- First battling attrition, then each other, Dean Copeland and Jason Saini fought to a side-by-side SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup Memorial Day Classic finish on Monday at Lime Rock Park. Copeland, of Bowie, Md., nipped Saini, from Cresson, Texas, for a 0.096-second victory. Jeff Mosing, from Austin, Texas, finished third.
Falling just short multiple times in the past two seasons, Copeland became the first single-car team to win an MX-5 Cup race in the six year history of the series after edging Saini in a drag race to the stripe by 0.096-second.
Copeland's No. 7 Copeland Motorsports/Sync Speed Inc MX-5 led Saini at the white flag, but slid wide and let Saini's No. 28 Autobarn Mazda of Countryside/New Balance/Phiten/SunTrust/CJ Wilson's Children's Charities Mazda MX-5 past. Copeland didn't let up, pulling into Saini's draft down the front straight, then alongside and just ahead as the two crossed the finish line.
Copeland covered the 42-lap, 63-mile race in 45:16.988, averaging 83.474 mph. It was the first professional win for Copeland, a former SCCA Club Racer whose only crew member on most race weekends is his father, Kevin.
"I said to my dad coming down pit road, it's been a long time coming," Copeland said. "We've had great cars before and have been close and it's been heartbreaking. I told him before we came this weekend that it's meant to be. We got beat [Saturday] pretty bad, and I don't know what happened, but the true colors came out today. I drove the wheels off of it, Dad kept me calm on the radio, and look where we're at.
"Going up to the chicane, I just slipped and dropped two in the dirt and he pulled out by two or three cars. I said, 'it's done, it's over.' We came out of that last turn down the hill and as soon as he turned the car in, the rear stepped out. It was the first time he'd done that all race and I just held it to the floor. We came across the line and it was insanely close. I didn't even know I won until my dad came across the radio."
It was payback for Copeland, who ended up on the short end of the closest finish in MX-5 Cup history last season at VIRginia International Raceway, falling by 0.024 seconds to eventual series champion Brad Rampelberg.