Local Sports

Dean nabs pair of top-5 finishes

Sebring's John Dean II scored a pair of top-five finishes in the two Mazda MX-5 Cup races this weekend at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Dean-who had some problems during qualifying and was forced to start 12th in both races-finished fifth in Saturday's race and followed that up with a fourth-place finish in rainy conditions on Sunday. He has 14 top-five finishes in his career and has finished in the top five in all six races this year. Dean, in his No. 16 Sick Sideways/Projections Research/PPG MX-5, was in sixth place for much of Saturday's race, but was able to get a late pass on Ara Malkhassian to move into the fifth spot and pick up a couple of extra points in the driver's standings. Dean was closing in on fourth-place finisher Patrick Gallagher and had cut his margin to less than a second when the checkered flag dropped. Dean's former Sick Sideways teammate, Christian Szymczak, won the race, with Elliott Skeer placing second and Dean Copeland placing third.
The order at the top was reversed in Sunday's race, as Skeer took the victory and Szymczak placed second and George Jackson placed third. Dean finished two seconds behind Jackson and there was a gap of more than 36 seconds to the fifth-place car, as a mid-race downpour made things difficult for the drivers. Sick Sideways drivers Nathanial Sparks placed seventh and 11th in the two races, while Scott Phillips placed 17th and eighth. Mid-Ohio marked the halfway point of the 12-race MX-5 Cup season. Skeer leaves Mid-Ohio with the championship lead, amassing 347 points. Szymczak is second, four points behind, followed by Dean with 314. Sparks sits in sixth place with 259 points, while Phillips is in seventh place with 231 points. The next two races for the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup are slated for July 20 and 21 at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in Bowmanville, Ont. The two races will coincide with the American Le Mans Series Grand Prix of Mosport. Those will be followed by single races at Coronado Naval Base in California and a street circuit race in Houston. The series will conclude with a pair of races at Road Atlanta to coincide with the running of the Petit Le Mans in October.