LEXINGTON, Ohio – Robert Noaker continued his winning ways at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with a Global Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires victory on Friday.
He held off a late charge from Michael Carter to take his third win of the 2020 season and his third Global Mazda MX-5 Cup win at Mid-Ohio.
A glance of Friday’s race results shows that Noaker started and finished first, but it was not an easy flag-to-flag win. For the first five laps, the top four cars were bumper-to-bumper or door-to-door, scrambling for position. The four eventually settled into a rhythm and pulled away from the rest of the pack.
Noaker and Carter seemed satisfied to run one-two for the middle part of the race, but behind them Selin Rollan and Gresham Wagner were still fighting over third, allowing Noaker and Carter to build a gap.
The battle for the lead re-ignited with two laps to go, when Carter attempted several passes on Noaker. None of them stuck, however, and by the final few corners it was clear that Noaker would be the victor. He crossed the finish line with a .3972-second margin of victory.
“The win definitely wasn’t easy,” said Noaker, who grew his championship advantage as he looks to claim the $200,000 scholarship prize from Mazda. “The car wasn’t completely there for me, but I was able to get it done. Michael [Carter] and I were working together the last 30 minutes, but at the end of any race it’s going to come down to one on one racing. Together, we gapped third and fourth which also helped me win. We of course want wins, but this year it’s just been about getting points.”
With the win, pole position and most laps led, Noaker increased his lead over Carter in the Championship to 20 points.
Carter knows how to win races on the final lap; he did it two weeks ago at Mid-Ohio when he earned his first Global Mazda MX-5 Cup win. He could’t make the same magic happen again this time.
“I slipped up a little coming into the Carousel coming to the white flag,” Carter said. “Robert [Noaker] got away from me in the middle of the race and then I was able to chase him back down. I had a plan and I knew what I needed to do, I just didn’t capitalize. I’m hoping to have a completely different race tomorrow.”
Rollan, who took the final podium spot, would have had the best view in the house of Noaker and Carter’s quarrel if he hadn’t been in an equally tight race with his teammate Wagner. The teammates spent some time working together to stay with the leaders and keep their car temperatures cool, but eventually the friendly teamwork came to an end.
Wagner made his move, but Rollan was ready to defend and held him off in every corner of the final lap.
“You’re walking on a fine line when battling with your teammate; we’re going to have dinner together when we get out of here,” Rollan said. “Having Gresham [Wagner] as a teammate this season has been great. We’re both really fast – and he’s brutally fast – but we both know that we need to help each other out so that we can both finish well. That was probably the best handling car that I have ever had at Mid-Ohio. This is a tough track and I haven’t had much luck here in the past. This is my first podium in, I think, seven tries, so it’s a good feeling to finally get to the front.”
All eyes might have been on the fight at the front, but the race for fifth, sixth and seventh was just as thrilling. Robert Stout led the pack to the checkered flag to take fifth.
“I’ve said it before, the battles that I’ve had for fourth and fifth have been harder than any battles I’ve had for the win in this series,” Stout said. “We only got fifth place, and I expect better, but the team has worked harder than I’ve ever seen coming into this weekend. We went back to the drawing board and really got our program organized, so I’m really proud of the White Racing/Conquest Motorsport crew. That car that we have is capable of running in the front.”