If the first race of the PM-18 era of is any indication, Mazda Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires fans are in for a treat.

Rinus VeeKay, who started right in the middle of the 16 car grid after having some mechanical issues in qualifying used a combination of luck and skill to win his first race in the Pro Mazda Presented By Cooper Tire series.

VeeKay gave full credit to the Juncos Racing team for giving him a race winning car, and to drivers like Thompson for pushing him to get better.

The victory in the Pro Mazda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented by Allied Building Products race #1 is the fifth of VeeKay’s Mazda Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires career.

VeeKay took advantage of a late race caution to get past Parker Thompson on the restart to stand on the top step of the podium in the first race of the PM-18 era.

Thompson had to settle for his first Pro Mazda and 19th career Mazda Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires victory.

VeeKay’s teammate Robert Megennis, who started the race in fifth, ended up with his

The front row of Thompson and Askew brought the eight rows of two to the green flag, but the row behind them of Carlos Cunha and Harrison Scott got the jump, and the first two rows were four wide by the time they reached the Turn 1 braking point.

Askew, Scott, and Cunha all missed the braking point, while Thompson was the only driver of the quartet who made the corner. The trio all made it through the extra-wide turn at the end of the slick runway but Askew fell to sixth, Cunha fell to ninth, and Scott dropped all the way to 14th.

As the bunched up field made it to Turn 5, Cunha and Rafa Martins made contact while fighting for the same piece of real-estate. The loser in the incident was the black and yellow No. 80 Team Pelfrey machine of Martins, which ended up in the concrete wall on driver’s right.

The running order at the end of the first lap was: Thompson, Robert Megennis, Rinus VeeKay, Sting Ray Robb, Andres Gutierrez, Askew, Nikita Lastochkin, Lodovico Laurini, Carlos Cunha, David Malukas, James Raven, Antonio Serravalle, Kris Wright, Scott, Charles Finelli, and Martins

The race got restarted on Lap 5, and VeeKay who started in eighth got by Megennis for the second spot.

The field of 275HP 2.0L Mazda powered machines settled in until Lap 10 when Cunha was able to get by Gutierrez.

Four laps later, DEForce Racing rookie Raven brought out the lone yellow flag of the 25 lap race when the No. 12 made contact at the exit of Turn 8.

The caution erased the three-second lead that Thompson and his black and red Exclusive Autosport No. 90 built up over VeeKay.

Parker Thompson leads Rinus VeeKay though Turn 1 just before losing the lead on a late race restart. (Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography)

When the green flag came back out on Lap 19, VeeKay was able to get by Thompson for the lead. Further back in the field, Cunha went by Robb for fourth, after falling to 10th after missing the Turn 1 on lap 1.

With five laps to go, Askew was able to get back into the top five, getting by Team Pelfrey sophomore Robb.

VeeKay was able to pull out to an almost two-second lead, but Thompson started to chip away at that lead over the last three laps. With two laps to go, the Canadian was 9-tenths of a second behind VeeKay, when starter Paul Blevins brought out the white flag VeeKay held a slim half-second lead. Thompson put pressure on VeeKay over the final lap, but the 17-year-old was able to hold on to cross the finish line three-tenths of a second ahead of Thompson.

Thompson said that his car was fast on the long runs and that it’s not a bad day when you are disappointed with second place.

The final Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented by Allied Building Products race will roll off after the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg at 4:30 pm.

Pro Mazda Presented By Cooper Tire Race #1 Unofficial Results

1 2 Rinus VeeKay
2 90 Parker Thompson 0.3309
3 9 Robert Megennis 2.3305
4 1 Carlos Cunha 2.9675
5 3 Oliver Askew 3.6154
6 82 Sting Ray Robb 4.0101
7 79 David Malukas 5.1743
8 8 Nikita Lastochkin 6.9373
9 10 Harrison Scott 7.4872
10 27 Lodovico Laurini 12.6347
11 91 Antonio Serravalle 15.9270
12 78 Kris Wright -1 LAP
13 83 Charles Finelli -1 LAP
14 81 Andres Gutierrez -3 LAPS
15 12 James Raven -12 LAPS
16 80 Rafael Martins -25 LAPS