By Steve Wittich
Despite winning on home soil at this event one year ago, Canadian Parker Thompson experienced a whole new range of emotions when he crossed under the checkered flag to claim victory in Toronto while driving for Exclusive Autosport, a Canadian team.
“No disrespect to the Cape Motorsports crew, but I have to say winning with Exclusive Autosport has been one of the most emotional victories that I’ve ever had,” Thompson told TSO. “The whole team was screaming on the radio after I took the checkered flag. I was screaming on the radio. You look at our team, my engineer Kristof is Canadian, my mechanic Alex is Canadian, my team owner Michale Duncalfe is Canadian, we’re all Canadian. Most of them are from Toronto, but we’re all from across Canada. We’ve almost got every province represented on our team, so take a win in our home country, the words don’t describe it. It was so emotional, there have been very few times that I’ve teared up after a race win. Usually I can hold my composure, but today, there was no holding it back.”
The win was the first in USF2000 for the Saskatoon, Saskatchewan team that is lead by Michale and Kimberly Duncalfe, and the fifth of Thompson’s Mazda Road To Indy presented by Cooper Tire career.
Starting on pole, for the second time this season, Thompson was ready to go the minute he go into his OpnHwy sponsored No. 90.
“Not even after the first lap. I’d say I was in rhythm leaving pit lane,” said the Red Deer, Alberta native after being asked if it took him a lap to get comfortable. “I think I got my tires warmed up a little bit more than Oliver and the other competitors did. I seemed to be a little more aggressive on that warm-up lap, and then from there, I was just a man on a mission. I think I did a really good job on that first start of the race to get that advantage because ultimately that’s what won me the race towards the end. If I didn’t have that gap, I probably wouldn’t have come out on top. So, it was awesome to just go out there and really get into rhythm, by the first lap, I was tapping walls and comfy with my situation, and you’re not going to be able to do that if you’re not confident in your car. And, the guys from Exclusive Autosport gave be better than a good car, they gave me an awesome car to go out and do what I needed to do.”
After a single pace lap, front row USF2000 starters Thompson and Askew brought to field to green flag. The pole sitter Thompson was able to get a good jump on Askew, and won the drag race down to Turn 1.
The entire field was able to get through entire first lap cleanly, and when they crossed the line to complete the opening lap, the top ten were: Thompson, Askew, VeeKay, Kaylen Frederick, David Malukas, Jose Sierra, Calvin Ming, Robert Megennis, Alex Baron, and Moisés de la Vara.
On the Lap 2, VeeKay was forced to go on the defensive against Frederick, which opened the door for Malukas to pressure the 15 year-old Team Pelfrey rookie.
Frederick, facing pressure from Malukas made a mistake in Turn 8, tagging the tire barrier and heading to pit road. Frederick who currently holds third in the championship, was forced to retire due to contact.
By Lap 5, Thompson was able to build a 1.5 second over Askew, who was busy defending against VeeKay and Malukas – further back Baron was working over Megennis and was able to make an outside pass in Turn 3 and Turn 4 on Lap 7
On the next lap Malukas, who was the quickest car on track was able to get around VeeKay in T3 for the final spot of the podium, but almost immediately made a mistake in Turn 7. The No. 79 BN Racing machine got into the Speedi Dri left behind from a previous clean-up and hit the concrete wall. The 16 year-old from Chicago, Ill. was forced to bring his damaged machine to pit road and immediately retired due to the contact.
Further back it was debutante Sierra who was on the move. The 18-year old Mexican driver was battling Ming, his chief rival in the NACAM FIA Formula 4 Mexico Championship for … position, which immediately put Ming into the clutches of Baron. The twosome made slight contact in Turn 3, with disastrous results for both drivers. Ming’s pursuit for his third straight podium came to an end when the No. 22 Pabst Racing machine came to pit road, and was retired. Baron fell down to 10th in the running order, and was only able to recover to record a sixth place finish.
At the halfway point of the 45-minute race, Thompson was able to grow his gap over Askew to a comfortable 1.8 seconds. VeeKay was another 2.8 back seconds a field of the Mazda backed Soul Red No. 3 of Askew, but the 16 year-old Dutch driver was coming quickly. On Lap 15, VeeKay turned the quickest lap of the race, a scorching lap of 1 minute, 11.868 seconds, over a second quicker than the race record set in 2016 by Jordan Lloyd.
Further back in the field, rookies Wojcik and de la Vara were having an entreating battle for what would end up being the seventh spot, after Robert Megennis retired from fifth with damage from contact. It took three laps of stalking de la Vara, but the ArmsUp Motorsports rookie was eventually able to get by the No. 12 DEForce Racing machine in Turn 3.
With seven laps left to go in the 25 lap race, both Thompson, and Askew turned their quickest circuits. Askew was the quicker of the two, shrinking a Thompson’s 1.8 second lead at the half-way point of the race to 0.873 seconds when they took the checkered flag. Thompson told TSO that it was his good start that allowed him to win the race.
“Staring second for that race next to Parker, I got a good start and slotted in behind him,” said Askew, who collected his ninth podium in 10 races. “I think we had one or two tenths (of a second) on him from the middle to the end of the race, but it’s so hard to pass. The track has such low grip, so when you get behind someone, you lose everything, so you just have to hold onto it and with a few laps to go, I just started thinking championship, and hung in their for good points.”
Askew came into the Toronto race-weekend with a 32 point championship lead over VeeKay, and ended the first of two races with a 34 point lead. After an exciting qualifying session earlier in day, the Jupiter, Fla. resident will start on pole for the second USF2000 race of the weekend, gaining one bonus point and growing his advantage over VeeKay to 35.