A new Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich® Tires qualifying lap record was set Friday at Road America by Connor Zilisch (No. 72 Hixon Motor Sports). Matthew Dirks (No. 76 McCumbee McAleer Racing) qualified second and NASCAR guest driver Parker Kligerman (No. 75 Thunder Bunny Racing) qualified third.
Zilisch, the latest Mazda MX-5 Cup Shootout winner, is having a busy weekend at Road America. In addition to MX-5 Cup, Zilisch is also running in the Trans-Am Series. Going back and forth between two very different cars has been more of a help than a hindrance for the 15-year-old.
“If they were closer in speed it’d be more difficult, but they’re so different,” Zilisch said. “I’ll go through Turn 1 and say, ‘Okay, I’m driving this car now,’ and after that it’s fine. There’s a lot going on which makes it tricky. I just have to stay focused and stay hydrated. I’ve been really busy today, but I think I’ve kept on top of it pretty well. I think all the track time definitely helps because I know what the track is like every minute of the day.”
Zilisch, who is managed by Kevin Harvick’s KHI Management group, made his mentor proud with a lap of 2m32.347s, more than a half-second quicker than the previous qualifying lap record held by Selin Rollan (No. 87 Hixon Motor Sports).
Zilisch will start from the pole for Sunday’s race as well.
Starting third is guest driver Kligerman, who usually competes in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Kligerman — a big fan of MX-5 Cup — was invited to join the series at Road America by Mazda as the series races alongside the NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series for the first time ever. His first laps in the car were Thursday and he was surprised to qualify third.
“I was going to be really happy if we were even in the top 10,” Kligerman said. “P3 is awesome. That’s one of the most insane qualifying sessions I’ve ever done in terms of everyone trying to line up and get the draft. I thought I was in a pretty good spot. I wasn’t sure, but Aidan [Fassnacht] towed me along which was awesome. He was pushing someone else and it just sort of lined up. Connor [Zilisch] was towing off of me. We were definitely the fast trio, which is cool to be in that group. I’m honored to be there with these drivers who are so good at it. You can see how they read the runs so well. I’m starting up front and I hope I can keep it there. Thanks Mazda!”
Round Nine of the Mazda MX-5 Cup goes green at 9:05am CT, Saturday July 2. The race will be streamed live on RACER.com and IMSA.com/tvlive.