Mazda Road to Indy
USF2000 Observations: “Some Kid Decided to Run Into Me”
TORONTO, Ontario — The Honda Indy Toronto delivered the best of both worlds for the Cooper Tires USF2000 Powered by Mazda – a clean race, along with a dramatic follow-up. Despite this, the red and white maple leaf waved in front of the Canadian fans both days with Alberta native Parker Thompson sweeping the weekend.
With the weekend complete, here are some observations…..
“I’m Honestly Speechless”
After placing second in the points standings last year driving for Cape Motorsports, Parker Thompson landed himself with a new team for 2017. Canada-based Exclusive Autosport made the decision to enter USF2000 competition after taking multiple F1600 Championships and wanted Thompson to lead the team.
While most teams tend to struggle in their rookie campaign, Exclusive Autosport came out of the gate strong, only scoring one finish outside of the top-five in the first eight races this season. Though one thing was missing – a victory.
Thompson proved last year he knew his way around the street circuit, sweeping the weekend, and that dominance showed through again this year, as he swept the weekend once again.
“If we could have swept any weekend on the calendar, I think it would’ve been Toronto,” he told POPULAR SPEED. “It is ultimately the best race of the season for us. (The) Canadian team, Canadian car, Canadian race and Canadian fans – unbelievable. I’m honestly speechless. That’s pretty rare for me. I usually have lots of words, but today has been unbelievable.”
The Canadian led all 25 laps in race one after starting from the pole, followed by avoiding a Lap 9 crash among the leaders to take over the top spot, driving away from the field on the restart.
“I backed off about a quarter of the way into the race because I knew something was going to go wrong,” he said. “I saw them battling way too hard, way too early so I backed off to make sure everything would be okay for us, and it worked out. I kind of foreseen that accident happening. I saw them going into turn three, made contact, and I knew coming around turn three that they’d probably be together, and I came around, and they were off to the side. It was just enough room to get by first.”
Currently sitting third in points, but 77 markers behind Oliver Askew, Thompson says his team is focused on trying to “out-win the season.”
“We’re going to go for as many wins as we can to try and finish off the season, and what happens, happens,” he said. “When the dust settles in the championship, it settles. I think if we just do our job as a team and go after race wins, it’ll just play out for us.”
An Inevitable Crash
From the drop of the green flag in the second race, the battle for the lead between Alex Baron and David Malukas for the top spot was intense, as Malukas tried to find away around Baron for the top spot. The battle grew to a point where Parker Thompson backed off in the fourth spot to give them room, while Oliver Askew hoped he could avoid it when it happened.
“It was an inevitable that they were going to crash,” Askew told POPULAR SPEED. “They were pretty desperate for a win there early. We went to turn three – I couldn’t back up because Parker was right behind me. They did end up crashing, and they wheel-hopped together and went to the inside. I was trying to avoid it, but they shot into me on the inside.”
Going into turn three, Malukas got a run on Baron, making a move to the inside. However, Baron came down on him, resulting in contact and both cars going around, with Askew getting caught up in the process.
“Well, basically I was in the lead, and some kid decided to bump into me from a stupid length behind me, and basically wreck me,” Baron told POPULAR SPEED.
Malukas took time post-race to review a replay of the crash with his team, confused why he was getting all the blame for the accident.
“I looked at the video and looking at that, going into turn three, I come in for a good pass, and then he puts me down close to the wall and gives me zero room,” he told POPULAR SPEED. “From that point, there’s nothing that I could do. I looked at the video, and I’m right next to the wall, right next to him – by that point, we’ve already touched in the middle of the apex. But before, if he would’ve given me a little more room, it would’ve been a clean pass.”
Despite posting just two top-10’s in six starts, he remains confident in his team based on the speed they showed at Road America and this past weekend.
“We had a good race in Road America and had a lot of speed here, as well,” he said. “In race one, we were six-tenths faster till we had a mechanical failure. This race, we had the new tires and were pushing. Confidence wise, it’s a good boost. It’s just quite unlucky, again, for this crash. So hopefully the next race we can finish up front.”
Solid Weekend for Veekay
In both events across the weekend, Rinus Veekay was able to run up front, placing third and second in the pair of races to gain valuable points in the championship, now sitting 18 points behind Oliver Askew – compared to a gap of over 30 points entering Toronto.
Veekay has been solid on a weekly basis this year, not placing outside of the top-six with nine top-five’s in 10 races. In comparison, though, Askew has won five races – along with two finishes outside of the top-10.
Despite the points gap shrinking, Askew is remaining focused on the end goal, knowing that he cannot get complacent.
“I think we saw that we could have a bad weekend, at Road America for example,” he said. “It was tough for us. We just have to keep going, one race at a time. I don’t think they’ve taught me anything particular, but just things, in general, each week.”
Kaylen Frederick did not start off the weekend as he wanted, but he will leave Toronto with a smile on his face.
The teenager had a mechanical issue on Lap 2 of the first race, followed by qualifying 13th for the second event following a penalty. However, he was able to avoid the wrecks on Sunday, driving through the field to place third.
“It was great,” he told POPULAR SPEED. “I went into the race thinking I could only move forward from here, so I just put my head down and passed cars one-by-one. As they were crashing out, I kept it off the wall, so I’m really happy with how things played out today.”
With eight top-six finishes in 10 races, Frederick knows he has the speed to run up front but is aware that qualifying needs to go better if he wants to break through for his first career victory.
“I think if I start up in the top-five and keep doing what I’m doing, it’ll come,” he said.
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