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Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca: Round 1

Apr 29, 2016

SALINAS, CA (April 29, 2016) - The inaugural race of the 2016 Battery Tender Global Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires began with an entry list that nearly doubled since last year. Forty drivers participated in today’s race with six of those entries belonging to the newly expanded McCumbee McAleer Racing (MMR) team (Patrick Gallagher, Chris Ohmacht, Justin Raphael, Ari Straus, Max Faulkner, and Nick Igdalsky). After a race which saw dozens of passes, contact, lead changes, and a blistering pace set by the leaders, ultimately it was a McCumbee McAleer Racing Mazda sitting in victory lane at the end of the day with 2015 series runner up, Patrick Gallagher, hoisting the 1st place trophy. 

Despite their lack of experience at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Monticello Motor Club members, Max Faulkner, Chris Ohmacht, and Justin Raphael began this weekend with enthusiasm and optimism when preparing for their first ever race weekend in the Battery Tender MX-5 Cup. “First practice was terrifying because I have never been on track here before but by the end of 2nd practice I began to feel a bit more confident. . . and in the race I actually got off to a really great start,” said Ohmacht.  

Attributing his improvements to time spent with the team and racing coach and driver, Stevan McAleer, Ohmacht understands what he needs to go fast. “The whole team is phenomenal. I like Stevan’s (McAleer) style a lot because I like data. I tend to be very methodical with how I drive . . . The coaching is phenomenal.” This enhanced comfort level spoke for itself on the track in today’s race with Chris gaining five positions from where he sat on the grid. 


Max Faulkner, who showed unbelievable speed in his MX-5 Cup debut, managed to pick off position by position with his teammate and gained six positions from the drop of the green flag to the drop of the checkered.   

Synonymous with Chris Ohmacht’s first impressions of this track was the emotion felt by Justin Raphael. “This track itself scared me to death at first. It’s a very tricky track with no grip, and I’ve never been here before.” Like Ohmacht, Raphael mentions that the time spent with the team really helped him to become comfortable and confident in the car. “The team has been beyond stellar. I’ve never seen anything like it. They’re so switched on and they really are like a teammate.” When it came time to race, Justin mentions that this race, combined with its standing start, was “one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done in my life.”  

Ari Straus, who substituted for his daughter Aurora this weekend in the #17 ModSpace 2016 Mazda MX-5, knows exactly how a top tier racing team should operate. “The team is the best I’ve ever worked with. You can’t ask for a better group of mechanics. The instruction was the best in the entire paddock and I am happy to fill in for my daughter who is doing the whole series.” Ari aims to make tomorrow’s race the highlight of his weekend to add to the momentum of his five positions gained in race number one. 

Ari’s uphill battle was complimented by the fight Nick Igdalsky possessed all weekend. Igdalsky, who pilots the #27 ModSpace and Spartan Trailers MX-5, qualified a strong 13th position with his sights set on a top five. Nick looked fearless on track and made passes seem effortless. As the 45 minute race began to wind down, just as Igdalsky made a bold pass for 8th in the corkscrew, he was soon taken out of contention with contact made by another driver on the last lap. “I’m very impressed with what the guys have been able to do and we only made small adjustments since we unloaded off the trailer,” said Igdalsky. “We’ve been running top ten, so I am very happy with that and we were headed to one up until that last lap, but overall these guys did a wonderful job; ModSpace, Spartan Trailers, and the 27 car was pretty sporty today.”  

The success of MMR’s first race of the weekend would have already been satisfactory with the performances by these incredible drivers, but Patrick Gallagher set the bar even higher. Starting on the outside pole, he felt he had a good shot at victory coming into today’s race and was aware that the car would come to him as the race progressed. “The ModSpace, Spartan Cargo Trailers, MMR car wasn’t as fast as everyone else at the start by design,” he noted. Although he dropped a few positions at the immediate start, he has too much experience under his belt to have the desire to throw in the towel. “I took my time, didn’t get worked up, and I knew that we were in ninth but I’ve been around this series long enough to know that you can win from there. I picked them off one by one and I can’t say enough about the job these guys have done this weekend. They have 100% made me look good.” Patrick, who battled with John Dean II in the final laps last year said, “I feel like we’re a little bit even now but tomorrow’s a whole new game. He’s a class act, hard guy to pass, and I respect the heck out of him.” So what is Gallagher’s goal for tomorrow? Win again. 

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