Dramatic Spec MX-5 Challenge Championship Goes Down to the Wire

17 drivers gathered at the Circuit of The Americas for the 2020 Spec MX-5 Challenge Championship on November 5-8 vying for laurels and over $70,000 in prizes. Tyler Quance, Wes Mollno and Tom Martin III came into the weekend with the maximum of 60 carryover points, followed by Aaron Jeansonne, Justin Piscitell and Matt Fassnacht with 59. A further 60 points were up for grabs at CoTA.

The Calm Before the Storm

After two days of practice to learn the challenging 20-turn F1 circuit, drivers proceeded to qualifying. Justin Piscitell (DAMG Racing) took pole, with a time of 2:34.470. Aaron Jeansonne (Winding Road Racing/Mazda) was close behind at 2:34.624. The front row was followed by three other drivers in the 2:34s: karting phenom Joey Atanasio (Dentmax Racing) at 2:34.764, Tyler Quance (Drake Motorsports Development) at 2:34.774 and Tom Martin III (Winding Road Racing) at 2:34.858.

Race 1 was delayed and shortened by a mile long oil drop in the previous race, setting up a mad dash for the 30 championship points on offer. Piscitell got an excellent start, as did Quance, so when things settled down after some argy-bargy in T1, these two were in the lead followed by Jeansonne. Unfortunately, a lap later, Quance spun on the oil dry in T12, which forced Piscitell and Jeasonne to take evasive action. The cars came together, but continued on after being passed by Martin, Drake Kemper (Winding Road Racing/SecureCash) and Atanasio. Martin held on to the lead, but Kemper made a slick move in T10, setting up a pass into T11. This put Kemper in the lead, followed by Martin and Atanasio. On the final lap, Atanasio cleanly went inside Martin at T15, but Martin benefited from a transmission issue that hampered Atanasio in T19. Atanasio defended in T20 on the inside, but Martin barely won the drag race to the checkered flag. Kemper finished with a winning margin of 0.744 sec., while Martin’s margin over Atanasio was a sub-atomic 0.001 sec.

Race 1 Podium (left to right): Martin, Kemper, Atanasio

This result yielded points standings going into Race 2 of 87 for Martin, 85 for Kemper, 84 for Quance, who had recovered to P4, 82 for both Piscitell (P5) and Atanasio, with 81 for Jeansonne (P6). All of these drivers had an excellent chance of winning all the marbles because of the 3 point difference between first and second, and the 2 point difference between second and third.

Race 2 got off to a more orderly start with Atanasio jumping into the lead followed by Piscitell and Quance. Atanasio was struck by a serious mechanical issue on lap 1 and after that Piscitell and Quance were not really challenged for the rest of the race. Jeansonne, Martin and Kemper ran inches apart and swapped positions. Martin then also had a mechanical issue that slowed his pace and Kemper got around Jeansonne. Aidan Fassnacht (Monticello Motor Club) moved into fifth and held it, followed by the ailing Martin. The final finishing order was Piscitell, Quance, Kemper, Jeansonne, Fassnacht and Martin.

Deep In Thought About How To Cash Those Checks

This result shook up the season points substantially:

Justin Piscitell – 112 – National Champion

Tyler Quance – 111 – National Championship P2 and East Region Champion

Drake Kemper – 110 – National Championship P3

Tom Martin III – 109 – National Series Champion

Aaron Jeansonne – 105 – Emerging Talent Champion and Invitational Champion

Charles-Dylan Mactutus – 97

Joey Atanasio – 96

Aidan Fassnacht – 96

Rob Lebel – 93

Wes Mollno – 92 – Masters Champion and West Region Champion

Grant West – 92

Matt Fassnacht – 90

Michael Travers – 89

Craig Janssen – 86

Adam Gonzalez – 85

Savanna Little – 81

Ricardo Arruda – 80

Big fields of talented drivers, a tight specification for the car, and careful tech inspection leads to close racing at almost every track. It was an exciting season with many close podium finishes, for example:

• West over Mactutus by 0.242 at Road Atlanta

• Quance over Mactutus by 0.483 at Road Atlanta

• Martin over Mactutus by 0.002 for P2 at Road America

• Quance over Kemper by 0.064 at Road America

• Piscitell over Aidan Fassnacht by 0.473 at Laguna Seca

• Quance over Martin by 0.444 at Laguna Seca

• Martin over Jeansonne by 0.006 at Sonoma

• Martin over Atanasio by 0.001 for P2 at CoTA

What 0.006 sec Looks Like

This close racing made for an exciting season, and not just at the front of the field.

We thank the many drivers who worked diligently on their race craft during the season. We thank the coaches and supporting family members for assisting the drivers. We thank the sponsors Mazda Motorsports, Toyo Tires and Pagid Racing for making the car and the prizes possible. We also, and most importantly, thank the crews and the sanctioning bodies who make our racing happen, often working long hours and getting little recognition.

Working Hard, Working Early, Working Late

We would love you to join us in 2021. We have exciting improvements, including 3 new regions and an option for teams to compete.

Information on the 2021 season is here.

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