By Steve Wittich
Rinus VeeKay is making a case to claim ownership of the top step of the Pro Mazda podium. The Juncos Racing rookie climbed to the top perch for the fifth race in a row and seventh time in 2018.
Today’s victory was VeeKay’s tenth Mazda Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires win and his first on an oval.
VeeKay’s win combined with a sixth-place finish by Parker Thompson gives the Dutch driver a 54 point lead in the championship headed to the doubleheader at Portland International Raceway in one week.
This *might* be enough for VeeKay to become champion, but that will depend on how many cars show up in the Pacific Northwest.
For the fourth straight race and fifth time this season, Robert Megennis joined his teammate on the podium.
The 11 Mazda 2.0L Tatuus machines took the green flag seven minutes early.
Scott started on pole, but it was VeeKay who got the great jump, going around the outside of the pole-sitter Scott.
VeeKay’s teammate Megennis was also able to get by the pole sitter and settle into second.
The running order at the end the first lap was VeeKay, Megennis, Scott, Moisés de la Vara, Oliver Askew, Sting Ray Robb, David Malukas, Parker Thompson, Mathias Soler-Obel, Nikia Lastochkin and Charles Finelli.
The field settled after a few laps of dicing, with Thompson moving up the most spots from 11th to 8th.
VeeKay was still leading when the cars crossed the start-finish line to start the 10th lap. VeeKay had a 1.4830 second lead over Megennis. Scott had settled into third with Moisés de la Vara in fourth and Oliver Askew in fifth.
At Lap 20, VeeKay’s lead was a thin 0.6295 seconds over Megennis with Scott, de la Vera, and Askew making up the remainder of the top five.
On Lap 25, VeeKay began to catch lapped traffic but was able to make a quick pass of Lastochkin around the outside of Turn 4.
It took the American two laps to get around the Russian (cue Cold Ward puns), and that allowed VeeKay to pull out to a 2.103 second lead over his teammate.
Further back, Thompson was pressuring Malukas for 7th but was not able to get around him until lap 35 when he went to the inside of the BN Racing rookie in Turn 1.
It didn’t take long before Thompson was putting pressure on Soler-Obel for sixth. The pair went side-by-side for most of Lap 39. The Colombian driving for RP Motorsport was able to hold off the Canadian.
The trio battling for sixth encountered a lapped car getting checked up before Lastochkin moved out of the way but that allowed Thompson to get around Soler-Obel for sixth.
With ten laps to go, VeeKay’s lead was 4.8 his teammate Megennis.
With only four laps left Thompson turned a race lap over 140mph, taking one bonus point and went even quicker on
With a five second lead, VeeKay came upon Malukas and Soler-Obel to put the seventh and eighth place driver a lap down.
VeeKay crossed the line 8.55 seconds ahead of his teammate.
Mazda St. Louis Pro Mazda Oval Challenge Presented by Cooper Tires Unofficial Race Results
|1||2||Rinus VeeKay||Juncos Racing||55 laps|
|2||9||Robert Megennis||Juncos Racing||8.5507|
|3||10||Harrison Scott||RP Motorsport Racing||16.5154|
|4||12||Moises de la Vara||DEForce Racing||17.2029|
|5||3||Oliver Askew||Cape Motorsports||26.3206|
|6||90||Parker Thompson||Exclusive Autosport||27.0249|
|7||27||Mathias Soler-Obel||RP Motorsport Racing||-1 LAP|
|8||79||David Malukas||BN Racing||-1 LAP|
|9||82||Sting Ray Robb||Team Pelfrey||-1 LAP|
|10||83||Charles Finelli||Fatboy Racing||-1 LAP|
|11||8||Nikita Lastochkin||Cape Motorsports||-2 LAPS|
The Pro Mazda Presented By Cooper Tire series will be back on track on Thursday, August 30 for testing before the final two races of the year at Gateway Motorsports Park.