TORONTO, Ont., Canada – Series veteran Parker Thompson, from Red Deer, Alb., Canada has endured a torrid time since joining the Canadian-based Exclusive Autosport team’s campaign for this year’s Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, but, in storybook style, all the pieces fell into place today on home soil in the first of two races this weekend which comprise the Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix of Toronto Presented by Allied Building Products. Thompson, 19, who claimed an emotional victory last year on the streets surrounding Exhibition Place, rediscovered that form today as he led throughout an all-green 30-minute race to secure his first win of the season.
Oliver Askew, from Jupiter, Fla., extended his championship lead for the Cape Motorsports team by finishing second ahead of his closest title rival, Dutchman Rinus VeeKay (Pabst Racing), who snared the bonus point for fastest race lap in the closing stages.
After a particularly difficult time last Sunday on the Iowa Speedway oval, Thompson and the team regrouped this week and were determined to put on a good showing in their native Canada. Thompson delivered in spades. He qualified on the pole yesterday afternoon – a first for Exclusive Autosport – and made a perfect getaway at the rolling start to lead from Askew, VeeKay and Kaylen Frederick (Team Pelfrey).
The top three positions remained unchanged throughout the 25-lap, 30-minute race, but there was plenty of action in their wake. Firstly, a mistake by Frederick while under pressure from David Malukas (BN Racing) saw him collect the wall in Turn Eight. Malukas then closed quickly on the leading trio and managed to sneak past VeeKay for third place in Turn Eight before a broken camber bolt in his rear suspension ended another promising day after just nine laps.
Mexico City’s Jose Sierra drove an impressive race for DEForce Racing to finish fourth on his debut and snag the Staubli Award. Sierra profited when a close-following Calvin Ming (Pabst Racing), from Guyana, and Frenchman Alex Baron (ArmsUp Motorsports) collided at Turn Three while Baron was trying to make a pass. Robert Megennis also was in the mix for Team Pelfrey before clipping the wall in Turn Six and breaking his Tatuus USF-17's suspension.
Brazilian Lucas Kohl thereby inherited fifth place, which earned him the Tilton Hard Charger Award having lined up 12th on the starting grid.
Baron recovered to sixth ahead of teammate Devin Wojcik, who survived two scrapes with the wall in the closing stages. Both picked up two positions after Moises de la Vara (DEForce Racing) was penalized for overly defensive driving.
The PFC Award went to winning car owner Michael Duncalfe following his team’s maiden USF2000 victory.
Parker Thompson (#91 Exclusive Autosport Openhwy): “When the checkered flag came out, the emotions were just so high – I was screaming, so I apologize to anybody on my radio channel. This win tops anything I’ve done this year. It’s extremely hard to win in this series and I think I took a few wins for granted last year, but to have the team behind me here is so emotional. They are so invested in winning so to get the job done for them and get our first win together feels so good. It’s been a testing season – Exclusive Autosport is new to the Mazda Road to Indy so we knew we had a tough challenge against some very dominant teams. But coming into our home race, we were very confident. I know I’m fast here and I knew we had a great street course setup from St. Pete and the team did what they do best: they gave me a great race car and I drove it well to take the win. I can’t thank them enough!”
Oliver Askew (#3 Mazda Motorsports/MC Racing-Cape Motorsports): “I was a tenth quicker than Parker but with the track having such low grip, it’s hard to pass. There’s aero loss at other tracks but here it’s magnified because it’s so slick. I couldn’t do anything because of the aero wash. You have to be so precise and get your turn-in points right and hit your marks. If you turn in too wide you’re going to completely lose the car. It’s demanding but I enjoy it – it’s a great challenge and it’s something different. I’ll have a better starting position tomorrow so I’ll be able to go for more points.”