As practice has ended for the Mazda MX-5 Cup Series at Road America, drivers look to tomorrow’s qualifying for a suitable starting position for the upcoming double-header. As teams and drivers decide how to secure a spot on the podium in Elkhart Lake, WI, the one strategy that everyone has been talking about is drafting. No, this isn’t NASCAR and these Mazda’s are not the futuristic looking machines of F1, but here at Road America, drafting will be the name of the game for the two MX-5 Cup Series races this weekend. The combination of the track’s three long straightaways and the aerodynamic nature of an open-top car really benefit the drivers as they draft each other down the straights. So with this in mind, we can ask how this style of racing is going to affect the race outcome and the fan experience.
In short, these two races will be excellent to watch, and for the drivers, it teaches a valuable lesson. Looking at the fan experience, nobody likes to watch a strung-out line of cars go around in circles. People want to see battles for position, risky passes, and drivers pushing themselves for that bit of extra speed. Fortunately, they will get just that at Road America this weekend, thanks to the necessity of drafting at this particular track. The result of drivers drafting one another will be cars bunched together and staying close for as long as possible. From a fan’s perspective, seeing these cars literally bumper to bumper at triple digit speed makes for an exciting time. As far as the drivers, learning to play the draft is a skill that has become essential in the increasingly aerodynamic-based disciplines of racing. While it may not apply to some of the smaller, more technical tracks, being able to use every little advantage you can in will never hurt.
Looking forward to the rest of the weekend, we can prepare for some racing that should hold people on the edge of their seat as Mazda MX-5 Cup Series points leader Kenton Koch seeks to clinch the championship after having a great start to his season.