LEXINGTON, Ohio – Parker Thompson has been on a roll of late in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda. The 19-year-old series veteran from Red Deer, Alb., Canada, led throughout this afternoon’s 30-minute Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Presented by Allied Building Products to claim his third win in the last four races for the Exclusive Autosport team.
Dutch teenager Rinus VeeKay finished second for Pabst Racing, while Kaylen Frederick, from Potomac, Md., the youngest driver in the field at just 15, completed the podium for Team Pelfrey.
VeeKay’s result, paired with a fifth-place finish for Guyana’s Calvin Ming, enabled Pabst Racing, from Oconomowoc, Wis., to secure the Team Championship with one race remaining. VeeKay also closed the gap to championship leader Oliver Askew, who finished fourth for Cape Motorsports, to just 13 points heading into the season finale at Watkins Glen International, N.Y, on September 2. At stake is a Mazda Scholarship worth almost $400,000 which will assist the champion in graduating to the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, the next level on the Mazda Road to Indy open-wheel development ladder, in 2018.
Thompson, who scored the Canadian-based Exclusive Autosport team’s first and second victory two weeks ago in Toronto, laid down the gauntlet by posting the fastest time on the final lap of qualifying for the championship’s 13th of 14 rounds earlier this morning. He duly translated his third pole of the season into the lead at the start, chased by fellow front row qualifier VeeKay and Askew, who had led the way in qualifying until encountering some slower traffic during the crucial final couple of minutes.
Askew made a bold move for second place on the entry to Turn One only to be rebuffed by his championship rival, VeeKay. Askew instead ended up losing a position to VeeKay’s teammate, Brazilian Lucas Kohl, at Turn Two. One lap later, Askew also was overtaken by Frederick at Turn Four.
While Thompson made his escape at the front of the field, VeeKay cruised to a relatively lonely second place after his pursuers lost time behind Kohl. Frederick moved into the final podium place by squeezing past the Brazilian on the long downhill run toward Turn Four, and was followed on the next lap by Askew.
Once into fourth, however, Askew encountered a problem with his car’s steering rack which left him vulnerable to the third Pabst car of Ming in the closing stages.
A late full-course caution, due to an incident in Turn Five involving Kory Enders (DEForce Racing) and Darren Keane (Newman Wachs Racing), set up a four-lap dash to the finish. Thompson had no problems in fending off VeeKay and Frederick, while Askew narrowly maintain fourth ahead of Ming.
David Malukas (BN Racing) passed Kohl soon after the restart to claim sixth ahead of Robert Megennis (Team Pelfrey), from New York, N.Y., who worked his way up from 12th, and Kohl.
Moises de la Vara (DEForce Racing), from Guadalajara, Mexico, secured the Staubli Award with his ninth-place finish, while Dev Gore, from Atlanta, Ga., ensured a good day for the Exclusive Autosport team by adding the Tilton Hard Charger Award to his teammate Thompson’s race win and the PFC Award.
Parker Thompson (#91 Exclusive Autosport Openhwy): “That was amazing. In maybe two percent of my career can I say I had a perfect car but today, I had a perfect race car. We’ve worked so hard to get to this point that it almost looked easy – and it almost was easy. It was almost unreal when I got to the podium. Right now, I’m not racing for a championship, I’m racing for my career. I have to put out performances like this if I’m going to stay on the Mazda Road to Indy next year, so I did what I needed to do. I’m so proud of the Exclusive Autosport team. We’ve really turned our season around.”
Rinus VeeKay (#21 Jumbo Supermarkets The Netherlands/Total-Pabst Racing): “My plan going in was just to drive smart and gain as many points on Oliver as I could. I saw Lucas and Kaylen pass him but I had to keep going. Parker had a good start and I was not so good so I had to defend from Oliver. I kept him behind so that was good. I was pushing pretty hard in the middle of the race so I didn’t have as much grip at the end. I had a good gap so I was not happy to see the yellow flag. I had a good restart and was able to keep Kaylen behind me, so this is a good result.”
Kaylen Frederick (Pilot ONE Racing-Team Pelfrey): “Yesterday I learned that you really have to set up four corners in advance when you’re going to make a move. I couldn’t get around people and that was frustrating. We looked at video and worked through a few strategies for the start and that’s where I made up all my positions. When I got behind Rinus, I just kept my head down and focused on getting better and better laps. I was happy when the yellow came out because I thought I might be able to get Rinus, but then I had to worry about Oliver. I couldn’t make the move stick on Rinus but I still like the result.”