Jeansonne Gets Second Consecutive Mazda MX-5 Cup Win at Watkins Glen

JUNE 23, 2023

James Hinchcliffe Finishes Sixth in his Series Debut

Race 1 Provisional Results

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Fresh off his first Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich® Tires win ever, Aaron Jeansonne (No. 24 JTR Motorsports Engineering) backed it up with win number two at Watkins Glen International on Friday. He was followed across the finish line by rookie Thomas Annunziata (No. 10 Hixon Motor Sports) in a race that ended under caution following a multi-car incident in Turn Two.

The 40-minute race had two full-course caution periods, which paused some incredibly tight racing that saw the 27 cars seemingly defy the laws of physics. The first caution came out 10 minutes in, when polesitter Gresham Wagner (No. 5 Spark Performance) got too wide in Turn Nine and hit the tire barrier. At the time, Wagner was fighting with Jeansonne and Jared Thomas (No. 96 JTR Motorsports Engineering) for the win.

When the green flag came back out, Annunziata and Thomas got a run on Jeansonne, dropping him to third, but not for long. Two laps later Jeansonne was back in front and it was just in time, because an incident involving multiple cars right behind them, brought the safety car back out. The number of cars involved and amount of debris to be cleared made for a lengthy cleanup, and the race did not return to green.

“It’s tough to plan, because there’s so much stuff going on out there with the water temps and cautions because on one side you may not want to be the leader on the last lap and other side you may want to be the leader at the end of the race because the caution can come out and end the race,” Jeansonne said. “You really just have to make a gamble and hope it works. I got a little lucky with this one but I’m just glad this one wasn’t my first one and I got a proper one before this. But you have to take them as they come because they get the same amount of points.”

Annunziata’s day was the complete opposite of a disastrous Thursday, where he damaged his car so severely, he needed to use the team’s backup car. In it, he qualified fifth on Friday morning and captured his first-career podium in the race.

Annunziata, who was the runner-up in the 2022 Mazda MX-5 Cup Shootout, knew right away in qualifying that the team had put together a very fast car for him.

“Yeah I’m feeling good,” Annunziata said of his first podium. “I knew this result was going to happen at some point. We had a rough start to the season at Daytona, we had a failure in the suspension and then at St. Pete I think we were on for a second or a win and we got taken out late. So, a lot of things went against us, but my team never gives up, especially after that last practice session. The car was great. We just put together a really good weekend, finally. Things just went our way this time. The Hixon Motor Sports guys are amazing.”

Finishing third, Thomas made the podium for the fourth time so far this season. It was this consistency that helped Thomas win the championship last season.

“It was a pretty anti-climatic ending,” Thomas said. “I kind of was just riding around waiting for the last 15 minutes and ended up getting a couple cautions there and never got the opportunity. I think it was going to shape up to be a good race.

“The top three have most of the control of the race, so being in one of those positions you kind of set yourself up for a move at the end. That’s why everybody shoots for the top three in the last five to 10 minutes. And you know, we were there all race and just wish it would have went back to green. But I’m super excited for Aaron [Jeansonne] and all the JTR crew. Everybody worked really hard to get here and I’m excited to see the hard work pay off.”

Robert Noaker (No. 13 Robert Noaker Racing) barely missed the crash that brought the race to an early end and was able to finish fourth after starting 20th.

John Jodoin (No. 39 McCumbee McAleer Racing) earned his best career finish in fifth.

Just missing out on the top five was IndyCar veteran and NBC Sports reporter James Hinchcliffe (No. 3 JTR Motorsports Engineering). Making a guest appearance in the series, Hinchcliffe fell behind from his seventh place start early on, but made up a lot of ground after the first full-course caution. He was narrowly collected in the Turn Two incident but cleared it and finished his first MX-5 Cup race in sixth.

“It was an incredible experience,” Hinchcliffe said. “These races are always manic and fun to watch and I confirm it’s just as much fun to be in it. I was probably too hesitant on the start. I was feeling things out and lost a couple spots. From there, it was just about finding the groove and learning who to work with. There were a couple people who didn’t want to work with the new guy, so there might have been some opportunities we could have maximized but I didn’t have a dancing partner.”

Selin Rollan (No. 87 Hixon Motor Sports), who was one of the cars involved in the Turn Two melee, is provisionally slated to start on the pole for Saturday’s Round Seven race with Thomas alongside.

The race is scheduled to start at 10:05am ET on June 24 and will be streamed live on RACER.com and IMSA.com/tvlive.

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