Jeremy Barnes is public relations manager for Mazda North American Operations, and a hot shoe behind the wheel of his 1.6-liter Spec Miata. On Saturday, he was quick enough to get pole position, followed by Ken Saward and Nova Brown. But when the green flag dropped on the weekend’s first race, he didn’t hold that position for long.

“I think I’ve started on pole three times in Spec Miata, and I think all three times I’ve been in third place by the time we get to Turn 1,” Barnes said with a chuckle. “I missed the two-three shift at the start. Ken went by on the right. Nova went by on the left.”

Barnes and Brown tangoed back and forth for several laps until Barnes was able to get past Brown and step away from him a bit. By the time he set his sights on Saward, it was too late.

“Coming out of the Buttonhook, Nova got the car a little too high, got into the marbles and got the car loose and I went underneath him and that was pretty much it,” said Saward, who is a design manager for MNAO.

Sunday’s qualifying put Barnes on pole position again, followed by Wilson Steele, Brett Becker and new Teen Mazda Challenge driver Matthew Million. This time, Barnes got the jump he needed, pulled ahead and stayed there.

“It was great. I finally got the start right,” Barnes said. “I had it in third, didn’t mess around with the two-three shift. I put my head down and two or three laps in I looked up and there was no one there, and I just kept it clean from there.”

Behind him, Steele and Saward battled back and forth, with Becker poking his nose in the mix during the earlier laps. Saward and Steele changed positions a few times before out-of-class traffic played a role.

“I had the best race I’ve ever had in Spec Miata,” Steele said. “Ken Saward and I had an amazing race. Then I was able to take advantage of a 944 spinning in front of us that we both had to avoid. But he had to duck in almost into pit lane and I had to go into the infield where I could keep my foot in it. After that it was just a matter of keeping it clean and trying not to mess up.”

At the end it was Barnes in first, Steele in second and Million in third.

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