By Steve Wittich
After two qualifying sessions and one race the answer the question we asked in our Pro Mazda preview about which driver, Parker Thompson or Rinus VeeKay, would be hot this weekend. The answer after Race #1 is VeeKay.
The 17-year-old won his fifth race of the season and third straight to take over the points lead from Thompson. The Juncos Racing rookie won the pole, led the most laps and turned the quickest lap in the race to score a maximum of 33 points and take a nine-point lead from Thompson.
“The first half of the race, David got pretty close,” explained VeeKay after leading all 25 laps. “I had to adapt a bit because I didn’t want to be quick and hurt the tires and damage my chances in the second race. I got into a good rhythm and was able to push hard at the end of the race to get the quickest race lap as well, so I’m happy with my points from today. Leading the championship doesn’t change anything: every race I try to win and get everything out of the car and myself. I just have to focus as much as possible. But towards the end of the race, my spotter Charles Crews told me to bring it home which just reminded me not to push too hard. I’m really happy to get my third consecutive win.”
TSO Ladder was reminded that due to issues with the engines earlier in the season, each driver would be allowed to drop their lowest points scoring finish. With the drops, VeeKay has a 15 point lead.
ProMazda Race #2 got off to a clean start, with Rinus VeeKay and David Malukus running side by side across the start-finish line. But just behind them, the other green and white race cars from Juncos Racing (Robert Megennis and Carlos Cunha) were the first to pop out of line and start looking to make a move.
It was Robert Megennis that was best able to get something done and when they completed the first lap, the order up front was Veekay, Malukas, and then Robert Megennis, who jumped from his fifth starting spot to the third spot, dropping Parker Thompson to fourth.
On lap three, Thompson would lose another spot as Carlos Cunha fought by through Turns 4 and 5 before sealing the deal at Turn 6.
Malukas would initially drop back a little from VeeKay, but on Lap 6 he had closed the gap down to 0.5889. Megennis was almost 2 seconds further back as the lead duo had gotten clear.
By Lap 7, the order was VeeKay, Malukas, Megennis, Cunha, Thompson, Askew, Drugowich, Soler-Obel, Wright, Lastochkin, Gutierrez, Robb, de la Vara, and Finelli.
Malukas kept closing and the gap behind the leader was 0.5252 on Lap 8, about six car lengths down the front straight. The next time by though, it was 0.6145.
At halfway VeeKay’s slightly stretches his lead to 0.7019, with the rest of the Top 5 staying in order as Megennis, Cunha, and Thompson continued to give chase.
The running order at the halfway mark of the 25 lap race was: VeeKay by 0.9 seconds over Malukas, who had a 2.2 second lead over third place Megennis.
With ten laps remaining the top seven were all within 10 seconds of VeeKay. Megennis, Drugovich, Lastochkin had gained two spots from where they started, the biggest gainers. Thompson and Robb had each lost two places, the biggest losers.
With eight laps remaining VeeKay turned his quickest lap of the race to that point and the lead had grown to 1.7 seconds. Behind the pair out front, most gaps were steady with the best battle being between Kris Wright and Sting Ray Robb for ninth.
The 16-year-old Robb was able to make the pass on the BN Racing driver with two laps remaining.
VeeKay began the final lap with a 2.7-second lead. The closest pair on the track on that last lap was Cunha and Thompson, but the Brazilian was able to hold off the Canadian by just over a half-second as they crossed under the twin checkered flags.
VeeKay now has eight Mazda Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires wins from 26 races starts and 18 podiums. That equates to an incredible podium percentage of 69.2%.
Cooper Tires Pro Mazda Mid-Ohio Grand Prix Race #1 Results
|1||2||Rinus VeeKay||Juncos Racing||25 LAPS|
|2||79||David Malukas||BN Racing||2.8753|
|3||9||Robert Megennis||Juncos Racing||4.1795|
|4||1||Carlos Cunha||Juncos Racing||8.8756|
|5||90||Parker Thompson||Exclusive Autosport||9.4736|
|6||3||Oliver Askew||Cape Motorsports||10.5738|
|7||10||Felipe Drugovich||RP Motorsport Racing||13.2566|
|8||27||Mathias Soler-Obel||RP Motorsport Racing||18.8568|
|9||82||Sting Ray Robb||Team Pelfrey||29.0019|
|10||78||Kris Wright||BN Racing||34.2774|
|11||8||Nikita Lastochkin||Cape Motorsports||35.0174|
|12||81||Andres Gutierrez||Team Pelfrey||37.0652|
|13||12||Moises de la Vara||DEForce Racing||42.3389|
|14||83||Charles Finelli||Fatboy Racing||-2 LAPS|