Spec MX-5 Challenge finished off the regular season in dramatic fashion this weekend, with Teen Mazda Challenge points leader Clayton Ketcher continuing his dominance over the West Region. Ketcher notched a pole position, two fastest laps, and two victories. Perfect conditions greeted our racers, who aimed to bag as many points as possible going into the National Championship Finale in three-weeks.
Clayton Ketcher was in perfect form all weekend, extending his season-long streak of finishing on the podium in every single race he has competed in during his 2022 campaign. His two wins were nothing short of impressive, seeing him hoist the first-place trophy for the ninth time this season. Alexander Searle trekked across the country in hopes of closing the gap, and perhaps eclipsing National Option leader Thomas Annunziata, for the regular season’s finale. Though putting on a valiant effort, seeing the rising star earn double podium finishes, the National Option Title proved to be out of reach as the checkered flag waived late Sunday morning. West Region veteran Wes Mollno kept Ketcher and Searle honest, seeing a second-place finish in race one and a photo-finish third place in race two.
On Saturday morning, Ketcher wasted no time in setting the benchmark time during qualifying. Needing only three laps to break the SMX record at Sonoma Raceway with a time of 1:52.101, his nearest competitor was Mollno nearly .600 seconds back in second. Searle qualified third, with his flyer on lap five, 1.3 seconds back from Ketcher. AJ Zarcone, Jon Davies, Andy Chittum, Series favorite Steve Borlik, and Sophia Storey rounded out the 8 car field before the afternoon’s race. Ketcher dominated the first race of the weekend, finishing 2.6 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Mollno. Searle claimed the last step on the podium, with only one overtake made during the entirety of the race as Davies passed Zarcone for fourth.
Sunday morning’s race was much more exciting, with an incredible back-and-forth battle for second and third place. Ketcher again reigned supreme, but this race saw both Searle and Mollno pressuring him throughout the 12-lap battle. Traffic once again played a huge role in deciding who claimed the second step on the podium, with Searle and Mollno swapping positions multiple times as they darted through the slower Spec Miatas. On the final lap, Mollno closed the gap to Searle, and Mollno went around the outside of the final corner. In spectacular fashion, Mollno had an incredible exit and it was a dash to the finish line. Just .006 seconds separated the two fast-chargers as the checkered flag waved, seeing the young National Option driver take second place by the hair of his front bumper – literally.
With another spectacular finish to end the Spec MX-5 Challenge regular season, our drivers go into the National Championship Finale at COTA full-steam ahead. Here are the top 15 drivers who will have a chance to take our coveted SMX crown — and $30,000 in Mazda Motorsports scholarship money — in Austin in September, where each race will count as double points:
- 1 – Clayton Ketcher (175 Points)
- 2 – Alex Berg (171 Points)
- 3 – Grant West (143 Points)
- 4 – Nathan Saxon (141 points)
- 5 – Wes Mollno (138 Points)
- 6 – Thomas Annunziata (136 Points)
- 7 – Jarrett Jones (136 Points)
- 8 – AJ Zarcone (130 Points)
- 9 – Wyatt Couch (127 Points)
- 10 – Alex Bertagnoli (126 Points)
- 11 – Nate Cicero (125 Points)
- 12 – Michael Borden (123 Points)
- 13 – Alexander Searle (122 Points)
- 14 – Jon Davies (122 Points)
- 15 – Don Squirek (122 Points)
Justin CornelisonFrom left: Alexander Searles took a second place and a third at Sonoma Raceway in August. Clayton Ketcher notched a pole position, two fastest laps, and two victories. Wes Mollno scored a second place on Saturday and a third on Sunday.