Nathanial Sparks Wins 2016 Battery Tender Global Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires and $200,000 MRT24 Scholarship
- John Dean II and Ara Malkhassian score the Road Atlanta race wins. Mark Drennan named Rookie-Of-The-Year -
BRASELTON, Georgia (September 29, 2016) – The 2016 Battery Tender Global Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires today wrapped up its inaugural season of competition with the new-generation 2016 Mazda MX-5 racecar. The series champion is Nathanial “Sparky” Sparks (No. 8 Sick Sideways), who earned the $200,000 Mazda Road to 24 (MRT24) scholarship with the ideal combination of speed and consistency throughout the season. Over the 12-race, six-weekend championship, Sparks scored one win and five podium finishes, and only had one DNF (did-not-finish). That DNF was in the final race, after he had secured the title.
The last race wins of the season here at Road Atlanta went to defending series champion John Dean II (No. 16 Sick Sideways) and Ara Malkhassian (No. 11 ALARA Racing). In the Rookie-Of-The-Year battle, Mark Drennan (No. 50 Winding Road Team TFB) prevailed over Chris Stone (No. 12 ALARA Racing) and Glenn McGee (No. 23 Sick Sideways). The year saw eight different winners from the 12 races.
John Doonan, director of motorsports, Mazda North American Operations: “It’s hard to put into words what this season means for Mazda. Building on a decade of success with the previous-generation MX-5 Cup series helped, but launching our all new MX-5 Cup racecar was a massive task and everyone from Mazda, BFGoodrich, Battery Tender, Long Road Racing, and most of all, our customers, stepped up. It’s been an amazing season with many breakout performances by drivers and teams. My hat’s off to Sparky for demonstrating the Mazda challenger spirit to earn the latest Mazda Road to 24 scholarship, and everyone at Mazda salutes his championship as we welcome him to the Mazda racing family.”
Nathanial Sparks, series champion, when asked about his progression from 2012 when he started racing in the series with a one-car family team, to now: “It’s like looking at old pictures and saying…did I really do that? We started off at the bottom and learned and learned and learned and grew to where I am now. I couldn’t have ever done it without the vision that my mom and dad had. I was in high school, playing baseball, and my dad asked if I would be interested in going racing, and I just caught the bug. After securing the championship now, I’ll look back in 30 years and I can say …this was all worth it. Being able to have a smile on my face and show my mom, dad and fiancé that their efforts weren’t in vain is special. This is all so special.”
John Dean II, race-one winner: “It feels incredible to get my first win this season. Sparky has been incredibly fast this year, and the way we work as a team, we don’t really have to think too much about where to put the car since we’ve been teammates for so long. And, to make it better, I’m so excited to be on the podium with him winning the championship.”
Ara Malkassian, race-two winner: “It was really great to win the final race of the inaugural season of the Battery Tender Global Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires. I can’t thank the ALARA Racing team enough for getting me a great car, and it feels great to get my first win this year. Very proud of Chris Stone for two podiums for ALARA this weekend, and congrats to Sparky on the championship. Lastly, I would like to dedicate this win to a dear friend and a long time Mazda racer, Keith Verges.”
Mark Drennan, Rookie-Of-The-Year: “It feels amazing to secure the Rookie of the Year title after such a tough season. I really focused on staying out of trouble in the final two races, instead of aggressively racing for the win. Coming into the series, I knew it was going to be very competitive, and it was all that and a whole bunch more all year. There are so many talented new drivers, combined with exceptional series veterans, that the entire season was super competitive. It required me to give my all for every race.”