Sparks Finishes Mazda MX-5 Cup Practice Two at CTMP in Top Position

Friday, Jul 11 1194
Nathanial Sparks, of Spanish Fort, Alabama, finished at the top of the time charts of practice two in preparation for Round Seven of the SCCA Pro Racing Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires, part of the Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix Presented by Hawk Performance. Joey Bickers, of Moorpark, California, and Kenton Koch, of Glendora, California, completed the top three.
 
Driving his No. 8 OOTSK Performance/Bimmerworld MX-5, Sparks was able to clock a best time of 1:35.328 (92.862 mph) around the 10-turn, 2.459-mile permanent road course. That time was good enough to land him the top spot by a razor-thin margin of 0.052-second, and is quicker than the existing lap record. However, the current record will stand as the lap was not turned during a qualifying or race session.
 
“I was pretty shocked to have finished P1 with all these fast drivers out here,” Sparks said. “We’ve been working on setup, and the car is really dialed in. John Dean and the Sick Sideways guys really did a great job setting this car up and it’s really on rails. I’m just driving as hard as I can to help the team out in the best way I know how.
 
“I have a strong feeling that we’ll all do well in the qualifying session. We’re on older tires and this is typically what happens. During practice our team is usually a little slower, but once we get to qualifying our cars are set up well for the new tires.”
 
Bickers put down a fast lap early in the session. His fastest lap of 1:35.380 (92.812 mph) was notched after completing his fourth lap around the course in his No. 29 Mazda Motorsports/BFGoodrich Tires MX-5. The lap landed Bickers in the second position once the checkered flag flew.
 
“It’s my first time here at the track,” Bickers said. “I really like all the fast corners. We’ve been making steady improvements to the car, both yesterday and today. I feel like we’re at a point where we can leave the car alone and contend for a top-three spot in qualifying. Hopefully, that will put us in a good position to stay in the top pack during the race.
 
“Before we go out to qualify we’re going to put some fresh tires on the car. There are a lot of corners where you have the car loaded up for a long time, and I think new rubber will help with that. We’ve been running on old tires, up until now. It’s been good to learn the track on those tires, but it’s time to put on the new rubber and see what happens.”
 
In the No. 12 ALARA Racing/Mazda Motorsports/BFGoodrich Tires MX-5, Koch stopped the clock with a fast lap of 1:35.396 (92.796 mph). That was good enough to place him in third. Koch said he will make some small adjustments to optimize his car during qualifying.
 
“We’re going to make some changes, for sure,” Koch said. “This is obviously going to be different than the qualifying session. We made some changes for the practice session, and it was a little off. It was drivable, but I would have liked it to have been better. We still left a couple tenths of-a-second out on track.
 
“I think we’re looking good for qualifying, it’s just going to come down to putting the laps together. I think the pole time will come later in the session, depending on how greasy and slick the track gets.”
 
John Dean, of Sebring, Florida, finished the second practice session of the weekend in fourth. At the controls of his No. 16 Projections Research/PPG MX-5, Dean’s fastest lap tripped the timers at 1:35.487 (92.708 mph).
 
Completing the top five was the third Sick Sideways Racing car driven by James Vance, of Stouffville, Ont., Canada. Behind the wheel of the No. 40 Exposystems Displays & Exhibits MX-5, Vance’s best time was a lap of 1:35.590 (92.608 mph).
 
In the Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge class, Drake Kemper, of Toluca Lake, California, led the way. Piloting his No. 99 Royal Rugby SBMX-5, Kemper’s fastest lap was registered at 1:36.670 (91.573 mph). Like the time in the Cup class, this is quicker than the current track record, but will not count as the time was set during a practice session.
 
Lucas Bize, of New York, New York, finished the 30-minute practice session in second with a fast lap of 1:36.935 (91.323 mph). Ben Albano, of Greenwich, Connecticut, slotted into third with his lap of 1:37.702 (90.606 mph), in his No. 61 Project Yellow Light SBMX-5.
 
The SCCA Pro Racing Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires is slated to take to the track for qualifying later today at 1:55 p.m. (EDT). Round Seven is set to start on Saturday, at 8:00 a.m. (EDT), followed by Round Eight, later in the day, at 4:20 p.m. (EDT).
 
Adam Sinclair

Adam has been a race fan since the first time he went through the tunnel under the Daytona International Speedway almost 30 years ago. He has had the privilege of traveling to races all across the state of Florida (as well as one race in Ohio), watching nearly everything with a motor compete for fame and glory, as well as participating in various racing schools to get the feel of what racecar drivers go through every week.  

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