Hixon Motor Sports – Daytona Mazda MX-5 Cup Recap

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Entering their first event of the 2021 season with the largest presence in the paddock, Hixon Motor Sports (HMS) brought eight drivers to the opening round of the Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich® Tires. Taking on the Daytona International Speedway, HMS brought the heat showing race-winning pace only to lose out on the final few hundred feet in an epic last-lap battle in race one.

Claiming three top-ten results were not indicative of the true speed for Hixon Motor Sports drivers as four top-five starting positions were attained in the single qualifying session that lined the MX-5 field up for both wheel-to-wheel events on the weekend. After two forty-five-minute races, HMS drivers were able to walk away with seven top-fifteen results and turned some heads while breaking some long-standing series records. “As team owner without the kind of speed to run up front as a driver, I had to find another way to make a mark for the team in 2021. I am thrilled HMS broke the record of [previously two women] starting the most women drivers in the history of MX-5 Cup with four incredibly talented women in our HMS Daytona Driver Roster,” said Bryan Hixon.

Here’s what the drivers had to say:

Preston Pardus – “I could not have imagined a better group to debut with in the MX-5 Cup Series than the great people at Hixon Motor Sports! The group atmosphere that owner, Bryan, and manager, Shea, created within the team allowed for great teamwork. It was awesome to reunite on the track with one of my best friends, Selin Rollan, and we maximized that friendship and teamwork on the race track all weekend! It really shows how much of a team effort it was with Selin helping assist me to the new Daytona lap track record in the MX-5 series. It was also cool to see Hixon Motor Sports break the series record for having the most females start an MX-5 Cup race with Hannah, Loni, Sabré, and Savanna! It was also great having many foundations support the HMS team! The #42 Blue H.E.L.P. MX-5 definitely stood out on the racetrack with the “Police” livery!”

Selin Rollan – “My debut for Hixon Motor Sports was a great experience! Being part of the biggest team in the paddock was great, and working with my best bud, Preston Pardus, on track was even better! HMS came prepared with a car chief and a spotter for every car plus plenty of mechanics, prepared for the worst. Thankfully, all 8 of us made it through the opening weekend without damage or injury—an achievement in itself. Thanks to Hixon Motor Sports for making this possible, I hope I can get back on track with them soon!”

Savanna Little – “What an incredible journey it has been getting to Daytona (and it did not disappoint), I am still on cloud nine! Just before the Rolex 24 in 2020 I took a job with VP Racing Fuels that landed me on pit lane for all the IMSA races, just inching my way towards my goal of someday making my debut in professional sports car racing. To take the green flag just one year later behind the wheel of the HMS #63 Mazda Motorsports MX-5 Cup Car with 26 incredibly talented drivers in the whole field, three of which were young women just like myself; it feels surreal. Climbing the grassroots racing ladder and coming off the Mazda Motorsports MX-5 Cup Shootout Scholarship win this winter; I knew this season would be full of challenges and growth. Understanding the draft and race craft required at Daytona was a huge learning curve for me, and while my execution wasn’t always as flawless as it needed to for a better showing, my team and I were very happy with the development last week. Bryan Hixon, Shea Holbrook and the rest of the Hixon Motor Sports team put together an amazing effort with an 8-car team, keeping everything running smoothly from the top down the weeks leading up to the season opener all the way through last week! HMS and my Car Chief, Sebastian Kokoszka, gave me a very solid machine from practice one to the checkered flag in race two! I look forward to every opportunity to grow and to challenge myself this season; all eyes on Sebring and St. Pete!”

Loni Unser – “Being able to race during the Rolex 24 at Daytona was a dream come true, and to be able to do it with my Dad, Johnny Unser, as my spotter was very special. I remember watching my Dad race the 24 Hours when I was 7 years old. This weekend was a full-circle moment for us both that we will cherish for years to come. Although the racing did not go exactly as planned due to a mistake, I still had an incredible time and learned a tremendous amount. In racing we all come to learn sooner rather than later, you lose more than you win, but that just means I am ready to come back stronger than ever! I had some epic moments with some of my teammates over the weekend.

First, in qualifying, owner of Hixon Motor Sports, Bryan, and I were able to put together some fast qualifying laps by working together. In race two, I was able to work with teammate, Savanna Little, which was just a blast sharing the track with the 2020 Mazda MX-5 Cup Female Shootout Winner! Both of us elevated one another’s driving abilities. I was lucky enough to score Tim Buck as my car chief, and although we hadn’t met before the race, we became fast friends and had inside jokes by the end of the weekend. Not only is Tim fun to be around, but he is wicked smart when it comes to prepping these cars! Being a part of history felt very special. Work alongside Shea, Sabre, Hannah, and Savanna showed that women do not only have a place in this sport but can excel in it too. I can’t thank Bryan Hixon, Shea Holbrook, Andrew Carbonell, and all of the guys for making Daytona so incredible and a memory to cherish for many years.”

Hannah Grisham – “My first Mazda MX-5 race was a blast, and I can’t thank Hagerty and Hixon Motor Sports enough. I would also like to thank Shift up Now and Pippa Mann and Shea Holbrook for helping me get here and their continuous support. It was so awesome to be on a team with 7 other teammates and three of the others being women! It is so cool that the four of us broke the MX-5 Cup record for most women to start a race on the same team. Daytona was a little challenging for me personally. I couldn’t get a great draft going in qualifying and that set me starting in a not so ideal position for both sprint races. Overall, I think I showed a lot of improvement and good lap times. Again, big thank you to Hixon Motor Sports for being such a class act, Shift Up Now, Pippa Mann, Shea Holbrook, my HMS dedicated car chief and spotter, and to my fellow teammates.”

Sabre Cook – “Though I really wanted to achieve a top-ten finish in my first weekend in the HMS Mazda MX-5 Cup car, we came very close; I’m happy with how the weekend went overall. The racing was incredibly close and I enjoyed it so much! It reminded me of my karting days—I came away from each race with a smile on my face. The team was excellent all week, I had great support in every area possible. I cannot thank Hixon Motor Sports enough for the chance to be at this race, and I really admire their effort and success in the first outing of the season. Thank you to Apple Motorsports, Acoustic Blueprint, Adcock Concrete, Major Mortgage, and GJ Home Builders for supporting my Daytona effort. Your support made it all possible!”

Bryan Hixon – Hixon in the Blue H.E.L.P. / Phoenix Mental Health #47 experienced 2 different races at the inaugural event of the 2021 season. “Race 1 left me with a memory of one of my top 3 moments since I started racing in 2003. At the yellow flag restart after safely removing Loni Unser after an amazing high-speed spin and save, I gained approximately 3 positions. Then, I had some great battles until the finish line with a photo finish, where I dove downhill to the checkered stripe and picked up a couple spots in less than a 100th of a second. Loni Unser in the #92 Swamp Dragon Liquor Hot Sauce and I were working in the last few laps to move up a few spots together, and it was an honor to be on track and receive some helpful words of advice from Loni and her father, Johnny Unser, in preparation for a large car count.

Race 2 was a great experience, but I was mostly impressed by our HMS crew, Shea and Nick Chorley, and BSI Racing (Daytona Beach, FL) being able to get Loni Unser into a spare car, fully wrapped and put on the dyno approximately at 3am to be ready for race 2. In race 2, I got to work with teammates Hannah Grisham and Derek Ware. We were gaining as a trio about 1-second per lap on the pack in front. I think the adrenaline we were soaking in caused us to be a little aggressive too early before the white flag, and we had a great team battle to the finish.

I’m proud to announce that today, February 23rd, is the 1-year anniversary of Hixon Motor Sports as a Team. I appreciate all the hard work put forth in a successful grand opening of the Mazda MX-5 Cup as we switched over to IMSA from IndyCar. The IMSA.TV live-streaming and coverage plus great commentary on NBC Sports has been a great addition to MX-5 Cup, and I hope in 2021 we can raise viewership, MX-5 Cup fanbase, and help Mazda sell more street cars by putting on a show in MX-5 Cup. We’ve come a long way in one year, and I can’t wait to attempt breaking more MX-5 Cup historical records. My father’s last words were “Son, it’s time to start your own racing team,” and I just hope he’s looking down and proud of the team I built in his memory and his honor with philanthropy as the heart of this team’s effort.”

Derek Ware – Driving the 2020 Flis Performance-built Lemons of Love Raffle HMS racecar #98 was Derek Ware. Day one qualifying left him in 24th overall in the line-up, but he made sure not to stay there. Five minutes into racing he had gotten himself to 20th overall. Unfortunately, following that placement he had punctured his left front tire on track. Coming off track left him in last place, 27th overall. When Derek Ware came off track, he mentioned “I am not one to give up without a fight, which is why I love the Lemons of Love cause!” Lemons of Love is a non-profit organization that gives care packages to people who are in chemotherapy. His tire was fixed, and he went straight back to racing. He wasn’t very far back out there before realizing something was off. Ware had to leave track once again and sadly did not get the chance to finish race 1 of the MX-5 Cup at Daytona.

Heading into race 2, the following day Ware was determined to push forward. Starting once again in 24th overall, he had a good start. At about 7 minutes into this race, he made his way to 21st overall. Trying to keep with the pack and push his teammates he made it to 19th overall with about 21 minutes left. By the end of race 2 he finished 18th overall. After finishing race 2 and the MX-5 Cup 24 Hours of Daytona Weekend, Derek Ware added, “I knew it was going to be a challenging hill to climb, and the hill was a little higher to climb than anticipated. The car HMS setup was wicked fast, and I gave the best driving performances in the races I could give after a qualifying session where my strategies for a strong draft lap didn’t go as planned.” Derek plans to continue his practice and prepare to get back out there soon!

The next event in the Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich® Tires will move to the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring weekend. Taking place at the Sebring International Raceway March 17-19, Hixon Motor Sports will be back looking for the top step of the podium in their second event of 2021. Photo credit to Ignite Media and photo creativity to DSM Luxury and purchased by HMS.