INDIANAPOLIS – It’s been three years since Todd Lamb stood on the top step of the Battery Tender Global Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires podium.
At Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Friday, he made his return, besting championship leader Robert Noaker.
Ninth place usually isn’t the ideal spot to start if you want to win a Battery Tender Global Mazda MX-5 Cup race, but Lamb made it happen in the No. 84 Atlanta Speedwerks entry.
As the cars ahead of him battled and made mistakes, Lamb picked them off one-by-one and was in third place by the race’s halfway mark.
With 10 minutes to go, Lamb took the lead for the first time and commenced an intense battle with Selin Rollan and Michael Carter for the top spot. He had the lead when the white flag waved and the fight for second behind him was his opportunity to pull away and take his first Global Mazda MX-5 Cup race win since Watkins Glen Int’l in 2017.
“After race one, we needed to get the car right,” Lamb said. “We had missed the setup just a little bit and struggled in race one. For the second race, we made some changes and the car just came alive so we could chase down the leaders and get it done, so I’m pretty happy.
“These young kids and everyone in this field, everyone is so aggressive and so tough,” the 50-year old Lamb added. “So to come out and put my race craft to work and just do my best, it’s really satisfying. They are so young and so aggressive and so talented that you have to fight right back, and that’s what I did today.”
Starting from second on the grid, Noaker was mixing it up with the lead pack early in the race, but was forced to take a detour through the grass to avoid contact at one point. The off-course excursion dropped Noaker outside the top 10 with 30 minutes left in the race.
Championship leader Noaker, who won the series’ opening two races at Road America, put his head down and was able to catch the top three with approximately five minutes to go.
They barely had time to see him coming before he moved into second and crossed the finish line 1.0190 seconds behind Lamb.
“When I got knocked off there, near halfway through the race, I was like, ‘well, this is going to be really difficult to get a good finish,’ but I started to pick people off,” Noaker said. “Stuff kept happening, and then I saw the leaders were just two seconds down the road from me. And a couple of laps later, I was right there!
“That was a fun race, I just want to congratulate Todd Lamb on winning.”
Starting from pole, Carter followed up a second-place finish in round three with a third-place finish in round four. Looking back, he felt the lap-eight restart, from the race’s only full-course caution, was a pivotal moment for his momentum.
“We had a good car all week and started from the pole in that race,” Carter said. “We got some separation early. Then that restart came and I think Selin (Rollan) and I broke away and had good separation again. But I don’t know, I guess we just weren’t fast enough. Todd (Lamb) caught up with us and then it was a three-car race. And then the last five laps were pretty much an all-out duel so that allowed Noaker to catch us.”
Selin Rollan, the winner of the round three race, led the most laps of the race and looked poised to make it a sweep of the event.
He came out on the wrong side of the late race squabbles, however, and crossed the line in fourth ahead of 2018 Global Mazda MX-5 Cup Champion Nikko Reger in fifth.
Luke Oxner was awarded the Battery Tender Hard Charger Award for picking up 10 positions in the race. Oxner and his White Racing crew chief Monte Heim each won a Battery Tender charger and a check for $1,000.
Oxner qualified 17th after being down on power in qualifying, but his White Racing squad, along with Flis Performance, were able to diagnose the issue ahead of the race and get him back to speed.
“It was good,” Oxner commented. “We qualified pretty poorly because we had a motor problem but the guys figured it out and got it fixed. The set up was on point and we were able to drive to the front!”
It wasn’t the only prize Oxner took home from Indianapolis, as on Thursday he won a brand-new driver cool suit system from F.A.S.T. Cooling in a drawing done at every Global Mazda MX-5 Cup drivers’ meeting.
Matthew Dirks was the highest finishing rookie. The No. 76 White Racing driver finished eighth but collected an extra point for setting the fastest lap of the race.
Dirks’ new record race lap time was 1:40.9695 seconds as improvements made to the Global Mazda MX-5 Cup machines ahead of the season continue to yield faster lap times.
As was the case in the round three race, Liam Snyder was the highest finishing ND.1 driver.