Anthony McIntosh’s daughter wanted to go climbing in Yosemite. It turned into an ordeal that put him in the hospital, nearly killed him, and had him reflect on his life choices – which eventually led to a full immersion in motorsports, including the Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich.

It began a few months after the Yosemite expedition in 2019 when he developed intermittent pain in his jaw. Soon, it became more intense, then more frequent, going from happening once a day to every 20 minutes.

Then his vision started to blur, and his hearing was affected. Eventually doctors determined something was wrong with the trigeminal nerve, the largest of the cranial nerves that affect sensory functions in the face and motor functions such as chewing. By the time they figured out from where this all emanated – a tick bite while he was in California – he was emaciated and felt like he couldn’t go on.

“It turned out to be one of the forms of Lyme disease, and it just started wreaking havoc, destroying parts of my brain,” explains McIntosh of the ordeal that also gave him time for reflection. “During the hospital stays I would always be thinking about all the things I never did. I just always worked and was very driven – work, work, work, coupled with training for something athletic like . I was full-on maximum. I never owned a nice car, I just thought that was frivolous. I never was on a race track.

“Anyway, I would daydream about going to McDonald’s and ordering a cheeseburger and that’s how I would get through the day, making these lists of things I’d do if I ever got better.”

He did get better – the doctors put him on the same regimen that they would use to treat an anthrax patient, which cleared it up with only a few mild residual effects.

So, wanting to start turning his wishlist into reality, McIntosh ordered a sports car. But it was in the middle of COVID, and the car never came.

He wanted to rent a car to get on track, but nobody would do that without a racing license or experience. Then he found the Lucas Oil School of Racing and went to Florida with friends. Turns out he was pretty good. He was encouraged to enter a race – but he just wanted to drive a fast car. However, he relented, entered and won. Through that he met drivers like MX-5 Cup alum Glenn McGee and other racers happy to provide advice and coaching.

“I had this unlimited supply of amazing people who were jumping in to help me out,” the 48-year-old Wisconsin native recounts. “As a coincidence, an engineer who works for me graduated with Jared Thomas, and he’s like, ‘Hey, my roommate in college races.’ He gave me his name and we met.

“I didn’t know who Jared was; I’d never heard of Mazda Motorsports; I’d never even gone to a race. So, they took me to a Spec Miata race at Road America and they’re like, ‘Are you sure you want to do this?’ It was the Runoffs and everyone’s ramming into each other. ‘I don’t know. I think so…’”

McIntosh continued to race in the Lucas Oil Series while getting an immersive education from McGee and Thomas. Eventually they decided he was ready for Mazda MX-5 Cup, and he entered his first race at the 2021 Road Atlanta season finale.

Now, in addition to being in his second season in the No. 69 JTR Motorsports Engineering MX-5, he’s won a championship with Thomas in the World Racing League, competes in Lamborghini Super Trofeo where he’s second in the Am points after four races, and has even done a couple of IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge races. From never driving a fast car to racing across multiple series, he’s clearly found something he likes about motorsports: the challenge.

“I usually could walk into almost any situation and be really, really good at something. But it gets hard when you run out of talent, and that’s where the challenge comes in,” McIntosh says. “That’s what I appreciate, the grind of, ‘OK, my talent is only going to take me so far.’ And when I came into racing, my talent was so low. It humbles you and it makes you look at yourself and say, ‘OK, I’m going up against people that are half my age that have done this their whole life; their talent level is so much higher than mine. This is something that I’m really going to have to hustle and practice and work harder, maybe harder than these other guys.’”

That grind to get better keeps pushing McIntosh, and although he’s found the grind harder in MX-5 Cup, the results are even more rewarding.

“I raced up to, like, fourth or third in MX-5 Cup at Watkins Glen, though I eventually crashed out. But I took two podiums in the Lamborghini. Later, friends asked, ‘Why are you so upset? You were on the podium twice.’ And I told them straight out: ‘I would take a fourth place in MX-5 over a hundred first-place trophies in any other series.’ And they just did not understand. But Glen and Jared were there, and they said that’s how it is. It’s that hard. It’s that gritty. It’s that intense. And I enjoy that to the maximum.”

* All Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich races are streamed live on RACER.com and archived on The RACER Channel on YouTube. To view the full season schedule and learn more about the series, visit mx-5cup.com.