Christian Szymczak's last SCCA Pro Racing Playboy MX-5 Cup race weekend gave him broken ribs. Round Eight on Saturday at Virginia International Raceway went much, much better.
Szymczak, from Palos Verdes, Calif., crossed the finish line 0.830-second ahead of Ara Malkhassian, of Houston, Texas, to earn his first career MX-5 Cup win. Championship leader Stevan McAleer, from Putnam Valley, N.Y., held the season-long lead with a podium finish.
The race winner officially led 18 of the 20 laps covered in the race's 45 minutes, averaging 87.029 mph to the checkered flag in the No. 34 Projections Research/Sick Sideways MX-5. The laps led count only tallies the official lap leaders at the checkered flag, and misses the thrilling battles in the back half of the 17-turn, 3.27-mile track.
Six different drivers took a turn at the point during the race, as the draft down the VIR's two long straights kept the field bunched. McAleer's exceptional standing start launched his No. 28 Blue Mercury Capital/Numerix/CJ Wilson Children's Charities MX-5 from second into the lead, but Szymczak jumped back to the lead early in the lap.
Elliott Skeer, looking for some momentum heading into his home race next week on Coronado Island in San Diego, put his No. 17 MAZDASPEED/Sparco/CJ Wilson Racing MX-5 into the lead on lap four, dicing with Szymczak at the front of what was then a seven car drafting breakaway.
Malkhassian, who recovered from an early-race mistake, put the No. 11 ALARA Racing MX-5 in the lead on lap nine, and Szymczak's Sick Sideways teammate John Dean did the same with the No. 16 Projections Research/Sick Sideways machine on lap 12.
As the race progressed, the front group started to string out just enough to give Szymczak some breathing room ahead of battles for position deeper in the field. The win followed a qualifying crash on Friday while trying to best polesitter and teammate Nathanial Sparks' No. 3 OOTSK Performance/Sick Sideways MX-5's time.
That crash jarred the broken ribs he received during a crash on the Round Seven weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, making the win even sweeter.
"I didn't see this coming, especially after yesterday in qualifying," Szymczak said. "I knew the car was fast, we were really quick. It was a good