News Series

Ketcher Ends Regular Season in Dominating Form

Spec MX-5 Challenge finished off the regular season in dramatic fashion this weekend, seeing Clayton Ketcher continue his dominance over the West Region with pole position, 2 fastest laps, and 2 victories. With sunny, dry skies above Sonoma Raceway during the entirety of the event, perfect conditions greeted our racers who aimed to bag as many points as possible going into the National Championship Finale in three-weeks.

Glorious weather graced Sonoma Raceway all weekend.

Clayton Ketcher was in perfect form all weekend, extending his season-long streak of finishing on the podium in every single race he has competed in during his 2022 campaign. His two wins were nothing short of impressive, seeing him hoist the 1st place trophy for the 9th (NINTH!) time this season. Alexander Searle trekked across the country in hopes of closing the gap, and perhaps eclipsing National Option leader Thomas Annunziata, for the regular season’s finale. Though putting on a valiant effort, seeing the rising star earn double podium finishes, the National Option Title proved to be out of reach as the checkered flag waived late Sunday morning. West Region veteran Wes Mollno kept both Ketcher & Searle honest, seeing a 2nd place finish in race 1 and a photo-finish 3rd place in race 2.

Clayton Ketcher and Charlie Hayes were all smiles going into qualifying Saturday morning.

Saturday morning opened up under the sunny backdrop of the Northern California rolling hills of Sonoma, seeing Ketcher waste no time in setting the benchmark time during qualifying. Needing only 3 laps to break the SMX record at Sonoma Raceway with a time of 1:52.101, his nearest competitor was Mollno nearly .600 seconds back in 2nd. Searle would qualify 3rd, with his flyer on lap 5, 1.3 seconds back from Ketcher. AJ Zarcone, Jon Davies, Andy Chittum, Series favorite Steve Borlik, and Sophia Storey would round out the 8 car field before the afternoons race. Ketcher would dominate the first race of the weekend, finishing 2.6 seconds ahead of 2nd place finisher Mollno. Searle would claim the last step on the podium, with only one overtake made during the entirety of the race as Davies passed Zarcone for 4th.

Another pole (and eventual win) for Clayton Ketcher.
Saturday’s podium: Wes Mollno 2nd, Clayton Ketcher 1st, and Alexander Searle 3rd.
Spec MX-5 enjoyed a dinner with Teen Mazda Challenge Saturday night, meetin the stars of Spec MX-5 of the future.

Sunday morning’s race was much more exciting, seeing an incredible back-and-forth battle for 2nd & 3rd place. Ketcher again reigned supreme, however this race saw both Searle & Mollno pressuring him throughout the 12-lap battle. Traffic would once again play a huge role in deciding who would claim the second step of our podium, with Searle & Mollno swapping positions multiple times as they darted through the slower Spec Miata’s. On the final lap, Mollno closed the gap to Searle, and saw him go around the outside of the final corner. In spectacular fashion, Mollno had an incredible exit and it was a dash to the finish line. Just .006 of a second separated the two fast-chargers as the checkered flag waved, seeing the young National Option driver take 2nd place by the hair of his front bumper – literally.

Sunday’s photo-finish seeing Mollno cross the line just .006 seconds behind Searle.
Sunday’s podium: Searle 2nd, Ketcher 1st, and Mollno 3rd.

With another spectacular finish to end the Spec MX-5 Challenge regular season, our drivers go into the National Championship Finale at COTA full-steam ahead. Here are the top-15 drivers who will have a chance to take our coveted SMX crown (and $30,000 in Mazda Motorsports scholarship money) in Austin next month, where each race will count as double points:

  • 1 – Clayton Ketcher (175 Points)
  • 2 – Alex Berg (171 Points)
  • 3 – Grant West (143 Points)
  • 4 – Nathan Saxon (141 points)
  • 5 – Wes Mollno (138 Points)
  • 6 – Thomas Annunziata (136 Points)
  • 7 – Jarrett Jones (136 Points)
  • 8 – AJ Zarcone (130 Points)
  • 9 – Wyatt Couch (127 Points)
  • 10 – Alex Bertagnoli (126 Points)
  • 11 – Nate Cicero (125 Points)
  • 12 – Michael Borden (123 Points)
  • 13 – Alexander Searle (122 Points)
  • 14 – Jon Davies (122 Points)
  • 15 – Don Squirek (122 Points)
AJ Zarcone diving into the data before Saturday’s race.
Sophia Storey is suited and booted.
Alexander Searle goes through the motions with Mazda driver coach, Bruno Carneiro.
Jon Davies is all smiles before Saturday’s race.
Spec MX-5 Challenge Series’ favorite Steve Borlik goes through the motions before Saturday’s race, during his pre-race ritual nap.
On the grid for the first race of the weekend.
Clayton Ketcher is well in-front going through T1.
The Sun peaks through the clouds Sunday morning before warm-up.
Sunday warm-up before the final race of the Regular Season.
Getting into his #31 Spec MX-5, AJ Zarcone.
Series’ favorite Steve Borlik settles into his Haag Performance Spec MX-5 before Sunday’s race.
Clayton Ketcher enjoyed an early split from the field in Sunday’s race.
Post-race impound get-together before Sunday’s podium ceremony.
A hard-fought race kept Ketcher honest on Sunday.

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