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October 28, 2014
Mällinen Leads and Sets Fast Lap at Runoffs

Max Mällinen
Max Mällinen

Liberty Lake, WA – Max Mällinen put in an impressive drive at the 2014 SCCA National Championships Runoffs event at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, fighting aggressively for the victory before a late race incident ended his effort.

With qualifying spread across three sessions and nearly an entire week in Northern California, the front of the field was tight, and the high-school junior missed out on pole by fractions of a second, starting fifth with a fast lap of 1:33.411.

Just making the start was notable, as the 16-year-old battled a stomach flu the day before the race, hampering his qualifying efforts.

After an early-race incident that brought out a full-course caution, Mällinen made a tight pass into turn two on the restart to put his No. 10 Swan Motorsports Spectrum/Honda in the lead.

“The pass down into two was really close. I was right against the wall and (Jeremy) Grenier gave me just enough room,” recalled Mällinen. “I just barely made turn two after a very hard braking zone. That was one of the most important passes of the year.”

The race centered on Mällinen and Jeremy Grenier, as the two battled for the race lead and broke away from the field, taking Chuck Horn with them.

From there the gloves were off, with a three-car race for the victory and a chance to enter the SCCA history books, as Mällinen would have been among the youngest ever victors at the National Championship race.

Another full course caution bunched the field, and saw Mällinen slip down the order as the green flag came out again. Not letting that get to him though, Mällinen patiently worked his way through the top three and back into the lead again.

Explained Mällinen: “The second restart didn't go as smoothly as the first with me dropping back to third after Grenier passed into three, with Horn capitalizing on our battle and passing into five. But, I knew I had to get back up to the front so I just put my head down and tried to pull as quick of times as I could.”

Mällinen and Grenier traded the lead back and forth, with Mällinen slipping down to third before recovering and finding the lead again – and leading lap after lap in the middle portion of the event.

As the draft worked both ways, Grenier was able to get by Mällinen again, and pulled a small gap. That wouldn’t last for long though, as Mällinen left Horn in his mirrors and came for Grenier. With the lap count winding down, and only a few corners left, Mällinen had contact with lapped traffic and was forced to retire.

"Even though we didn't get the result, I'm really proud of my drive,” continued Mällinen. “With laps led, fastest lap, and a great fight, I enjoyed the entirety of the race and the week and am looking forward to more results to follow. A huge thank you to Mirl (Swan) and the entire crew at Swan Motorsports, Paul Hasselgren, Alex Barron, Michael Borland, Honda and Hoosier for everything over the week and the year."

Laps led and a decisive battle for the lead were among the highlights for the No. 10 at the Runoffs, and Mällinen ran the fastest lap of the race in his Spectrum, clocking in at 1:32.820.

Next up, Mällinen plans to release news about his winter racing program soon.

About the SCCA Majors: The Sports Car Club of America’s (SCCA) U.S. Majors Tour is a top-level road racing Championship comprised of classes ranging from Formula F open-wheel cars to more traditional sports cars. At tracks all over the United States, aspiring drivers battle veterans and weekend amateurs in this national level category. Drivers accumulate points toward a national title and coveted invitation to the Runoffs race in October.

About Max: Max Mällinen is a 16-year-old professional race car driver competing in the 2014 F1600 Championship Series and SCCA National events in the Formula F category, both of which feature open-wheel race cars that promote race craft and driver development. Mällinen has competed in international and national karting series and has won three Championships over the past two years. Last season, he had 30 starts with 17 wins, 15 poles and 23 podiums leading to two Championship titles. Mällinen is driving the black No. 10 Swan Motorsports Spectrum/Honda. He is the son of former SCCA National Champion and IMSA Pro Atlantic C2 Champion Michael Mällinen.
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