The Day I Met a Professional MX-5 Racing Driver

Sometimes, in life, things happen. Not because you necessarily plan that way. More like a set of differing circumstances converge and amazing opportunities present themselves. That's what happened to me last year during my annual trip to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Northern California. I go every year to attend a race weekend for what was called the American Le Mans Series; now the Tudor United Sports Car Championship. 

In 2012, I met Declan Brennan, frequent contributor to Radio Le Mans and effervescent PR man for CJ Wilson Racing. It just so happens that CJ Wilson, pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, is an avid racing fan. In 2010 he formed a racing team that fields MX-5s in both the SCCA Pro Mazda MX-5 Cup series and the IMSA Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge. Racing? Miatas? And me walking around all this? Too good to be true!

After a few months of humming and hawing, I worked up the nerve to email Declan if I could stop by the team hauler for the next year's race weekend. "Yes. No problem. I'll set it up ;-)", he quickly replied. Okay, I thought, now I'm going to have to make this a "serious journalistic piece" but unencumbered by deadlines - which is probably why you're reading this almost a year on...

Declan sat me down with MX-5 Cup driver Patrick Gallagher. Patrick is a hungry young man. In 2012, he won the Mazda MX-5 Shootout. For those who don't know, the Shootout is a contest that pits driver hopefuls against each other in car control, racecraft, PR and media management. Even the written proposal for each driver's application to the contest were carefully scutinized! Drivers today are often the face of the entire team and their skills and abilities in front of the sports writer and camera are becoming increasingly important. This was clear as soon as I sat down with him. That's Patrick on the right.

He reminded me that Laguna Seca is properly called "Mazda Raceway". Get the brand identification in whenever possible! He appreciated the history of the track and enjoys the cameraderie of the team and the competitiveness of the series. He also noted that he had just purchased a stock 2002 Miata (his first - he is a young man after all) and was about to make his first suspension modifications to the car.

In 2013, as will be in 2014, there were two races for the MX-5 Cup at Mazda Raceway. Patrick finished 5th and 2nd respectively in the two rounds. And this is in the series' 26-car field! Nothing to sneeze at. Patrick's focus is palpable. I suspect CJ Wilson would be happy and I know he wants his team to win just as badly as Mr. Gallagher does. These guys are serious. It was an honor to see that and feel that in person. I will be back this year cheering him on. I know he's living his dream and, I suspect, that of a few of our readers...





Mazda MX-5 Cup:

CJ Wilson Racing:

Patrick Gallagher Racing:

IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge:

Tudor United Sports Car Championship:

More photos of that weekend's action: