Koch Captures Pole in Record Setting Fashion at Road America

 Kenton Koch, of Glendora, California, proved to be the class of the SCCA Pro Racing Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires field by qualifying for the pole position for Championship Round Nine at Road America, part of the Road Race Showcase. Nathanial Sparks, of Spanish Fort, Alabama, and Dean Copeland, of Bowie, Maryland, completed the top three, in that order.

En route to earning the top starting position for Round Nine, scheduled for later this evening, Koch shredded the previous qualifying record set in 2012. In the No. 12 ALARA Racing/Mazda Motorsports/BFGoodrich Tires MX-5, Koch turned a fast lap of 2:37.534 (92.505 mph) on the 14-turn, 4.048-mile natural road course. His lap was nearly one second quicker than the prior record of 2:38.484 (91.951 mph), held by John Dean.
“It went pretty well,” Koch said. “Early on, the tires had to come up to temperature in the first few laps. Once they got there, the car was dialed.
“I feel like I’ve definitely gotten acclimated to the track. It’s not a new track for me, but I do enjoy it. I like the technical tracks, which this is. I think we’re looking good. I’m just going to be smart and play my own race. I’m going to experiment the whole time to see where I can position myself to be able to get the win on the last lap.”
In his No. 8 OOTSK Performance/Bimmerworld MX-5, Sparks methodically gained speed throughout the 30-minute session. Lap six of his 10 total laps tripped the timing line at 2:37.568 (92.486 mph), and proved to be his best he could do.
“I was only able to string one good lap together,” Sparks said. “It’s going to be good for today, but tomorrow I’m a little further back. Starting in the top ten is not too bad; we have a pretty long sprint race so I’m not too worried about where I’m starting.
“From what we’ve seen, the track usually starts off pretty good. As the session goes on, it falls off. Our tires are getting hot and the track is getting a little greasy, but everybody is in the same boat. So, we’ll see how we can play it out. The car is coming on strong here, and I’m having a good time. I’m not in any championship points, but we’ll see how the weekend goes.”
Copeland, the only driver in the top five to have won a Mazda MX-5 Cup race at Road America, will start Saturday evening’s race from third. He logged a fast time of 2:37.607 (92.462 mph) at the controls of his No. 7 Copeland Motorsports/Sync Speed Inc. MX-5. It took little time for Copeland to get up to speed as he set his best lap time on his third of five total laps he completed during the session.
“I think qualifying went fairly well,” Copeland said. “But, I felt like I may have left a little bit on the table. All I can say is that it’s going to be a really close race and really exciting. I think that the track has actually gotten a lot better throughout the week, but we have a two-and-a-half hour Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge race between this qualifying session and our race, so I don’t know if that’s going to be good or bad for track conditions.”
“This is going to be really interesting. Everybody is really close, the field is stacked and there are a lot of fast cars. I’ll tell you one thing, it’s going to be action packed and you’re going to have to hold on to your seat.”
Driving the No. 16 Projections Research/PPG MX-5, John Dean will start Round Nine from fourth. His best lap was a 2:37.783 (92.359 mph).
Sebastian Landy completed the top five starting positions. Driving the No. 49 Excitations.com/Atlanta Motorsports Group MX-5, Landy stopped the timing clock at 2:38.193 (92.120 mph).
Drake Kemper, of Toluca Lake, California, also put on a record-setting performance in the Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge. Kemper navigated the course in a time of 2:40.402 (90.851 mph) in his No. 99 Royal Rugby SBMX-5. That was quicker than the previous class qualifying record of 2:43.095 (89.351 mph) set in 2012 by Bryan Hixon.
“Qualifying was awesome,” Kemper said. “Pole isn’t too important here at Road America because it’s a drafting track, but the five points in the championship are quintessential.
“The track is really coming in right now. It is getting rubbered down and we just put on stickers [tires]. It’s really on rails and I’m looking forward to a nice, long race and a lot of drafting. The podium is going to come down to the last lap, no matter what.”
Robby Foley, of Randolph, New Jersey, is slated to start from the second position after setting a best lap time of 2:40.549 (90.768 mph). In the No. 61 Project Yellow Light SBMX-5, Ben Albano, of Greenwich, Connecticut, is slated to start from third after turning a lap of 2:41.282 (90.356 mph)
Provisional starting lineup for Saturday’s SCCA Pro Racing Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires Round Nine race, part of the Road Race Showcase at Road America, with position, class, car number in parentheses, driver, hometown, car, fastest lap time, and speed in miles per hour.
1, MX, (12), Kenton Koch(R), Glendora, Calif., MX-5, 2:37.534, 92.505.
2, MX, (8), Nathanial Sparks, Spanish Fort, Ala., MX-5, 2:37.568, 92.485.
3, MX, (7), Dean Copeland, Bowie, Md., MX-5, 2:37.607, 92.462.
4, MX, (16), John Dean II, Sebring, Fla., MX-5, 2:37.783, 92.359.
5, MX, (49), Sebastian Landy(R), Great Falls, Va., MX-5, 2:38.193, 92.120.
6, MX, (17), Lucas Catania(R), Cazenovia, N.Y., MX-5, 2:38.255, 92.084.
7, MX, (11), Ara Malkhassian, Houston, Texas, MX-5, 2:38.525, 91.927.
8, MX, (40), Russell Walker, Dallas, Texas, MX-5, 2:38.526, 91.926.
9, MX, (28), Patrick Gallagher, Thornville, Ohio, MX-5, 2:38.903, 91.708.
10, MX, (29), Joey Bickers(R), Moorpark, Calif., MX-5, 2:39.424, 91.409.
11, MX, (6), Timothy Paul(R), Mahopac, N.Y., MX-5, 2:39.607, 91.304.
12, MX, (35), Devin Jones(R), Mooresville, N.C., MX-5, 2:39.689, 91.257.
13, MX, (41), Forrest Landy(R), Great Falls, Va., MX-5, 2:40.165, 90.986.
14, MX, (27), Nick Igdalsky(R), Stroudsburg, Pa., MX-5, 2:40.330, 90.892.
15, MX, (18), Joseph Catania(R), Cazenovia, N.Y., MX-5, 2:40.540, 90.773.
16, MX, (2), Beth Chryst, Herndon, Va., MX-5, 2:40.604, 90.737.
17, MX, (26), Tim Probert, Houston, Texas, MX-5, 2:40.615, 90.731.
18, MX, (10), Brent Mosing, Lafayette, La., MX-5, 2:40.616, 90.730.
19, MX, (77), Alex Ratcliff(R, Berryville, Va., MX-5, 2:41.106, 90.454.
20, MX, (48), Michael Cooper, Syossett, N.Y., MX-5, no time.
1, SBMX, (99), Drake Kemper, Toluca Lake, Calif., SB MX-5, 2:40.402, 90.851.
2, SBMX, (93), Robby Foley, Randolph, N.J., SB MX-5, 2:40.549, 90.768.
3, SBMX, (61), Ben Albano, Greenwich, Conn., SB MX-5, 2:41.282, 90.356.
4, SBMX, (63), Bryan Hixon, San Antonio, Texas, SB MX-5, 2:41.379, 90.301.
5, SBMX, (98), Lucas Bize, New York, N.Y., SB MX-5, 2:41.675, 90.136.
6, SBMX, (60), Zach Lee, San Antonio, Texas, SB MX-5, 2:41.738, 90.101.
7, SBMX, (94), Sarah Montgomery, Lafayette, La., SB MX-5, 2:42.456, 89.703.
8, SBMX, (65), Felix Borodaty, Short Hills, N.J., SB MX-5, 2:44.614, 88.527.
9, SBMX, (69), Chris Beaufait, Freeland, Wash., SB MX-5, 2:46.991, 87.267.
The SCCA Pro Racing Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires will take to the lights for the standing start of Round Nine slated for 7:00 p.m. (CDT), on Saturday. Round 10 is scheduled for Sunday, at 10:50 a.m. (CDT).
Adam Sinclair