By Tony DiZinno

Friday’s sessions from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway are underway. This is a busy day for the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires, as there are eight on-track sessions – five qualifying sessions, and three races.

For a reminder, here is the schedule:

Friday, May 11th

7:30 AM Public Gates Open
8:05 AM – 8:25 AM USF2000 Qualifying #1
8:40 AM – 9 AM Pro Mazda Qualifying #1
9:15 AM – 10 AM IndyCar Practice #1
10 AM – 10:30 AM USF2000 Autograph Session (Fan Village)
10:20 AM – 10:50 AM Indy Lights Qualifying #1
11 AM – 11:45 AM IndyCar Autograph Session (Fan Village)
11:10 AM – 11:30 AM USF2000 Qualifying #2
11:50 AM – 12:10 PM Pro Mazda Qualifying #2
NOON – 12:25 PM Indy Lights Autograph Session (Fan Village)
12:30 PM – 1:15 PM IndyCar Practice #2
1 PM – 1:25 PM Pro Mazda Autograph Session (Fan Village)
1:30 PM – 2:30 PM Indy Lights Race #1
2:45 PM – 3:20 PM USF2000 Race #1
3:35 PM – 4:15 PM Pro Mazda Race #1
4:30 PM – 5:45 PM IndyCar Qualifying
7:30 PM Public Gates Close

Kirkwood grabs pole for USF2000 first race

Cape Motorsports has a six-race winning streak in Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda competition at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

And they’ll enter today’s first race of the weekend in the best possible position to make it lucky number seven, courtesy of driver No. 8.

Kyle Kirkwood is on the pole for today’s first race of the Royal Purple Synthetic Oil Grand Prix of Indianapolis Supporting the Lupus Foundation of America, courtesy of a best lap of 1:24.7694 in his Tatuus USF-17 Mazda around the 2.439-mile, 14-turn IMS road course. He was just shy of the qualifying record, set last year, 1:24.6831 by last year’s series champion Oliver Askew.

Showing the longevity, life and pace of the Cooper Tires, Kirkwood set his best lap on his ninth lap of the session, as all of the top three drivers did.

Kirkwood will share the front row with Alex Baron in the No. 19 Swan-RJB Motorsports car, which means the two winners from the St. Petersburg weekend and two of the top four drivers in points will be at the front of the field later today. Baron was just 0.014 of a second off the pole.

Rasmus Lindh was best of the four Pabst Racing entries, with the young Swede clocking in third in his No. 23 car, and only 0.02 of a second off.

DEForce Racing’s Jose Sierra and Kaylen Frederick, in another Pabst car, completed the top five runners.

All of the top 15 runners in qualifying, from eight teams, were within 0.9442 of a second, showcasing the competitiveness and depth of the field.

The first race of the weekend is at 2:45 p.m. ET.

Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship – First Qualifying Results

P No Name FTime Diff Laps
1 8 Kyle Kirkwood 1:24.769 –.—- 11
2 19 Alex Baron 1:24.783 0.0140 11
3 23 Rasmus Lindh 1:24.790 0.0204 11
4 12 Jose Sierra 1:24.861 0.0914 11
5 24 Kaylen Frederick 1:24.929 0.1598 11
6 21 Calvin Ming 1:24.983 0.2140 12
7 28 Jamie Caroline 1:25.308 0.5391 11
8 11 Kory Enders 1:25.370 0.6005 12
9 22 Lucas Kohl 1:25.387 0.6176 11
10 80 Julian Van der Watt 1:25.395 0.6261 11
11 36 Darren Keane 1:25.510 0.7408 9
12 91 Igor Fraga 1:25.547 0.7775 11
13 10 Zach Holden 1:25.659 0.8892 11
14 81 Kyle Dupell 1:25.684 0.9146 11
15 20 James Roe 1:25.714 0.9442 12
16 27 Colin Kaminsky 1:25.811 1.0412 11
17 5 Mathias Soler-Obel 1:25.826 1.0566 11
18 30 Keith Donegan 1:25.908 1.1387 12
19 51 Michael d’Orlando 1:26.018 1.2485 9
20 90 Manuel Cabrera 1:26.035 1.2655 12
21 37 David Osborne 1:26.112 1.3421 12
22 14 Max Peichel 1:26.400 1.6307 13
23 29 Russell McDonough 1:26.554 1.7844 12
24 82 Bruna Tomaselli 1:26.563 1.7938 10
25 38 Oscar DeLuzuriaga 1:26.600 1.8302 12
26 31 Sabre Cook 1:26.827 2.0575 13

Askew makes it a Cape pole sweep on Friday morning

Oliver Askew of Cape Motorsports has scored the pole for the first two Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tires races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. As expected, the new Tatuus PM-18 Mazda smashed the previous track record at the 2.439-mile, 14-turn track.

With testing times in the 1:19.8 bracket here last October, and the previous track record a 1:22.8800 by Patricio “Pato” O’Ward in 2016, today’s first qualifying was always going to see a new mark established. The question was who would do it.

Askew had an initial edge on Juncos Racing’s Rinus VeeKay by just 0.0165 of a second, thanks to a best lap of 1:19.5937. But as the session wound down, Askew went even quicker, to a best time of 1:19.3319. That time is 3.5481 seconds faster than O’Ward’s previous mark.

VeeKay looked set to qualify directly alongside his 2017 USF2000 title rival, before David Malukas pipped him right at the end of the session. Driving the No. 79 BN Racing entry, his best time was 1:19.4643. Malukas stayed out one lap past the checkered flag, though, which triggers a penalty of a loss of his fastest lap.

The remainder of the top eight qualifiers, which also included Harrison Scott (RP Motorsport Racing), Robert Megennis and Carlos Cunha (Juncos), Andres Gutierrez and Sting Ray Robb (Team Pelfrey) also dipped into the 1:19 bracket. However, both Pelfrey cars required a tow-in at the end of the session from the AMR INDYCAR Safety Team. The top 10 drivers were within 0.9309 of a second.

One driver who didn’t crack the 1:19 bracket was points leader Parker Thompson of Exclusive Autosport. The Canadian completed only two laps in the session with what sounded like a very off song engine on his second lap. He is listed 11th on the grid with a best time of 1:20.5385.

Askew and VeeKay, two Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship protagonists of a year ago haven’t yet been able to duel for Pro Mazda wins like they did in USF2000, but they have an excellent opportunity to do so today.

Askew has a winning streak to extend today, as he won both USF2000 races here last year. A win here would be his first in Pro Mazda, and would come on a weekend that is very important to him and his family – the Royal Purple Synthetic Oil Grand Prix of Indianapolis Supporting the Lupus Foundation of America event.

VeeKay, meanwhile, swept the St. Petersburg weekend to kick off the season. The Dutch driver has a rather remarkable streak of finishing no worse than where he started in 18 straight races. The Barber Motorsports Park weekend marked his first in his Mazda Road to Indy career where he did not score at least one podium finish in one of the two races. He’ll look to keep his first streak going and restart his podium run later this afternoon.

The first of two Pro Mazda races goes green at 3:35 p.m. ET and local time.

Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tires – First Qualifying Results

P No Name FTime Diff Laps
1 3 Oliver Askew 1:19.332 –.—- 12
2 79 David Malukas 1:19.464 0.1324 11
3 2 Rinus VeeKay 1:19.559 0.2269 10
4 10 Harrison Scott 1:19.590 0.2583 12
5 9 Robert Megennis 1:19.591 0.2590 11
6 1 Carlos Cunha 1:19.712 0.3800 11
7 81 Andres Gutierrez 1:19.839 0.5068 12
8 82 Sting Ray Robb 1:19.990 0.6580 11
9 27 Lodovico Laurini 1:20.254 0.9218 12
10 8 Nikita Lastochkin 1:20.263 0.9309 12
11 90 Parker Thompson 1:20.538 1.2066 2
12 78 Kris Wright 1:20.562 1.2303 11
13 91 Antonio Serravalle 1:21.578 2.2461 12
14 83 Charles Finelli 1:23.072 3.7405 13

A stuck, then unstuck spud

One quick Pro Mazda note we have to peel away from our notebook and share with our readers (please forgive the potato puns).

Team Pelfrey’s Sting Ray Robb is from Idaho, and at every event is supported by The Famous Idaho Potato Tour. The giant potato is on a flatbed of a truck.

It turns out, getting the potato truck through the Indianapolis Motor Speedway tunnel and into the facility is not an easy task.

Fellow Idaho native Davey Hamilton Jr., who will make his Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires oval debut with Team Pelfrey in the Freedom 100 later this month, posted this rather hilarious outtake of the truck trying to make it through the tunnel.

From Davey Hamilton Jr.’s Instagram Story, here is The Famous Idaho Potato Tour truck attempting to get through the IMS tunnel.

We are happy and pleased to report on Friday morning the truck is in the facility, and set up at the midway.

The Famous Idaho Potato Tour truck is in the Speedway. (TSO Photo by Tony DiZinno)

After raising $6,000 during the Royal Purple Synthetic Oil Grand Prix of Indianapolis Supporting the Lupus Foundation of America last year, the Mazda Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires paddock hopes to raise double that amount over the next few days. You can do your part by donating here —>please make a donation in the #RaceToEndLupus

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