Mazda Invitational Offers Dream Ride to Lucky Winner

The Mazda MX-5 Cup Shootout is a springboard for seasoned enthusiast racers making the jump into big-time club racing. The competition pits five fierce challengers against one another, with a full ride in the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup waiting at the end of the rainbow.

The winner of the 2010 Shootout will follow in the footsteps of Andrew Caddell, Brad Rampelberg, Justin Piscitell, and Nick Evans, the four previous Mazda Shootout winners. He also joins the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development Driver ladder program class of 2011.

The Players

The five finalists were a diverse group, ranging from a learner's- permit- eligible 16-year old, to an AARP-eligible driver with 25 years of racing experience.

The lucky combatants were Marc Hoover of Cameron Park, California (NASA PTD National Champion, MX-5 Miata), Dan McKeever of Grantsville, Utah (NASA Spec Miata National Champion, MX-5 Miata), Scott Shelton, Los Angeles, California (NASA PTC National Champion, RX-8), Nate Sparks of Daphne, Alabama (NASA Teen Challenge (East) Champion, MX-5 Miata) and Tyler Vance, Ladera Ranch, California (NASA PTE & Teen Challenge (West) Champion, MX-5 Miata).

The Competition

The Shootout is more than a strap-in- a-and-go-fast hot lap session. There are three driving exercises; fast laps, consistency over a number of laps and a new-for-2010 exercise: wet weather control.

These are followed by four technical feedback evaluations, including understanding of vehicle dynamics and suspension, ability to evaluate vehicle handling, ability to analyze data logging, and the ability to improve vehicle handling.

The final three criteria are off-track skills that often lead to success behind the wheel as a team owner. The business of motorsports criteria involves formulating a business proposal, making a business presentation and an evaluation of public relations skills.

The driving sessions were conducted using Skip Barber Racing- prepared Mazda MX-5's similar to those used in the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup at Laurens Proving Grounds in South Carolina. The Shootout winner was determined by 16 judges with expertise in disciplines ranging from driving, public relations, team ownership and media.

The Pot of Gold

The total prize package is valued at over $75,000 and is the largest prize in club racing. It consists of $50,000 for the running of a Miata for the MX-5 Cup season, $10,000 in parts support, a Sparco driving suit and helmet, professional media training courtesy of MAZDASPEED, 10 sets of BFGoodrich tires, one set per race courtesy of BFGoodrich tires and 10 entry fee waivers courtesy of SCCA Pro Racing.

The Winner: Scott Shelton

Scott Shelton proved that persistence and practice makes perfect. A 40-year-old Southern California native, Shelton qualified for the club racer shootout by winning the 2010 NASA Performance Touring C (PTC) Championship race in his Mazda RX-8.

He moved up to the finals by submitting one of the best business proposals, which is the initial screening tool defining racers who have the "total package" for success. This was Shelton's second appearance in the finals. He won the 2008 NASA PTD Championship and was a runner-up in that year's shootout.

"I had an advantage in that I had lost the shootout two years ago," says Shelton. "The advantage came from the constructive feedback from the judges. It took me two seasons to win another championship, but once I qualified I was determined to nail every possible category.

"I'm thrilled that after almost two decades of club racing, I'm going to really test myself in 2011 against professional drivers and teams. The fact that this year's competition was held at a test track added a unique twist. I'm grateful to Mazda and BFG for staging such a great shootout. Thanks to everyone at RDR and Mothers for helping me win the championship that qualified me for the shootout."

Shelton is gearing up for his 2011 campaign in MX-5 Cup with his sights set on winning the championship and moving up to the next step on the MAZDASPEED Drivers Development ladder.

The MAZDASPEED ladder has been a critical part of the success of up-and-coming racers, including Raphael Matos, John Edwards, Conor Daly, Joel Miller, Connor De Phillippi, Dane Cameron, Jason Saini, Todd Lamb, Eric Foss, Adam Christodoulou, Sage Karam, Spencer Pigot, and Felix Serralles.