SPEEDWAY, Ind. – English rookie Harrison Scott secured a hard-earned victory in this afternoon’s Royal Purple Synthetic Motor Oil Grand Prix of Indianapolis supporting the Lupus Foundation of America at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Grand Prix road course. Last year’s runaway Euroformula Open champion fought his way to the front, then held off a determined challenge from polesitter Oliver Askew (Cape Motorsports) to claim his second successive checkered flag in Round Five of an extremely competitive Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires.
Askew, from Jupiter, Fla., claimed his best result since winning last year’s Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda – the first rung on the Mazda Road to Indy open-wheel development ladder – while Dutchman Rinus VeeKay (Juncos Racing) finished third.
The day had begun perfectly for Askew, 21, who claimed pole position for both of this weekend’s races during a pair of 20-minute qualifying sessions this morning. The race start also went well as he accelerated into the lead, only to leave his braking for Turn One a fraction too late. Instead of remaining in the lead, as he had hoped, he ran wide onto the grass and slipped to sixth as VeeKay, his primary rival from last year, took full advantage.
VeeKay’s Brazilian teammate, Carlos Cunha, also profited from the first-corner shenanigans by vaulting from sixth on the grid to second ahead of third-place qualifier Scott, then David Malukas (BN Racing), from Chicago, Ill., and New Yorker Robert Megennis in a third Juncos Racing Tatuus-Mazda PM-18.
The top two had completed the first lap with a handy lead over their pursuers, but that advantage began to dwindle almost as quickly as it had appeared. Malukas was the man on the charge in the opening stages. The youngster nipped past Scott on Lap Two, then posted the fastest laps of the race as he quickly closed onto the tail of the two leaders.
Following a brief full-course caution to clear away the stricken car of Megennis, whose promising run ended after just one lap due to a mechanical problem, Cunha’s attempt to pass his teammate at Turn One ended in much the same way as did Askew’s bid to secure the lead at the start. Cunha ran in far too deep, slipped into the grass, and in an instant he had been relegated from second to sixth.
A little farther around the lap, Malukas’ charge continued as he drew alongside VeeKay along Hulman Boulevard and then took the lead into Turn Seven. Malukas, however, had driven all four wheels over the white line at the edge of the race track while making the pass. And since he had already been warned by Race Control following a similar move earlier in the race, he was promptly assessed a drive-through penalty.
VeeKay thereby regained the lead, only to lose it again on Lap 16 when Scott made a fine pass under braking for Turn One. Moments later, the caution flags waved following an engine failure for Team Pelfrey’s Andres Gutierrez.
Scott narrowly held off the attentions of Askew during a five-lap dash to the finish to claim RP Motorsport Racing’s second successive PFC Award as the winning team. VeeKay and Cunha also were in close attendance at the checkered flag. The top four were separated by just 1.5950 seconds.
Parker Thompson, who held a slim championship lead following his win last month at Barber Motorsports Park, earned the Tilton Hard Charger Award after rising from 11th on the grid. The Canadian was especially grateful to his Exclusive Autosport team, which completed an impressively rapid engine change earlier in the day.
Harrison Scott (#10 epicura/Masterpack Innovative Printing-RP Motorsport Racing Tatuus-Mazda PM-18): “It’s amazing – I was going crazy on the radio and the team was just screaming. They have worked so hard, because we’re so far behind the other teams, in knowledge and everything. Every time we’ve gotten on track we’ve improved. To get back-to-back wins is incredible, especially this early in the season. It shows the hard work we’re doing. I got the benefit of the slipstream on the front straight and even though we were on the limit, we made the corner and made the pass stick. I focused on not making any mistakes so Askew couldn’t get by me.”
Oliver Askew (#3 Mazda Motorsports/Doug Mockett & CompanyTeam USA Scholarship-Cape Motorsports Tatuus-Mazda PM-18): “On the start, the braking zone was okay but when I turned into the corner, I locked up and went into the grass, so I probably braked too late. I’ll check that off for tomorrow, since I’m starting from the same spot! I was back in eighth and couldn’t even see the leader so I’m happy to finish on the podium. The yellows helped but I think I had the fastest car, just not enough to get Harrison. The Cape guys did a great job – it’s pretty cool to hold the (qualifying) track record in USF2000 and Pro Mazda!”
Rinus VeeKay (#2 Jumbo Supermarkets/La Place Restaurants/KNAF Talent First-Juncos Racing Tatuus-Mazda PM-18): “It was good until the safety car came out – I was not happy to see the safety car. David Malukas got by me on the restart in Turn Six, but I knew that it wasn’t a fair move because he passed me way on the outside. Oliver and Harrison were a lot quicker, so hopefully we fix that for tomorrow, but the team did a great job giving me a consistent car. It’s disappointing to break my streak of finishing higher than I qualified but finishing on the podium and taking the championship lead again is pretty good.”