Copeland Takes His Second Career Win at Road America

Dean Copeland, of Bowie, Maryland, finished in the top position for Round Nine of the SCCA Pro Racing Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich tires at Road America, part of the Road Race Showcase. Nathanial Sparks, of Spanish Fort, Alabama, and Sebastian Landy, of Great Falls, Virginia, completed the podium. For the second time in his career, Copeland scored a series win at Road America. This time, Copeland did it as part of a race that average 91.386 mph around the 14-turn, 4.048-mile permanent road course. For 16 laps, Copeland kept his No. 7 Copeland Motorsports/Sync Speed Inc. MX-5 in contention for the lead. On the final lap, he started his move in the Carousel to get around Sparks. While Copeland started the pass it turn 10, it wasn’t complete until the exit of Turn 12.
“We had a long time to think about this race since it was so late,” Copeland said. “Before the race, I played every scenario through my head that I could think of. But, when it came to the start of the race, all that planning goes out the window. It was pretty clear the Sick Sideways guys, of Sparks and Dean, were working together very closely. I tried to get between them early on, but they weren’t having any of that. So, I just decided to sit behind them until the closing laps, and I was hoping someone would come to help.
“Once we got the white flag, Sebastian [Landy] was there to help. We had a shot, and we took it. Landy have me enough of a draft to get around the two Sick Sideways guys.
“This type of racing suits my driving style. I like race on the edge, and you can’t be scared around this place. Going flat out through ‘The Kink’ isn’t easy, but it’s something you have to do.”
Like Copeland, Sparks was part of the five-car group that continually swapped the lead amongst themselves for the second half of the race. The lead officially changed hands nine times among three drivers, while many other unofficial passes for the race lead took place elsewhere on the circuit.
“Crazy is an understatement for what happened out on the track,” Sparks said. “You come here knowing it’s going to be close, but you never can fully expect what is going to happen. I can’t wait to go back and watch the in-car footage.
“At most places it comes down to who can physically drive better, but here it’s all about the mental battle and finding who can help keep you out front. If it weren’t for my teammate, John Dean, I wouldn’t be here right now. I’m really glad we’re here and competitive, as a team, for tomorrow.”
In his No. 49 Motorsports Group MX-5, Landy spent most of the race at the tail end of the lead draft. While not continually dicing for the lead, Landy was able to sit back and size up his competition.
“There were six of seven cars that could have walked away with the win,” Landy said. “The Sick Sideways guys and Dean Copeland were strong. For the most part it was tough to hang with the leaders, and I wasn’t sure I had anything for them. As the race went on, things came to me a little more. I tried to take advantage of the opportunities and came home third. It was great.
“On the last lap, it came down to me working with Dean [Copeland] since he was the only guy with whom I could work. I just tried to see if we could both get by the Sick Sideways guys. I got him to the lead and I was able to get in front of John [Dean]. It was great racing with Sparks through Canada Corner. It was just a great race, the whole way around.”
John Dean finished fourth in his No. 16 Projections Research/PPG MX-5. As the laps wound down, Dean was in the mix for the race lead. He just didn’t have the placement to get to the point position.
Championship Leader Kenton Koch brought his No. 12 ALARA Racing/Mazda Motorsports/BFGoodrich Tires MX-5 home in fifth. Koch hung with the leaders early on, but had lost close contact with the front-running group by lap 14. He spent the remaining three laps fighting to hold the fifth position.
In the Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge, Drake Kemper, of Toluca Lake, California, took a hard-fought win. Kemper, Ben Albano and Lucas Bize were all scored as lap leaders during the race, but Kemper was able to put his No. 99 Royal Rugby SBMX-5 in the right place when it counted.
“That was the most insane 45 minutes of my entire life,” Kemper said. “We probably switched positions 30 different times since there were four official leaders in our class. There wasn’t a lap where the drivers in the lead group didn’t change positions at least once.
“Coming into this weekend, I was worried about this track. On TV, it looks much wider than it is and with more grip. When I figured that it was none of those things, I got even more worried. I’m happy though. We qualified with a double pole, and we’re looking to get a double win.”
Lucas Bize, of New York, finished second followed by Robby Foley, of Randolph, New Jersey, who completed the podium.
Round 10 of the SCCA Pro Racing Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires is scheduled for Sunday, at 10:50 a.m. (CDT).
Adam Sinclair