- Nathanial Sparks has run pretty well this season in the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy MX-5 Cup working on his own car. Now that he's joined Championship-contending team Sick Sideways, he's showing he can run very well, earning his first career pole position on Friday at Virginia International Raceway.
Sparks, from Spanish Fort, Ala., had spent the first part of the year operating the No. 3 OOTSK Performance/Sick Sideways MX-5 essentially by himself, with assistance from his father and sisters. Though he had finished in the top-five three times, Sparks joined up with Sick Sideways following Round Seven at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
The move has immediately paid dividends, as the 22-year-old qualified on pole at the 17-turn, 3.27-mile circuit with a new track record of 2:12.408 (88.907 mph).
"You just can't even imagine what a professional team like Sick Sideways can bring to your racing program," Sparks said. "I was unaware of so many things that really make a professional team, a professional team.
"It was just one of those laps. The wind here at VIR really does effect your lap, and I had the perfect wind and scared myself in every single corner, and that's when you know you had a good lap. I think the whole Sick Sideways team is going to try for a great finish this weekend. We can do it, we all have great cars and it's going to be a battle royal to the end"
Making the standing start alongside Sparks for Saturday's Round Eight race is championship leader Stevan McAleer. McAleer's No. 28 Blue Mercury Capital/Numerix/CJ Wilson Children's Charities MX-5 turned a lap of 2:13.104 (88.442 mph) for the second-quickest official time during the 30-minute qualifying.
Ara Malkhassian, who won Round Six at Road America, will start on the inside of row two after a qualifying time of 2:13.420 (88.232 mph) in the No. 11 ALARA Racing MX-5.
Sparks' Sick Sideways teammate, Christian Szymczak, actually posted the second quickest time of the session in the No. 34 Projections Research/Sick Sideways MX-5 in 2:12.717 (88.700 mph). Szymczak slid off track with just over 10 minutes remaining and into the tire barriers, bringing out a red flag to stop the session. Under Series rules, bringing out a red flag in qualifying is penalized with the offending driver's two fastest laps.