Cooper Dominates For Second 2011 Playboy MX-5 Cup Win At Lime Rock

LAKEVILLE, Conn. – After being the fastest in SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup practice and qualifying on Friday, Mike Cooper, of Syosset, N.Y., expected Saturday’s race at Lime Rock Park would be much more difficult. That prediction couldn’t have been more wrong, as Cooper cruised to a dominating win followed by Justin Hall, of Davis, Calif., and Jeff Mosing, of Austin, Texas.

Mike Cooper dominated on Saturday at Lime Rock Park (Juha Lievonen Photo)

Cooper started on pole, led the first turn, and never looked back on his way to a 14.127-second win in the 44-lap race, covering 67.32 miles in 45:21.452 for an average of 89.052 mph.

Never challenged, Cooper’s No. 6 Atlanta Motorsports Group Mazda MX-5 was the quickest car on the track for the entire race, turning the fastest laps of the race lap after lap until the checkered flag. Cooper’s fast lap of 1:01.058 (90.209 mph) also established a new track record for the series.

“The race was uneventful for the most part, once we got through the first two or three laps,” Cooper said. “The first several laps I thought Justin was going to be right there, but he lost the draft. I put my head down to keep my pace and pulled away.

“You have to take care of the left side tires on a track like this, and I tried to do that while still being consistent. You don’t want to be erratic while doing that because that leads to bad things. The BFGoodrich Tires really held up, though. I may have lost a tenth of a second at the end, but that’s nothing over a 45-lap race.”

Unable to catch his teammate, but comfortably ahead of third position, Hall cruised home with a second-place finish in the No. 4 Atlanta Motorsports Group Mazda MX-5 for his best finish of the season.

Hall is a champion in the former Miata Cup, the precursor to the MX-5 Cup, and is getting comfortable again in a race car after several seasons away.

“I started off fourth at Homestead, finished third at Road Atlanta, and we were second today,” Hall said after the race. “I don’t want to jinx it, but if the trend continues, maybe we’ll see a first on Monday.”

Mosing qualified third and settled in behind Cooper and Hall in his No. 10 Race Now For Autism/Frank’s International MX-5 after battling early on with fourth-starting Kevin Kopp in the No. 22 Piper Motorsports/Brimtek Motorsports MX-5. Mosing shook free of Kopp after just a couple of laps, but was already too far behind the AMG teammates to challenge for another position despite slowly closing the gap to Hall.

It was a busy race day for Mosing, who also finished 11th in the Grand-Am Series race Saturday morning with former MX-5 Cup competitor Jesse Combs.

“There’s some pros and cons to being so busy and running two races in a weekend, but it kind of paid off here,” Mosing said. “I’ve never been out here, so every lap I got really paid off. I like to run in a train, it’s a little more exciting. Kopp and I were battling it out a bit and that gapped us from the AMG guys. We were reeling them in at two-tenths per lap, but it just wasn’t enough.”

The most exciting battle on the track was a three-way struggle for fourth place. Dean Copeland started fifth in the No. 7 Copeland Motorsports/Sync Speed Inc MX-5, and was joined by 2007 MX-5 Cup Champion Jason Saini. Saini had started seventh in the No. 28 Autobarn Mazda of Countryside/New Balance/Phiten/SunTrust/CJ Wilson’s Children’s Charities Mazda MX-5 and dispatched Ara Malkhassian in the No. 11 ALARA Racing MX-5 early in the race.

Tyler Cooke became the third driver to join the battle after moving his No. 8 ALARA Racing/Natural Difference Skin Care MX-5 from 15th position through traffic. Cooke originally qualified third for the race, but was moved to the rear of the field after his car was found to be underweight in post-qualifying technical inspection.

Cooke and Saini were able to shake free of Copeland, then traded the fourth position five times in the last five laps before Cooke finished fourth in his MX-5 Cup debut.

Saini, Copeland, and Malkhassian finished fifth through seventh. Chad McCumbee, making his MX-5 Cup debut in the No. 29 ModSpace/Mazda MX-5 in a break from his stock car career that has taken him through all three top-level NASCAR series, finished eighth.

Cooper extends his MX-5 Cup Championship lead with the win to 36 points over Saini, 191 to 155. Hall (142) sits third, followed by a tie between Malkhassian (133) and Scott Shelton who finished 10th on Saturday.

The SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup returns to action on Monday for the second of the Memorial Day Weekend Classic doubleheader at Lime Rock Park. Round Four of the season is scheduled to go green at 5:00 p.m. EDT.

More information is available at www.mx-5cup.com.

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