A collection of brooms was brought out to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course over the weekend, as one driver swept multiple races in each level of the Mazda Road to Indy.
Patricio O’Ward won both races in the top level of the INDYCAR development ladder, Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires. Rinus VeeKay took the checkered flag in the two Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires races. Kyle Kirkwood did them one better, winning all three races in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda.
O’Ward (No. 27 Andretti Autosport Mazda/Dallara IL-15) completed a perfect weekend on Sunday, taking his second consecutive wire-to-wire win from pole position.
The 19-year-old Texas-based Mexican was dogged by teammate Colton Herta (No. 98 Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing) throughout the middle stint of the 30-lap race, but managed the lead before eventually gapping to a comfortable 4.3680-second margin of victory. Ryan Norman (No. 48 Andretti Autosport) charged from seventh on the grid to score a solid third-place finish at his home track.
“I think I did better than (Saturday in Race 1) on the start, 2.5 seconds or something, and I could manage that gap throughout the whole race,” O’Ward said.
“But the yellow (on Lap 10) didn’t come to our favor. It came into Colton’s favor. After the restart, he was able to engage the push-to-pass because he was within 1.5 seconds. It was hard to keep him behind me, but the No. 27 car had pace. Once he finished up his push-to-pass, we were pretty much gone.
“I knew if I just pushed him to finish all the extra boost that he had, we could run away with the thing.”
The win was O’Ward’s seventh on the season and gave him a 32-point lead over Herta with three races left.
“My goal was to sweep the month of July. I missed one race and a couple poles in Toronto, but it was pretty damn close to what I wanted to do,” O’Ward said. “I couldn’t be more stoked and I really want to thank everyone that has believed in me this year.”
In Pro Mazda, VeeKay (No. 2 Juncos Racing Mazda/Tatuus PM-17) capitalized on the misfortune of David Malukas (No. 79 BN Racing) to score his fourth consecutive win and sixth of the year.
Pole sitter Malukas jumped to the lead and a kept solid gap on VeeKay before retiring after leading seven laps with a mechanical issue. From there, VeeKay took charge and held off teammate Robert Megennis (No. 9 Juncos Racing) in a late four-lap dash to the finish to win by 1.3635 seconds. Oliver Askew (No. 3 Cape Motorsports) came across the line third to complete the podium.
The win also meant VeeKay stretched his lead in the championship to 31 points over Parker Thompson (No. 90 Exclusive Autosport).
“I was really happy, just a free place that I got (when Malukas retired),” VeeKay said. “I also feel very bad for him because he had great pace and he deserved to win, but I’m real happy to take my sixth win of the season.”
Kirkwood (No. 8 Cape Motorsports Mazda/Tatuus USF-17) put together another remarkable performance in USF2000 on Sunday to score the victory and complete a tripleheader weekend sweep in the first rung of the MRTI.
The 19-year-old Floridian got the early jump on pole sitter James Raven at the start and maintained control of the top spot for all 20 laps around the 13-turn, 2.258-mile road course. Kirkwood won by a stout 6.1014 seconds to collect his ninth victory in a row and 10th out of 12 races this season.
“That race went really well for us,” said Kirkwood, who clinched the season title with a win on Friday. “When I came down the front straightaway, just had half a car length on him (Raven) and I was able to hang that outside (into Turn 1), which is such a risky move, but we were able to take it and it worked out great for us.
“It’s been a great weekend – three wins and one pole – I couldn’t be happier!”
Raven (No. 20 DEForce Racing) finished second in his USF2000 debut weekend, while Rasmus Lindh (No. 23 Pabst Racing) placed third.
With two races left on the schedule at Portland International Raceway (Aug. 31-Sept. 2), Kirkwood can tie JR Hildebrand’s series record of 12 victories in a season, set in 2006.
Indy Lights and Pro Mazda are both in action Aug. 24-25 at Gateway Motorsports Park, the second and last oval race weekend for each series this season.