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SCCA Pro Racing - Malkhassian Leads Opening MX-5 Practice At Road Atlanta

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BRASELTON, Oct. 17, 2012: The three SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup championship contenders proved in Wednesday’s opening practice that none are going quietly, with Ara Malkhassian, of Houston, Texas, topping the time charts. Thursday and Friday’s races, part of the Petit LeMans Powered by Mazda at Road Atlanta, are the final rounds of the 2012 season.

Malkhassian’s lap of 1:39.968 (91.469 mph) in the No. 11 ALARA Racing MX-5 bested the laps of Championship leader Stevan McAleer, of Putnam Valley, N.Y., and John Dean, of Sebring, Fla., during the 30-minute morning session.

The all-time leader in starts for the series, Malkhassian trails McAleer by 50 championship points entering the weekend. Malkhassian won last season at Road Atlanta, however, giving him an outside shot at the title.

“You can’t lose sight of the fact that we’re having a lot of fun doing this,” Malkhassian said. “Going fast is fun, and that’s what we’re all doing.

“This is a track that we have a long history at, and a lot of success. We really enjoy coming here, it’s a great facility and a great event to be part of. Ken Murillo, our crew chief, really has the setup dialed in for this track. We’re good everywhere, the low speed and the high speed corners the car feels really good. The car is what we like to call racy, it’s behaving well. It’s very controllable, so it’s not on the knife edge to get the speed. That bodes well for the race.”

Holding a 32-point lead over Dean, McAleer was second in the session in his No. 28 Blue Mercury Capital/Numerix/CJ Wilson Racing MX-5 with a time of 1:40.093 (91.355 mph). He was followed closely by Dean’s No. 16 Projections Research/Sick Sideways MX-5 with a best lap of 1:40.244 (91.217 mph).

Dean’s teammate, Nathanial Sparks, was fourth with a 1:40.262 (91.201 mph) in the No. 3 OOTSK Performance/Sick Sideways MX-5, followed by McAleer’s CJ Wilson Racing teammate Elliott Skeer’s No. 17 MAZDASPEED/Sparco/CJWR MX-5 in 1:40.534 (90.954 mph).

Bryan Hixon led the Skip Barber Racing School MAZDASPEED Pro Series class, with a time of 1:44.508 (87.495 mph) in the No. 63 MX-5.

The SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup returns to the track later on Wednesday afternoon for a 30-minute practice session at 3:30 p.m. EDT.