Posted (09/28/2008) -
MILLVILLE, N.J. - Robert Huffmaster, of Clarkston, Mich., captured his second MX-5 Cup victory on a damp, but drying Thunderbolt Raceway at New Jersey Motorsports Park. Teammates Eric Foss, of Fort Worth, Texas, and Ryan Schimsk, of Austin, Texas, completed the Team MER podium sweep for Round Seven of the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup.
Starting from his first MX-5 Cup pole, Huffmaster led the field into Turn One at the 14-turn, 2.17-mile course with teammate Foss in tow. The pair immediately worked together to pull a gap on then third-place Ara Malkhassian in the No. 11 Alara Racing MX-5. Behind them, Round Six winner Brad Rampelberg was on a charge, swiftly making his way past Malkhassian and erasing the MER teammates' lead in a matter of three laps. Only one lap later, Rampelberg was around Foss for second place in Turn Seven.
For the next two laps, Rampelberg"s No. 14 Team MER/Mazda/Patron Tequila MX-5 filled the mirrors of Huffmaster's No. 27 Team MER/Huffmaster Co. MX-5. On lap six, Rampelberg, who started fifth, pulled to the inside of Huffmaster at the end of the front straight, taking over the lead in Turn One.
"I sat on the pole and the start was clean through One," Huffmaster said. "I led the first few laps and then Rampelberg was coming up behind us and worked his way past. Eric had an opportunity to pass me multiple times, but we're looking at the big picture just to keep the team up there.
"[The track] was damp. It was better than practice, but off line it was damp and the car would just get a little out of control, so you just had to be on it."
Rampelberg, Huffmaster and Foss continued to run nose-to-tail, until lap 11, when Foss bobbled. Remaining third, but losing the draft of the leaders, the race became a two-car fight between Rampelberg and Huffmaster.
Though Huffmaster had Rampelberg's bumper covered, the Mosport race winner would not have to strategize long for a passing opportunity. On lap 15, Rampelberg's gearbox began to falter, allowing Huffmaster to breeze past with ease entering Turn One. As Rampelberg continued to fall back, Huffmaster only needed to keep his No. 27 Team MER/Huffmaster Co. MX-5 on the track for the remainder of the 29-lap, 62.93-mile race to earn his second MX-5 Cup victory of the season by 2.301 seconds.
Huffmaster also earned the Hawk Hot Lap en route to leading Team MER to a podium sweep, clocking a 1:32.655 (84.312 mph) during the closing stages of the race.
"This is awesome," Huffmaster smiled. "I think all year we've shown the capabilities. We just haven't been able to [finish one-two-three]. It didn't work out the way we thought it would, starting one-two-three we thought we could just pull out and get away, but it worked out, so it's great."
On lap 16, Foss caught the ailing Rampelberg and moved into second.
"Rob and I had a great start," Foss said. "We were able to get away a little bit. About lap seven, I made a little mistake and lost the draft to Rob. I dropped back five or six seconds. Rob was up there driving a great race and I think wondering what I was doing behind him. We kind of got in a little battle at the end of the race as far as lap times. We were talking about it on the radio to see who could have the best lap time."
The runner-up finish was Foss' sixth podium finish of the season and further enhanced his lead in the Drivers' Championship heading to the season finale, Oct. 17 - 19, at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca
"The Autobarn Mazda was just great this weekend. I have to thank my teammates for all their help. They've been great. Without them, I wouldn't be in the position I am in the Championship this year. I think I basically just need to start at Laguna and that will pretty much seal the deal. Still have to make it one more round, so I'm not going to do anything crazy between now and then."
Though he fell back early following a poor start, Schismk was able t