Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup: Mark Jenkins
Recaptures Podium & Finishes 4th
Overall In Championship Points
Alton, VA (October 3 & 4) — The first weekend of October marked the final weekend of racing for the Playboy SCCA Pro Racing Mazda MX-5 Cup series, and the Virginia International Raceway (VIR) set the stage for the double-header season finale. Located on the border of Virginia and North Carolina, VIR’s high-speed, 3.27 mile road course is nestled among trees and hillsides that wait to claim competitors who dare challenge her. With the championship at stake, a bare-knuckle showdown was expected among drivers. However, "fast and clean" would prove to be the winning formula this weekend.
Experiencing VIR for the first time, Mark Jenkins set forth to tame the wild, dual esses in his #25 Traxxas/BFGoodrich/Amsoil/Simpson Racing Mazda. Being fourth quickest in Friday’s last practice session, Mark knew he could get more out of the track. However, a pre-race setup change and a transmission problem worked against Jenkins. Getting a great start from 8th, Mark ran the outside of Turn One in 4th position but found the dirt as the inside traffic forced him off-track and sent him back in the field. Mark slipped from the critically important draft on the long straightaways and could only watch as the front-runners slowly extended their leads, leaving Mark to tie his worst finish of the season with 11th place.
Sunday’s season finale would prove to be a different story. After changing the transmission and starting over with the chassis setup, Mark was ready to punctuate the end of the season with a strong finish on Sunday. Gridded 9th, Jenkins was intent on staying in the draft and racing to the front. However, mayhem occurred on Lap One with multiple cars making contact with one another, forcing the #25 of Jenkins off-track. Swerving to narrowly miss points leader Lamb and teammate Mancuso, Mark skimmed the guardrail between Turns 10 & 11. Jenkins’ off-road experience paid off as he set his car into a full four-wheel drift through the grass and dirt, riding the outside of Turns 11 and 11A to avoid the carnage.
When the green flag dropped again, the field of competitors set out to race like it was the final lap. Knowing the importance of staying in the draft, Jenkins laid down fast, consistent laps and picked off car after car. With three laps to go, Miller, Lamb, and Malkhassian tangled with one another and raced into a tire wall. Mark was close behind to capitalize on the incident and immediately seized the opportunity to pass Buras for third place by attacking the apexes at Turns 17 and 17A with four wheels in the dirt. Jenkins and Buras raced each other hard on the final lap as Mark held onto the final podium spot just 3.7 seconds behind first place Kent and 2.1 seconds behind second-place finisher Piscitel.
The third place finish of Mark Jenkins was his second podium of the season, the other podium being a second place in the season opener at Road Atlanta. The "podium bookend" elevated Mark to finish 4th Overall in the Series Championship.
"We threw away yesterday’s setup, dropped in a different tranny and laid down some competitive laps. I can’t take credit for today’s podium. I was just the ‘monkey behind the wheel.’ Team MER gave the #25 Traxxas/BFG/Amsoil/Simpson Racing MX-5 a good platform and my tires never faded. I have to thank BFGoodrich for that because they had to race on asphalt, grass and dirt today! Staying fast and clean was the key to the race."
Throughout the year, Mark Jenkins showed he can run consistently fast and avoid trouble under the closest racing conditions. With two Podiums, three Top 5’s, seven Top 10’s, one fastest lap of the race, and seven laps led of 9 starts (lowest finishes were 11th), Mark has developed into a driver of contention for 2010. The question is, what will he be racing? Stay tuned!