By Tony DiZinno
Thompson on top of a frenetic Pro Mazda second race
Parker Thompson and Exclusive Autosport had a chaotic Friday that ended positively with a result that backed up the team’s effort, and a potentially huge weekend from a “big picture” standpoint at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
On Saturday, the racing gods delivered a dose of good karma to the “Eh Team,” and Thompson left with his second Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tires win of the season as several of his championship contenders all took hits in the chaotic race.
It meant Thompson and RP Motorsport Racing’s Harrison Scott split the weekend victories here in the Royal Purple Synthetic Oil Grand Prix of Indianapolis Supporting the Lupus Foundation of America weekend. They did this at Barber too, but in reverse order. There, Thompson won race one and Scott won race two. Here, Scott won race one and Thompson has won race two.
The 25-lap race began as the third straight Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires session of the day, one for each series. The chaos started at the start.
Once the green flag flew, 12 of the 14 drivers made it through Turns 1 and 2 cleanly. Two of the three Juncos Racing drivers did not. Pro Mazda points leader Rinus VeeKay limped past the start/finish line having caught air and then landing on the front straight with damage to his nose and front wing assembly.
The Dutch driver started in fifth behind David Malukas and Robert Megennis. Apparent contact occurred between VeeKay and Megennis, while VeeKay rode over the back of Malukas’ car, which left him stranded. Megennis, meanwhile, only made it to Turn 2 before getting stuck in the gravel trap. That brought out a full-course caution. Thompson, who started sixth, backed out as he watched the incident unfold in front of him.
On Lap 5, the one remaining Juncos contender in Carlos Cunha passed polesitter Oliver Askew of Cape Motorsports for the lead through Turns 1 and 2. Askew’s race, however, went from bad to worse as he was assessed a drive-through penalty for avoidable contact.
On Lap 10 the order was Cunha, Thompson, Scott, Gutierrez, Robb, Wright, Serravalle, Lastochkin, Malukas and Finelli in the top 10 with Askew in 11th and Megennis, back running after his off course moment on the opening lap, a lapped 12th.
Scott’s day ended on Lap 11 as he slowed going down the front straight. He had been second, and fell to third as he barely passed the start/finish line under power. He retired and was classified 12th, putting a dent in his championship hopes.
At Lap 12 with Scott out, the new order was Cunha, Thompson, Gutierrez, Robb and Wright in the top five ahead of Serravalle, Lastochkin, Malukas and Finelli. Serravalle fell out of contention a lap later, going off course.
With 10 laps to go on Lap 15, the top four remained the same while Malukas and Askew made it up to fifth and sixth ahead of Wright and Lastochkin.
Thompson however was quickly closing the gap on Cunha and working to position himself for a pass attempt. He trailed by only 0.2424 of a second at the end of Lap 16.
The race complexion all changed a lap later. Thompson goes to Cunha’s inside on Lap 17, a lap after he’d set the fastest lap of the race. It puts the Canadian into the lead and denies the Brazilian the top spot after he’d led for 12 laps, once he took over from Askew on Lap 5.
At Lap 18 the order was Thompson, Cunha, Gutierrez, Robb, Askew, Finelli and Wright on the lead lap. Lastochkin pitted multiple times, Megennis was still stuck a lap down in-between the Pelfrey teammates, while all of Malukas, Serravalle, Scott, Laurini and VeeKay were out.
On Lap 21, Askew tried by Robb for fourth at Turn 7 but was unable to get past the Idaho native. Gutierrez, Robb and Askew are covered by just 1.3 seconds in the battle for the final podium position, and stuck behind the lapped Megennis.
With three to go, Thompson’s lead over Cunha is 2.7143 seconds. Finelli had been sixth, but lost the spot to Wright on Lap 22. Alas, it’s a top-seven and top-half of the field finish, for the FatBoy Racing! driver out of New York.
Thompson has a 2.3607 lead over Cunha on the final lap, while now just 0.5 of a second covers Gutierrez, Robb and Askew.
It’s checkered flag for Thompson by 1.8885 seconds over Cunha, but it’s the battle for third that writes a new chapter on the final lap.
Both Robb and Askew make it past the luckless Gutierrez on the final lap, with the Idaho driver scoring his first career Pro Mazda podium, and Askew able to make something out of his day in fourth. Gutierrez scores his second top-five finish of the year but not in the spot he wanted.
Wright and Finelli finish on the lead lap in sixth and seventh, albeit a fair distance behind the top five. Megennis ends a lapped eighth and Lastochkin returned to the track to finish ninth, five laps down.
VeeKay and Scott’s demises opened up a huge opportunity for Thompson in the championship picture. Unofficially, he now leads with 133 points, while VeeKay is second on 121, with Cunha and Scott third and fourth at 109 and 107, respectively.
Next up for the Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tires series is a trip to Lucas Oil Raceway, one of two oval races on the calendar, on Friday, May 25.
Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tires – Race #2 Unofficial Results
|3||82||Sting Ray Robb||25||9.3337|
|8||9||Robert Megennis||24||1 LAPS|
|9||8||Nikita Lastochkin||20||5 LAPS|
|10||79||David Malukas||16||Off Course|
|11||91||Antonio Serravalle||12||Off Course|
|13||27||Lodovico Laurini||8||Off Course|
|14||2||Rinus VeeKay||—||Off Course|
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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