Pro (Star) Mazda has contested nine previous races at Portland International Raceway with a pair of factory IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTLM drivers winning the first and last races on the 12-turn natural terrain course. Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT pilot Joey Hand won in 1999, with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing BMW M8 driver John Edwards winning in 2008.
Current Verizon IndyCar Series driver Graham Rahal won his first professional race at Portland International Raceway as a 16-year-old in 2005. Rahal, who was driving for Andersen Walko Racing, beat 35 other drivers, including fellow active IndyCar drivers James Hinchcliffe and Marco Andretti.
Previous Pro Mazda winners at Portland International Raceway
|2008 Race #2||John Edwards||AIM Autosport|
|2008 Race #1||Tom Gladdis||Andersen Racing|
|2007||Devin Cunningham||AIM Autosport|
|2006||Mike Potekhen||Apex Racing|
|2005||Graham Rahal||Andersen Walko Racing|
|2004||Michael Potekhen||Eurosports Racing|
|2001||Marc De Vellis||De Vellis Racing|
|2000||Alex Figge||World Speed Motorsports|
All Rinus VeeKay has to do is start, and the $790,300 scholarship is his.
When the series headed North of the Border for a pair of races in Toronto, Canadian Parker Thompson had a 46 point championship lead over Rinus VeeKay. But, a string of bad luck for the Exclusive Autosport driver and stellar driving by the Dutchman that resulted in five straight trips to victory lane and the title of presumptive champion.
Also, due to mechanical issues with the power plants early in the season, each driver will have one race that will be dropped. That drop means that VeeKay effectively leads by 53 points.
All rookie VeeKay needs to do to clinch the almost $800,000 Mazda Motorsports Advancement Scholarship is start Saturday’s first race.
Third place, some extra prize money and an Indy Lights test at stake.
With Carlos Cunha dropping out of the championship with three rounds remaining, the fight for third place became a scrap between a trio of American drivers that are separated by only 15 points and only 11 points with drops.
It’s not only pride at stake for the third-place finisher. The top three in Pro Mazda points after Sunday finale will be awarded an Indy Lights test and also $20,000.
Reigning USF2000 champion Oliver Askew has used a steady run of results, including two podiums and four top fives since the series left Road America in June to move from sixth to third.
A disappointing trip “north of the border” for David Malukas followed a pair of wins at Road America. The 16-year—old got back on track at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with a second place in the first race, but a mechanical failure while leading the second race combined with ten penalty points and a mediocre effort at Gateway Motorsports Park leave Malukas six points behind Askew.
Four straight podiums on three disparate tracks (street circuit, natural terrain road course, and oval) have moved New Yorker Robert Megennis to within 15 points (11 points with drops) of Malukas.
Two-time winner Harrison Scott is also mathematically eligible, but the RP Motorsport team is not present at Portland International Raceway this weekend.
So who has the advantage?
It appears a toss-up. Malukas has scored more natural terrain road course points than his competitors. Robert Megennis has been the most prolific points scorer of the trio over the last five races. And, Askew has been the most consistent, completing all but one lap and finishing all 14 races to date. In comparison, Meggenis had three DNFs and completed 83.6% of the possible laps, and Malukas has only completed 77.5% of the possible laps and has not been running at the end of five races.
Pro Mazda Presented By Cooper Tire natural terrain road course points with two races left.
|8||Sting Ray Robb||106|
|21||Moisés de la Vara||20|
Juncos Racing doubles up in the team championship
The Ricardo Juncos led, Speedway, Ind. based Pro Mazda squad was able to wrestle the team title way from Team Pelfrey after a two year run for the Dale Pelfrey owned team.
One of the two teams has held the team title in seven of the last eight seasons with only a strong run by Andretti Autosport and Matthew Brabham interrupting the two team dance in 2012.
The battle for second place in the team championship is a tight one. Exclusive Autosport currently has a four-point gap to BN Racing and a six-point cushion to a charging Cape Motorsports. Freshman RP Motorsport squad is only 12 points back, but are not planning on contesting the Portland International Raceway doubleheader.
Pro Mazda Presented By Cooper Tire team points.