After follow for his Rolex 24 debut at Daytona, Chase Elliott determined to remain within the Motion Categorical pit timing stand to observe the 2021 Mazda MX-5 Cup season opener.
The four-time hottest driver in NASCAR didn’t disappoint within the motion.
Drafted into tight packs on the banks of Daytona Worldwide Speedway because it slammed fenders down the monitor’s infield highway, the race produced an thrilling end with the highest 4 separated by lower than 0.2 seconds on the checkered flag.
“That was among the best races I’ve ever seen, simply as a fan sitting there,” Elliott stated with a giant smile as he recalled final weekend’s MX-5 Cup occasion (two days earlier than he received in Nashville Superspeedway). “I believed it was actually fascinating. And people guys placed on a terrific present, however I feel that monitor actually suited the best way these automobiles had been arrange and so they might draft, they had been going fairly sluggish the place they had been drafting actually right away. After which they appeared actually enjoyable to drive by the highway part. And it had this actually cool steadiness. I believed it was actually enjoyable.”
Elliott has grow to be an informal fan, sometimes watching the MX-5 Cup races and highlights — and he plans to observe in individual this weekend at Highway America, when the sports activities automobile collection will race twice as a companion occasion to Xfinity and Cup Collection (whereas IMSA’s WeatherTech Sports activities Automobile Championship Important Races in Canada).
Elliott has grow to be certainly one of NASCAR’s many ties to the Mazda MX-5 Cup. On account of sanctioning since final 12 months by IMSA (which is owned by NASCAR), there are already some pure instances of convergence, however the Highway America entry record accommodates a number of extra hyperlinks. Rookie MX-5 Cup Connor Zilisch (who qualified on the first Friday) is managed by Kevin Harvick Inc., and collection title contender Chris Nunes hails from the identical Southern California area as seven-time Cup Collection champion Jimmie Johnson.
Nevertheless it’s the memorable race that has created even stronger bonds. MX-5 Cup races have grow to be dates for NASCAR govt vp Mike Helton when he attends IMSA race weekends.
“It is enjoyable to personal the MX-5 Cup property and put it in entrance of our viewers and the folks of NASCAR,” IMSA president John Doonan instructed NBC Sports activities. “Mike clearly loves coming to IMSA races to observe the MX-5 Cup. Anybody who’s a racing fan, whether or not it is a inventory automobile race or a highway course race, desires to see a great present. And there is no doubt that the MX-5 Cup places on a terrific present each time they’re there.”
Parker Kligerman could have reside expertise with a twin on Saturday and Sunday (each races can be broadcast at 10 a.m. ET on IMSA.com/tvlive), making his MX-5 Cup debut within the No. 75 of Thunder Bunny Racing.
Kligerman, who races part-time in NASCAR whereas additionally working as a reporter for NBC Sports activities, caught the attention of MX-5 Cup officers when he tweeted that the collection persistently delivered excellent racing. The put up sparked speak of taking it to an MX-5 Cup race.
In his MX-5 Cup follow debut on Friday, Kligerman turned the ninth fastest lap.
“They appeared on the schedule this 12 months and Highway America being the primary NASCAR affiliate race, they stated it could be enjoyable if somebody from NASCAR got here to the race,” Kligerman instructed NBC Sports activities. “And so they requested me if I used to be and it was ‘one hundred pc.’
“It is a cool factor. I’ve at all times wished to expertise that, and I wished to race a Miata man at Lime Rock (the Connecticut monitor owned by Kligerman) final 12 months and I had a blast, and that is the head of it, mainly. So I stated, ‘Join!’ I am embarrassed as a result of I feel it simply appears to be like like one of many funnest, cleanest races ever. You develop up pondering as a toddler that is how racing can be on a regular basis. Automobile packs, utilizing aerodynamics, slingshots and stuff like that. It would not fairly work out that approach once you get to the highest, nevertheless it looks as if it could.”
Kligerman, who mentioned Mazda’s racing historical past throughout his “In The Wall” video collection this week, believes the standard of the racing may be traced to the production-based formulation of the MX-5 Cup, which shares a number of traits with NASCAR’s new Subsequent Gen in Cup automobile. .
As a former Mazda govt, Doonan helped construct the collection greater than 15 years in the past. The MX-5 Cup moved to its present mannequin in 2015. The automobiles are constructed at Mazda’s foremost manufacturing unit in Hiroshima, Japan and shipped to Florida, the place they’re reworked into race automobiles by Fils Efficiency in Daytona Seaside.
Greater than 250 motorsports-specific elements are added to the manufacturing automobile, together with a full cage and sealed engines, transmissions, shocks and ECUs.
“In some ways, the philosophy of the MX-5 Cup automobiles matches precisely what the following technology automobile is all about,” stated Doonan. “This cost-effective platform units the bar for any dimension group. There’s a one-car group that has received the championship twice. That is the philosophy that the MX-5 has.
“It is no secret that racing is among the greatest on this planet. The shutdown ends. Working that teaches. And additionally it is very price efficient for opponents. The automobile is all about setup and driving expertise.”
Doonan is hoping for a “One NASCAR” philosophy that might assist spur extra crossovers within the MX-5 Cup sooner or later. Though producer allegiances to Chevy, Ford and Toyota might restrict choices for stars like Elliott, a number of different NASCAR veterans have expressed curiosity in racing within the collection.
“The extra NASCAR-owned properties that may work collectively, the higher,” Doonan stated. “And given the alternatives with a number of different highway programs on the (Cup) schedule, it opens up alternatives to convey a unique look and property to the NASCAR viewers. And the MX-5 viewers and the IMSA viewers as an entire has a unique perspective on NASCAR lately with the brand new automobile and extra highway programs. You are seeing numerous parallels.”
The primary two hours within the automobile and you continue to have so much to study, however I undoubtedly felt assured by the top of the day
These things is a lot enjoyable 👏 pic.twitter.com/TUQ3BvutwB
— Parker Kligerman (@pkligerman) June 30, 2022
Kligerman, who was driving the MX-5 Cup automobile in between his NBC NASCAR stint this weekend, stated a number of drivers have instructed him they’re jealous of his moonlighting this weekend.
“I hope to symbolize NASCAR nicely,” stated Kligerman, a two-time winner within the truck collection. “I hope Chase and everyone seems to be happy with me. I am leaping in on the backside with little or no follow, however I am getting in with an open thoughts figuring out I can take up. I hope to be respectful and enhance over the weekend.
“I can undoubtedly see extra NASCAR guys racing (the MX-5 Cup) so long as they’ll get the producer’s approval to do it. We’re all runners. We will respect nice racing. And once we see one thing that appears like it could simply be enjoyable, that is actually tempting. I can think about a bunch of fellows wanting to do this.”