By Steve Wittich
Rinus VeeKay survived a carnage-filled Cooper Tire Pro Mazda Grand Prix of Toronto to win his third straight Pro Mazda street course over his Juncos Racing teammate Carlos Cunha and RP Motorsport rookie Raul Guzman.
“A bit, yes, especially when you are leading,” said VeeKay to TSO Ladder after the race, when asked about having to survive so many restarts. “I’m happy that there is such a big restart zone, there are a few corners before, so you get a good advantage as the leader. It was good. A little bit lucky with Parker and David not finishing. We took maximum points, and I’m really happy about that. I think I gained about 20 points in the championship, so this is a big boost for me.”
The Dutch driver cut championship leader Parker Thompson’s lead from 46 points to 26 points. (More on Thompson below)
After sixteen practice and qualifying sessions spread across six different series, the 14 Pro Mazda Presented By Cooper Tire drivers had the honor of being the first race of the weekend.
The command to start the Mazda 2.0L engines was given at 10:50 AM, and after one pace lap, the front row of VeeKay and Malukas was shown the green flag. The skies were The ambient temperature 80F, and the track temperature was
As VeeKay led the field to green, points leader Parker Thompson, who started behind him was right under his rear wing. The field fanned out to enter the newly paved braking zone for Turn 1, and only 13 cars came excited.
The No. 9 of Robert Megennis, who started fifth, ended up in the tire barriers. We talked to the Juncos Racing New Yorker after the race, and he explained that Harrison Scott pushed him into the other RP Motorsport driver Guzman, forcing the eventual podium driver to pit road to affix a front wing.
You can see the Race #1, Turn 1 mayhem in this video that Megennis posted.
Scott was penalized 30 seconds for avoidable contact for the Turn 1 incident.
When we checked at 7 PM on Saturday evening, the Juncos Racing crew was still working on the No. 9.
Cunha was able to move up to fourth from his 11th starting spot by diving inside of the conflagration in Turn 1.
Behind the top four, the field fanned out going across Lakeshore Drive, where It appeared that the No. 10 RP Motorsport machine of Scott tapped the wall on driver’s right in the kink before Turn 3. Scott then climbed over the right side of the No. 91 of Antonio Serravalle lifting the No. 10 of the ground, the race car then continued forward and into the pair of Team Pelfrey cars of Andres Gutierrez and Sting Ray Robb. Scott launched at least 20 feet in the air, twisted sideways and into the extensive Turn 3 runoff.
Here a view of Scott’s wild ride from the grandstand in Turn 3
— Alex Payne (@AlexJPayne1) July 14, 2018
Serravalle received a 30-second penalty, lost ten driver points and was placed on probation for the remainder of the season for his role in the incident.
Scott, Robb, and Serravalle were all retired immediately, and Andres Gutierrez and Raul Guzman were forced to pit road for repairs. Gutierrez was forced to retire, and Guzman was able to continue.
Scott was checked and released by INDYCAR medical. The 22-year-old was not initially cleared to drive, but after a second visit with the medical staff in the afternoon, was cleared.
The RP Motorsport crew was still working on getting the car rebuilt.
When we chatted with Scott after the incident, he told TSO Ladder that his wild ride was by far the scariest incident in his career. He also gave a lot of credit to Tatuus for building a strong race car and the AMR INDYCAR Safety Team for reaching him within seconds of his car coming to rest.
The field circulated under yellow for the next five laps while the various incidents were cleaned up. The running order when they went back to green was VeeKay, Thompson, Malukas, Cunha, Askew, Wright, Lastochkin, Finelli, Guzman and Guttierez.
The green flag came back out to start Lap 6. This time VeeKay got a better jump and was able to build 1.5 seconds on the first lap back to green.
Malukas tried to make a move onto the inside of Thompson for second place and the late move ended in right front (Malukas) to left rear (Thompson), and both drivers ended in the wall at the exit of Turn 1
Malukas was penalized 30 seconds, lost five driver points and was placed on probation for the remainder of the season for avoidable contact.
When the green came back out, Lastochkin was able to get around his teammate Askew in Turn 8 for the final spot on the podium.
The third and final yellow flag came out when the No. 78 of Kris Wright ended up in the tire barriers at the exit of Turn 8.
The race went green for the last time on Lap 17 with Askew right on the rear wing of his Russian teammate. Askew made light contact with Lastochkin in Turn 1, briefly moving into the final podium spot.
However, both drivers were forced to slow, allowing Guzman to move up to the final podium spot.
Thankfully, the final eight laps were quiet with VeeKay managing his lead over teammate Cunha. Behind the Juncos Racing teammates, Askew was pressuring Guzman for third but was not able to get around him.