Patrick Gallagher wraps 2017 Global MX-5 Cup title in Watkins Glen

Gallagher (center) celebrates with McCumbee (left), McAleer (right), and full team. Photo: Mazda Motorsports
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WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Thornville, Ohio’s Patrick Gallagher reached the summit in the Battery Tender Global MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires series on Saturday, wrapping up the 2017 title before the series concludes its season at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca later this month.

He wins a $200,000 prize from Mazda to continue his racing career next season, and admitted post-race how relieved he was to already know he’ll be racing again in 2018, although in which series remains to be determined.

Gallagher, 24, is the epitome of a “Mazda racing lifer,” and a driver who lives up to the company’s oft-used mantra that more Mazdas are road raced on any given weekend versus any other manufacturer.

He started out racing open-wheel cars powered by Mazda and is a past national champion at the SCCA Runoffs in Formula 500 (2010) and Formula Enterprises (2012), both times at Road America. He also raced in the National class of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda series, in a class that also featured future Verizon IndyCar Series driver RC Enerson.

Transitioning to the sports car path, Gallagher then won a Mazda scholarship in a shootout at Buttonwillow, Calif. at the end of 2012, having beat fellow rising sports car star Kenton Koch and two others to be able to move into the MX-5 Cup series on the scholarship support.

Although he’s bounced around a couple teams and series since – primarily MX-5 Cup and additionally the Pirelli World Challenge in its Touring Car ranks – Gallagher, who now lives in the Chicago area, was well overdue to wrap the title and did so this weekend in Watkins Glen.

He won today’s first of two races but fell to fifth in race two, as Todd Lamb scored his first win of the year.

Photo: Mazda Motorsports

The morning win was his sixth of the season, after sweeping the season-opening Barber Motorsports Park round in April, winning once each at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and Road America, and then winning on the streets of Toronto in mid-July.

The journey to the title this year was achieved with McCumbee McAleer Racing, Gallagher having been good friends and colleagues with New York-based Scot Stevan McAleer and McAleer’s longtime co-driver in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, North Carolina native Chad McCumbee.

“Guys like me have to be so thankful to this series and this team to have an opportunity to go out and do something to win some races,” Gallagher told NBC Sports.

“I don’t know where it’ll take me. But I got here thanks to CJ Wilson Racing at the start, Atlanta Motorsports Group where I developed, and now the guys at McCumbee McAleer Racing that have been great, and made me feel like I’m at home. ModSpace has stuck with me the whole time up to current day.”

Photo: Mazda Motorsports

Gallagher’s championship win ends a two-year run of titles achieved by the Sick Sideways Racing team. Nathanial “Sparky” Sparks won last year’s title with John Dean II the 2015 champion. Koch won in 2014 and Christian Szymczak in 2013 for Alara Racing, with McAleer winning the 2012 title for CJ Wilson Racing. Gallagher’s arrival on the sports car scene, as noted, occurred that year.

With today’s doubleheader in the books, the MX-5 Cup series races on the IMSA weekend Sept. 22-24 at Mazda Raceway.

This weekend was the fourth and last this year where MX-5 Cup, now under the operations of Andersen Promotions and sanctioning of INDYCAR, raced on a Verizon IndyCar Series weekend, joining Barber, Road America (below) and Toronto. Between Road America and Indianapolis, MX-5 Cup unleashed several incredible photo finish results.

Photo: Mazda Motorsports

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10-3 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 7 p.m. to USA Network. Peacock will have flag-to-flag coverage.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III