Landy Takes First Career Mazda MX-5 Cup Win at Road Atlanta

Sebastian Landy, of Great Falls, Virginia, captured the top spot in Round 11 of the SCCA Pro Racing Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires, notching his first series win. Dean Copeland, of Bowie, Maryland, and John Dean, of Sebring, Florida, completed the top three positions. 
Landy did not lead the most laps of the race in his No. 49 Motorsports Group MX-5, but he led the most important one – the last lap. The race, which averaged 81.243 mph around the 12-turn, 2.54-mile circuit, was a wild one at the front.
By lap two, the lead cars that included Kenton Koch, Dean Copeland and Nathanial Sparks had successfully broken away from the remainder of the pack. Behind them was a fierce battle for each position. The eventual race winner, Landy, was even involved in some close racing through Turn 12 that resulted in him being pushed off the track by his teammate, Lucas Catania, at the turn’s exit.
Following his off-track excursion, Landy dropped back to the 12th position. He spent the next 18 laps working his way back up to the leaders. What helped Landy the most, was his restart following the three-lap, full-course caution that started on lap 18 issued for the car of Tim Reger making contact with the retaining wall outside of Turn Five. Reger was taken to the on-site medical center and released.
On the Lap 21 restart, Landy took the green flag in fifth, but started lap 22 just off the rear bumper of then-leader Copeland. As the field came down the hill to Turn 12 to start lap 23, it was Landy that was in the lead where he stayed until the checkered flag waived.
“Starting from sixth, I didn’t know what was going to come of it,” Landy said. “I just went in with the mindset of moving forward to give us a chance at a good result. There were some guys doing some pretty crazy things out there, trying to fit cars where they didn’t fit.
“Unfortunately, I got involved in that going through Turn 12. After going off, I thought I was done. But, I just put my head down and kept moving forward. Things just fell right after that. At the end of the day, all you can do is smile.”
Copeland, at the controls of his No. 7 Copeland Motorsports/Sync Speed Inc./Brimtek MX-5, tallied his third consecutive podium finish, in as many races. In contention for the entire 24-lap race, Copeland was no lower than third each time he crossed the line and was even the official leader for six laps.
Once Landy completed the pass for the lead on lap 22, Copeland tucked in behind and was able to hold off Dean to the finish.
“At the beginning of the race, I was hooked up with Kenton [Koch],” Copeland said. “We were able to open up a gap and I was hoping we could maintain that, but the Sick Sideways guys were able to get into the mix. They were able to chase us down and get into the fight, which just allowed everyone else to catch up.
“When the yellow flag came out, I knew I needed to get to the lead as quickly as I could. Once I got there, Sebastian [Landy] was able to get around me with a great restart. I actually wanted to be in second on the last lap, but ran out of track.”
In his No. 16 Projections Research/PPG MX-5, Dean was one of five lap leaders during the race. He took the lead during lap 16, and held the position through the Lap 21 race restart. As part of the three-wide battle into Turn One for the lead, following the green flag, Dean was unable to hold onto the lead.
“I’ve been fighting the car throughout the entire race weekend,” Dean said. “We’ve been chasing the setup and we can’t figure it out. The car is quick, but it’s just hard to drive. We were doing really well off the start. [Nathanial] Sparks was making good, aggressive moves.
“During the opening laps, I almost wadded the car up in Turn Five. The rear of the car was over the curb and I was sideways. I barely saved it using the brakes. I lost a lot of ground to Sparks and Dean, and just wasn’t able to catch up. I had to be cautious in a few places where you really need to hang it out, which made things difficult. Once I caught back up, Sparks and I were able to work well together and control the race until the yellow flag came out.”
Kenton Koch took the checkered flag in fourth, behind the wheel of his No. 12 ALARA Racing/Mazda Motorsports/BFGoodrich Tires MX-5. Koch was the polesitter for the standing start and held the lead for seven laps, but was content to settle into a fast pace just behind the leaders as he only needed to start both races of the weekend to capture the Championship.
Patrick Gallagher brought his No. 28 MedBuild/Henry Schein/ModSpace MX-5 home in the fifth position, less than one second behind the race winner. Starting in seventh, Gallagher was in fifth by lap four. Gallagher logged consistent laps that saw him as high as fourth, and no lower than sixth.
In the Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge, Drake Kemper, of Toluca Lake, California, continued his streak with win number three. Starting from third on the grid, Kemper drove his No. 99 Royal Rugby SBMX-5 into an immediate fight for second with Ben Albano.
By the close of lap one Kemper was successful, as he crossing the line in second. For the remaining 23 laps, Kemper played a high speed game of tic-tac-toe as he, Albano, Robby Foley and even Bryan Hixon, fought for every square inch of track position. On the lap 21 restart Kemper took the lead and never looked back.
“That race was insane,” Kemper said. “I feel like we swapped positions at least 10 times, for the lead. I’m pretty sure we all lead at least one lap.
“The car didn’t feel great, to begin with. The Continental rubber and BFGoodrich Tires rubber didn’t mix well. Our tires felt superior, but the car just wasn’t sticking. We probably had a good 15 minutes of slipping and sliding out there. I didn’t think the win was going to happen for us, at all. There was an accident involving the two leaders, and I was able to slip by for the lead. Then, I battled with Bryan Hixon until his car broke.”
Albano, of Greenwich, Connecticut, was able to finish the race second in his No. 61 Project Yellow Light SBMX-5 just ahead of Robby Foley, of Randolph, New Jersey. After the finish, Foley is just three points from being mathematically eliminated from the Championship.
Heading into Friday’s race, Koch has mathematically clinched the 2014 Mazda MX-5 Championship. Landy and Dean decide second place on track tomorrow as Dean sits at 573 points, 34 markers ahead of Landy.
The Championship picture for the Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge is also coming into sharper focus. Kemper sits in the catbird seat with 641 points. Albano trails by 49 markers while Robby Foley has 584 points.
Round 12, the final race for the SCCA Pro Racing Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires in 2014, is slated to start Friday, at 8:00 a.m. (EDT).
Adam Sinclair