By Steve Wittich
“Pitter-patter, let’s get at ‘er” is a common refrain heard north of the border in Canada when it’s time to bear down, stop making excuses, and just get the job done.
With three trips to the top step of the podium in the last four races, all-Canadian USF2000 team Exclusive Autosport, and Red Deer, Alberta pilot Parker Thompson are in full throttle, pedal to the floor “at ‘er” mode.
“This Exclusive Autosport team, what can I say, I really can’t say enough about them,” exclaimed Thompson enthusiastically to TSO. “They’ve been going a great job, they’ve put their nose to the grindstone, and have been putting in the dedication and the work that it takes to put on a race like we did today.”
In the first eight races of the year Thompson collected 143 points, enough to put him in fourth place in the championship. But, in the last four races the Drive To Stay Alive ambassador and his Canadian team owner, engineer, and mechanic have found another gear, amassing 121 points, 25 points more than his closest competitor over the same four race span.
That up-tick in performance also just happens to coincide with the team discovering a non-team related mechanical issue that had been hampering Thompson’s black and red No 90 all season long.
Rinus VeeKay entered the second and final Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Presented by Allied Building Products race of the weekend, 19 points behind Oliver Askew, in the chase for the
VeeKay’s second place finish was his eighth straight and 11th overall podium of 2017, and that, coupled with Askew’s fourth place finish means that the Dutch driver now trails the American by 13 points headed to the finale at Watkins Glen International on Labor Day Weekend.
Team Pelfrey rookie Kaylen Frederick made up four spots from his inside row four starting spot, executing a text-book pass on Askew to stand on the podium for the fifth time this season. The 15 year-old’s fourth place position in the championship is now solidified, and the future is bright for the Potomac, Md. native.
For the first time since the season opener in St. Petersburg, Fla., Oliver Askew was not on the front row when a USF2000 race took the green flag.
The front row of Thompson and VeeKeey brought the field slowly through the final turn, and as they got deep into the start zone, the third year pole sitter punched it, surprising the young drivers starting around him.
“They (the USF2000 field) watched me start on pole in Toronto and they knew I went early there, and you have to mix it up,” explained wily veteran Thompson. “I’m not a one-trick pony, you’ve got to mix it up here and there, and it caught them off guard which is good, because I had a nice clean run through Turn 1, and then it was easy sailing from there on.”
Askew, who started directly behind Thompson, was able to get half a car inside of VeeKay headed into the high-speed left-hander. But, the Rising Star Racing supported driver thought better of pushing the issue and fell in behind the 16 year-old Dutchman.
Askew’s wise decision meant a suboptimal exit from the first of 273 turns that the No. 3 Soul Red machine of Askew would make. That compromised the long run uphill to The Keyhole (Turn 2), and allowed Lucas Kohl, who started outside of Askew on the second row, to make the inside pass.
At the end of the first lap of the 2.258-mile, 13-Turn natural terrain road course the top 10 were: Thompson, VeeKay, Askew, Kohl, Kaylen Frederick, Calvin Ming, Moisés de la Vara, David Malukas, Kory Enders, and Andres Guttierez.
On the next lap, Askew fell down to fifth place after Frederick passed him in Turn 4. Further back in the field, Phillipe Denes, who was making his USF2000 debut for Team Pelfrey, came to a stop in Turn 6. The Holmatro Safety Team was able to get him pointed in the right direction and the 18 year-old Californian was able to continue, but finished one lap down in 18th spot.
On the fifth lap of the race, Frederick got by Kohl for the final spot on the podium, and was followed through by Askew. Kohl, who is managed by Roberto Moreno ended the race in eighth.
Further back in the field, a train of seven cars was being led around the 2.258-mile, 13-Turn natural terrain road course by de la Vara.
On Lap 11, Ming grabbed the final spot on the podium from his teammate Kohl, and Malukas was finally able to get by the brilliant blue DEForce Racing machine of de la Vara.
At the half-way point of the timed 30 minute race, Thompson’s lead over VeeKay was a comfortable 3.2 seconds, and VeeKay had an equally comfortable 3.2 second lead Frederick.
VeeKay was pushing hard to make up time, but was struggling with front grip.
VeeKay told TSO: ‘I was pushing pretty hard in the middle of the race the tires were all grained, so I didn’t have any grip in the front any more.”
With only eight minutes left in the race Thompson had his 4.2 second lead erased when the lone yellow flag of the race was shown around the track. Darren Keane and Enders made contact while fighting for 11th, with Enders coming to a stop in Madness (Turn 5). Keane was penalized for avoidable contact, but was able to continue and finished in 16th. Enders lost three laps while the safety team came to Ender’s rescue.
The green flag came back out with 17 laps to go, and once again, Thompson was able to get cleanly through Turn 1, and once again pulled out to a comfortable lead.
Frederick used the restart to make an attempt to reach the second step of the podium when he made a pass attempt around the outside of the 16 year-old VeeKay in Turn 4.
“Just before Turn 4, he (Frederick) came out of the draft,” explained VeeKay to TSO after the race. “I was on the inside, and he was on the outside. I braked a little later, and I put the car a little in front of him, he got dirty air and I could driver away from him.”
Thompson was able to extend his lead to 1.2 seconds when the checkered flag flew on the 19 year-old’s seventh career Mazda Road To Indy presented by Cooper Tire trip to the top step of the podium.
Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Presented by Allied Building Products Race #2 Results
|1||90||Parker Thompson||Exclusive Autosport||21 LAPS|
|2||21||Rinus VeeKay||Pabst Racing||1.1713|
|3||81||Kaylen Frederick||Team Pelfrey||1.6874|
|4||3||Oliver Askew||Cape Motorsports||2.6639|
|5||22||Calvin Ming||Pabst Racing||3.0560|
|6||79||David Malukas||BN Racing||4.2453|
|7||80||Robert Megennis||Team Pelfrey||5.3141|
|8||23||Lucas Kohl||Pabst Racing||6.7386|
|9||12||Moises de la Vara||DEForce Racing||7.9495|
|10||7||Devin Wojcik||ArmsUp Motorsports||8.8970|
|11||10||Andres Gutierrez||DEForce Racing||9.4644|
|12||92||Dev Gore||Exclusive Autosport||10.2078|
|13||37||Jacob Abel||Newman Wachs Racing||10.8632|
|14||97||Bruna Tomaselli||ArmsUp Motorsports||18.7035|
|15||93||Jayson Clunie||Exclusive Autosport||29.3860|
|16||36||Darren Keane||Newman Wachs Racing||30.3200|
|17||27||Colin Kaminsky||John Cummiskey Racing||-1 LAPS|
|18||82||Phillippe Denes||Team Pelfrey||-1 LAPS|
|19||11||Kory Enders||DEForce Racing||3 LAPS|