By Steve Wittich
A masterful display of driving and little good luck for Rinus VeeKay and some bad fortune for Parker Thompson over the past two events mean a 46 point lead for Thompson over VeeKay flipped to a 25 point deficit.
The good luck came during today’s race when VeeKay inherited the lead when leader David Malukas had to retire with mechanical issues only seven laps into the race.
“I was really happy,” said VeeKay regarding seeing Malukas pull over. “It was a free place that I got. I do feel very sorry for him because he had a great pace. He deserved to win. But, I’ll take my sixth win.”
It’s the fourth race win for a row for the 17-year-old and sixth of the season.
It the second straight podium for Megennis and his fourth of the season.
Rounding out the podium was the driver of the No. 3 Soul Red machine, Oliver Askew. It was the second podium in the last three races for the reigning USF2000 champion.
Much warmer temperatures and higher humidity met the baker’s dozen Pro Mazda Presented By Cooper Tire pilots for their second race of the weekend. The air temperature was 76F, the track temperature was 94F and the humidity was 57%.
Andres Gutierrez, who was scheduled to start on the outside of the fifth row, was a scratch. The team told us that the Mexican driver should be back in action at the next event.
The front row of Malukas and VeeKay brought the field to the green flag. The No. 79 BN Racing machine of Malukas got a great jump and the field made it cleanly through Turn 1.
Thompson, who started behind VeeKay on the second row, was stuck on the outside of Carlos Cunha and Megennis through Turn 3. The Canadian dropped all four wheels at the exit of the turn and lost five spots, dropping back to tenth.
Cunha moved up to fourth but had an off-track excursion in Turn 4, driving through China Beach and knocking off his front wing. The Brazilian was forced to pit road for repairs.
At the end of the first lap, the running order was: Malukas, VeeKay, Megennis, Askew, Drugovich, Soler-Obel, Robb, Lastochkin, Thompson, Wright, de la Vera, Finelli, and Cunha.
On Lap 3, Thompson was able to gain two spots, getting by Lastochkin and Soler-Obel and moving up to seventh.
The field settled in for the next few laps when surprisingly, Malukas’ machine slowed going into Turn 4 and came to a stop in the grass on the outside of Turn 5 with a mechanical issue. The AMR INDYCAR Safety Team was able to clear the BN Racing machine utilizing local yellow flags.
When the 16-year-old got out of the car he entertained the fan in the busy Turn 5 seating area.
Big props to @ProMazda leader @malukasdavid who came to a stop on track at @Mid_Ohio and went along the fence line shaking hands with fans and then climbed the fence and signed autographs. That’s sportsmanship. pic.twitter.com/CgNN6GQhcd
— Julie Conlin (@Jewelz3920) July 29, 2018
After 10 of 25 laps, VeeKay had a 1.2 second lead over his teammate Megennis. Askew was a further four seconds adrift in the final podium spot. Drugovich, Robb, and Thompson were all within two seconds of the final step on the podium.
As the cross flags were shown, Megennis turned the fastest lap of the race and moved to within a second of his teammate for the lead.
Further back Drugovich was driving defensively to keep Robb and Thompson behind him, allowing Askew to pull away from the battle for fourth.
Over the course of the next three laps, Megennis pulled to within half a second of VeeKay, but on Lap 17 the Dutchman turned the fastest lap to pull out to almost a second lead.
On Lap 18, Drugovich, Robb and Thompson went three-wide into Turn 4. Thompson backed out of the low percentage move. Robb and Drugovich went side by side through Turn 4 and Turn 5 before the 16-year-old from Idaho was able to complete the pass.
As VeeKay crossed the flag 0.9 seconds ahead of Megennis to start Lap 19, the first and only full course caution of the race came out as the No. 1 Cunha came to a stop at the exit of the final turn. It appeared to be a mechanical issue and it only took a lap for the AMR INDYCAR Safety Team to get the car cleared.
When the field went back to green with four to go the running order was VeeKay, Megennis, Askew, Robb, Drugovich, Thompson, Soler-Obel, Lastochkin, de la Vera, Wright and Finelli.
VeeKay got through the first four corners with a comfortable margin over Megennis. Behind the Juncos Racing teammates, Robb tried an outside pass of Askew for the final spot on the podium. The No. 82 bright yellow machine of Robb got to the corner first but the front end washed out and Askew was able to hold him off.
With three laps remaining VeeKay had a half-second lead and when the white flag came out the gap had grown to 0.8 seconds.
Thompson was putting pressure on Drugovich for fifth, but couldn’t get by the RP Motorsport newcomer and had to settle for sixth.
Cooper Tires Pro Mazda Mid-Ohio Grand Prix Race #2 Unofficial Results
|1||2||Rinus VeeKay||Juncos Racing||25 LAPS|
|2||9||Robert Megennis||Juncos Racing||1.3635|
|3||3||Oliver Askew||Cape Motorsports||2.7723|
|4||82||Sting Ray Robb||Team Pelfrey||3.2129|
|5||10||Felipe Drugovich||RP Motorsport Racing||4.2535|
|6||90||Parker Thompson||Exclusive Autosport||5.0116|
|7||27||Mathias Soler-Obel||RP Motorsport Racing||5.9405|
|8||8||Nikita Lastochkin||Cape Motorsports||7.1475|
|9||12||Moises de la Vara||DEForce Racing||7.9360|
|10||78||Kris Wright||BN Racing||10.0176|
|11||83||Charles Finelli||Fatboy Racing||– 1 LAPS|
|12||1||Carlos Cunha||Juncos Racing||-8 LAPS|
|13||79||David Malukas||BN Racing||-18 LAPS|
The Pro Mazda Presented By Cooper Tire will be back on track Aug. 24-25, 2018 at Gateway Motorsports Park for the second oval race of the season.