AMG Racing's Mike Cooper, from Syosset, N.Y., scored his fourth win of the season at Brainerd International Raceway on Saturday in the first of two SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup races to be held at the 2.5-mile circuit this weekend.
Cooper's No. 6 MX-5 led all 26 laps of the 45-minute timed event, extending his points lead over race runner-up Jason Saini, driver of the No. 28 theAutobarn.com/New Balance/Phiten/SunTrust/C.J. Wilson's Children's Charities machine. While happy with the victory, Cooper knows the battle for the championship isn't over.
"We can't rest yet," Cooper said. "We'll know after the weekend how it stands but we're definitely in a better position at the end of today than we were at the beginning of the today."
While Cooper has been atop the charts throughout the weekend at Brainerd, he did have one hiccup in this afternoon's race. He was penalized $100 following the race by series officials for minor avoidable contact.
Cooper was followed closely all race by Saini, who now trails in the championship by 38 points. Saturday's race was the fifth runner-up result for the driver out of Houston, Texas, who fought changing track conditions throughout his 45-minute pursuit of the leader.
"The sun would go away and our car would change, but I think we learned some stuff for tomorrow," Saini said, whose C.J. Wilson Racing team is still searching for its first MX-5 Cup win. "We know how to run up front, we just need to take that next step. Hopefully tomorrow we can do that."
Atlanta's Todd Lamb, subbing this weekend for Justin Hall in the No. 4 AMG Racing MX-5, made his first appearance in the series since winning the MX-5 Cup championship in 2009, driving to a strong third-place finish.
"We're struggling with the car a little bit but I'm happy with a third place and being back in the series," Lamb said. "It's been a lot of fun racing out there and I'm looking forward to tomorrow."
Behind the leaders, the most intense battle of the day was for fourth place between Marc Miller, of Holland, Mich., driving the No. 29 C.J. Wilson Racing/Race Now for Autism MX-5, and Dean Copeland, of Bowie, Md., driver of the No. 7 Copeland Motorsports/Sync Speed, Inc. MX-5. The two Mazdas swapped