Finish Line Sideways|1
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (June 23, 2012) - SCCA Pro Racing Playboy MX-5 Cup races are 45 minutes in length, but only the last several feet mattered on Saturday morning at Road America. Sprinting up the hill to the finish, Ara Malkhassian, of Houston, Texas, and Dean Copeland, of Bowie, Md., made contact, sent both spinning sideways and into the wall, with Malkhassian spinning across the finish line just 0.069-second ahead of Copeland for the win.
Malkhassian led only a few feet, at the most, in the No. 11 ALARA Racing/ALARA Garage MX-5 and left with both a banged-up race car and the win. The pair crossed after a 16-lap, 64-mile race that featured a lead pack of between nine and 11 cars drafting the entire 4-mile circuit, averaging 83.263 mph for the race.
Copeland's No. 7 Sync Speed Inc/Copeland Motorsports MX-5 led across the finish line with one lap to go, but Malkhassian and the No. 34 Projections Research/Sick Sideways MX-5 of Christian Szymczak drafted past to take the lead in Turn 1. Copeland reclaimed the lead with a draft and outbraking maneuver into Turn 5.
Copeland came out of the final corner and up the long straightaway to the finish with Malkhassian on his tail and Stevan McAleer's No. 28 CJ Wilson Children's Charities/Numerix/Blue Mercury Capital MX-5 shortly behind.
Malkhassian used the draft in an attempt to draft to the win when contact occurred, sending Malkhassian off the wall on the left and across the track to the right wall, and Copeland straight to the right side wall separating the track from pit lane. Naturally, the two drivers saw the incident differently.
"I got the strong run over him on the last straight, he was fairly weak in Turn 14 all weekend," Malkhassian said. "I drove up the right, and then he came to the right to block me on the right and I moved to the left. He made a highly illegal move, moving back to the left, and not only that but I was already up along side of him. He started pushing me into the dirt and pushed me all the way out into the dirt under the checker.
"I cleared him at that point, so you can imagine we were going pretty quick and there was just no way to hang onto the car in the dirt. I was trying to keep some of the car on the track and he kept pushing me off the track and we had, unfortunately, a huge, huge wreck."