will run Sept. 9-11 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

Those are listed below, via a Mazda release:

Mazda is excited to announce the ten drivers representing the United States at the Global Mazda MX-5 Cup Invitational taking place at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California. The select group of U.S. drivers are a diverse unit comprised of past champions, rookies, teenagers and retired executives. Racers will compete with others from across the globe in two non-points, invitation-only races on September 9-11, 2016 as part of a Mazda-exclusive weekend that features both the Mazda Road to Indy and the Mazda Road to 24.

The drivers representing the United States are the following:

John Dean II, Sick Sideways Racing, Sebring, Florida

John Dean II is the defending Battery Tender MX-5 Cup Champion. His championship earned him a Mazda Road to 24 scholarship valued at $200,000 and the right to race in a Mazda Soul Red machine. John is the winningest racer in MX-5 Cup history. He has earned more pole positions and has led more laps than any other driver in the first eight races of 2016. In addition to being a driver, John is the owner of Sick Sideways Racing.

Mark Drennan, Winding Road Team TFB, San Jose, California

Mark Drennan currently sits as the top Rookie in points this season, amassing multiple podium finishes and two wins; he is seventh overall in points. Mark earned a reputation as being the racer to beat in the fierce world of Spec Miata with multiple championships. He is a corporate recruitment executive taking a sabbatical to pursue his racing dream full-time. 

Robby Foley, Atlanta Motorsports Group, Randolph, New Jersey

Robby Foley won last year’s Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge which earned him a Mazda Road to 24 scholarship valued at $100,000 and the right to race in a Mazda Soul Red machine. Robby has scored two race wins so far in 2016. He balances his racing career while being a full-time mechanical engineering student at Auburn University.

Ara Malkhassian, ALARA Racing, Houston, Texas

Ara Makhassian has been a competitor and team owner (ALARA Racing) in the series since its inception in 2006. He currently holds the record for most races started and has scored multiple race wins. Drivers for ALARA Racing have won the series championship in both 2013 and 2014. Ara currently sits in second in the 2016 Championship points standings. ALARA stands for Al+Ara for Alison and Ara Malkhassian, the husband and wife team owners.

Glenn McGee, Sick Sideways Racing, Tampa, Florida

Glenn McGee began his racing journey in front of a computer screen. In the 2015 iRacing Mazda MX-5 Cup, McGee tied for the most poles, most wins, and most world record times, becoming one of two iRacing’s Mazda MX-5 Cup champion representatives in the 2015 Mazda’s Road to 24 Shootout. Glenn left the shootout with the $100,000 Mazda Road to 24 Scholarship.

Sarah Montgomery, ALARA Racing, Lafayette, Louisiana

Sarah Montgomery is a recent college graduate and is the only competitor in the 2016 Battery MX-5 Cup sponsored by a city, her hometown of Lafayette, Louisana. She’s been racing for a decade and started in dirt oval go karts when she was 10 before moving into Spec Miata. After four years of competing in Spec Miata, she moved to the Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge in 2014. Since 2015, she has been racing with ALARA Racing in MX-5 Cup.

Tim Probert, ALARA Racing, Houston, Texas

Tim Probert has been racing in MX-5 Cup since the first season, always with ALARA Racing. In addition to MX-5 Cup, Tim races in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge. He is a retired Fortune 500 corporate executive. Tim was born in the U.K, but calls Houston his home now.

Nathanial Sparks, Sick Sideways Racing

Nathanial Sparks has been “Mr. Consistency” in 2016 to lead the championship after eight of 12 races having scored multiple podium finishes. Nathanial started racing in late 2008 and quickly became one of the top Teen Mazda Challenge Spec Miata racers. He is a two-time Mazda Road to 24 Shootout Finalist. Nathanial joined MX-5 Cup as an independent team before joining Sick Sideways Racing.

Chris Stone, ALARA Racing, Salt Lake City, Utah

Chris Stone currently sits in second of the Rookie point standings behind Mark Drennan. Chris’ consistent and clean racing has allowed for a successful rookie year in the series. Chris started his racing career at age six in motorcycle and progressed to karts. Away from the track, Chris is the operations manager for LYFE Motorsports.

Aurora Straus, McCumbee-McAleer Racing, Cold Springs, New York

Aurora Straus is competing in her second season in MX-5 Cup with support from the Monticello Motor Club. When not racing, Aurora is a talented high school student who is looking to study both engineering and English in college. Among her non-driving talents, she is a singer and songwriter.

The Global Competitors: The nine international racers, selected and hosted by Mazda affiliates in Japan, Europe, and Australia, are as follows:

·         Oliver Allwood – United Kingdom
·         Erik Blixit – Sweden
·         Anthony Crawford – Australia
·         Kamil Franczak – Poland
·         Gabriele Gardel – Switzerland
·         Enami Kitahira – Japan
·         Moritz Kranz – Germany
·         Mike Sinclair – Australia
·         Yuui Tsutsumi – Japan

Attention NASCAR teams: IMSA drivers available for Daytona!

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NASCAR will be making its debut on the Daytona International Speedway road course next month, and there’s a big fan who’d like to join the historic weekend.

This fan actually has impressive credentials, too — a few thousand laps around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile layout that annually plays host to the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.

In 2014, the winning GTLM team in the sports car endurance classic included IMSA Porsche driver Nick Tandy, who rabidly has followed NASCAR for more than 30 years since growing up in England.

So why not try racing NASCAR? Especially because Tandy has the weekend of Aug. 14-16 free.

He’s not picky, either — offering up his services on Twitter (as well as those of Porsche teammate Earl Bamber) for an ARCA, Xfinity, trucks or Cup ride.

Tandy’s affinity for American stock-car racing runs deep.

His first trip to the World Center of Racing was as a fan attending the 50th running of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 17, 2008. During Rolex testing in January, Tandy, 35, said he hadn’t missed a Cup race on TV in 15 years.

Among his favorite NASCAR drivers: the Earnhardts, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch. When IMSA ran the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in 2014, Tandy stayed a few extra days at the Brickyard and bought Kyle Busch gear for himself and his children.

He briefly took the stage during a NASCAR weekend last October. After IMSA’s season finale at Road Atlanta, Tandy made a few demonstration laps and a burnout in his No. 911 Porsche before the Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway.

He also has some experience in stock cars, having raced Modified-type grass-roots series on England’s quarter-mile short tracks.

Couple that with a Daytona road course record that includes two consecutive podium class finishes (including last Saturday) and a sports car resume with 13 IMSA victories and an overall win in the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans … and maybe a NASCAR team should take a look.

And Tandy isn’t the only IMSA driver who likely would be available.

Corvette driver Jordan Taylor, who won the 2017 Rolex 24 overall title with Jeff Gordon as a teammate (and the inspiration for his Rodney Sandstrom persona), also tweeted his availability for the weekend on the high banks.

Sports car veteran Andy Lally, a GTD driver with multiple class wins in the Rolex 24 as well as 38 Cup starts (he was the 2011 rookie of the season in NASCAR’s premier series), also hung out his shingle.

There also is AIM Vasser Sullivan’s Jack Hawksworth (who just won at Daytona last Saturday), the Englishman who teamed with Kyle Busch at the Rolex 24 in January and made an Xfinity start at Mid-Ohio last year with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Many sports car drivers (such as Taylor) already live in Florida, and many are hunkering down in the Sunshine State with IMSA returning to action at Daytona last week and Sebring International Raceway next week. Because of COVID-19-related travel concerns and restrictions, several IMSA stars who live outside the country are riding out the pandemic within a few hours of Daytona with nothing to do.

Why not a weekend at the World Center of Racing?

Over the years, scads of “road-course ringers” (including some Formula One veterans) have tried their hands in stock cars at Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International.

How about considering the many sports car drivers who already have reached victory lane at Daytona by making a few right-hand turns, too?