November 2, 2022
A total of 12 finalists for the Mazda MX-5 Cup Shootout are counting down the days until they head to Sebring International Raceway to compete for three scholarships. The top prize is support from Mazda that is valued at $110,000 toward participation in the 2023 Mazda MX-5 Cup. What follows is a brief introduction to the six of those candidates.
Clayton Ketcher (Sacramento, California)
This will be Clayton Ketcher’s second shot at the MX-5 Shootout. The 20-year-old Columbia University student won the Spec MX-5 West Region Championship and finished runner-up in the series championship. Knowing the car and the track ahead of time is certainly an advantage, but Ketcher believes it will be his familiarity with the experience itself that is an asset.
“I know the judges a little better and I know what they’re looking for. I know the track and the car a little better as well. I think that is relatively minor given the overall criteria and how they award the scholarships. I will feel more comfortable around the judges and the entire environment.”
Sydney McKee (Birmingham, Alabama)
Sydney McKee has raced a number of different cars since building her own Spec Miata in high school. That includes Porsche Club racing, Lamborghini Super Trofeo and a BMW M4 GT4 in Michelin Pilot Challenge. After graduating from Brown University, the real world came calling and she’s had less time to pursue her passion for racing.
“I think I’m a little different from the other candidates, in a sense that most of the finalists are in the 17-20 year-old age range, still in high school or college and Spec Miata is their entire life. That was me when I was that age and didn’t have a job or responsibilities, but I currently work at Goldman Sachs in New York, so I haven’t had the time or finances to go out and get back into a car in short order. I have a full-time career that takes up a lot of my time. I think the last time I was in the MX-5 Cup car was about three years ago.”
Nathan Saxon (South Kingstown, Rhode Island)
He’s only been racing for five years, but Nathan Saxon has progressed through the ranks quickly. After three years of Spec Miata racing, he jumped into the Spec MX-5 Challenge this season and won the North Region Championship. When he’s not using his mechanical engineering degree to get the most out of his car, he’s using it to design components for submarines at his day job.
“It was my first year in Spec MX-5. I did Spec Miata before that. I won the North Region Championship. I was in contention for an overall championship at COTA. That didn’t go so well because we had some mechanical problems.”
Alexander Searle (Fort Lauderdale, Florida)
Another driver making the progression from the Spec MX-5 Shootout to the MX-5 Cup Shootout is Alexander Searle. The University of Central Florida student took a year off from his studies to focus strictly on his racing career and hopes that decisions pays off with a strong performance in this year’s shootout.
“The judges loved my off-track performance, but they said I needed more pace on track. I would say that I’ve super improved on my driving and being a consistent top-five finisher with a few podiums in Spec MX-5.”
Grant West (Buford, Georgia)
Returning for his second MX-5 Cup Shootout is Grant West. He impressed the judges with his business acumen last year and will likely continue to, having just graduated with a business degree from the University of North Georgia. West finished fifth in the Spec MX-5 Series Championship this season. His prior shootout experience makes him a formidable candidate.
“Last year I had a really big focus on my off-track efforts. I wanted to make sure when I came into the shootout I was prepared to stay in the sport if I was able to win it. I came in and my driving was good, but I think I left a little on the table. I’ve been making sure that when I come in this year, I’m prepared to give everything I have and be one of the fastest guys out there.”
Westin Workman (Charlotte, North Carolina)
After winning the Spec MX-5 Shootout last year, Westin Workman was able to take part in a full season of Spec MX-5, but car troubles stopped him from demonstrating his true potential. In the season finale, however, Workman turned his bad luck in qualifying into an inspired drive to fifth in race one and third in race two.
“I think it’s a good thing that they combine the shootouts and that allows the Spec MX-5 guys insight into what the judges are looking for and what they should be doing to prepare themselves for the MX-5 Cup shootout.”
The 2022 Mazda MX-5 Cup Shootout will take place at Sebring International Raceway, November 9-10.