Mazda Road to Indy
Malukas and BN Racing Double Down in Pro Mazda at Road America
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – In picture-perfect conditions this afternoon, Chicago-based BN Racing completed a perfect sweep of the Pro Mazda Grand Prix of Road America Presented by Cooper Tires, with David Malukas speeding to his second accomplished victory in as many days and new English teammate Toby Sowery following him home in second.
Also for the second successive day, another Englishman, Harrison Scott, completed the podium for RP Motorsport Racing, while Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires points leader Parker Thompson, from Red Deer, Alb., Canada, posted a brilliant recovery drive to finish fourth for Canada’s Exclusive Autosport team.
There was a poignant beginning to the race as the entire Mazda Road to Indy family paid tribute to former Pro Mazda racer Jeff Green, who tragically lost his life during a historic event last week at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. The field was paced to the green by two of his closest racing friends, with 2017 teammate and Pro Mazda champion Victor Franzoni driving the Juncos Racing Dallara-Mazda IL-15 car with which he qualified on pole for today’s Indy Lights race, and Green’s former driving coach Peter Dempsey taking the controls of Green’s 2017 Pro Mazda car. Team Principal Ricardo Juncos gave the command to fire engines and former race engineer Emanuel Talquenca threw the green flag.
When the race began, Malukas briefly lost the lead during a fraught opening lap to fellow front row qualifier Carlos Cunha (Juncos Racing) but quickly regained the advantage. On a track where he grew up watching his father, Henry, driving a track-day Corvette, the 16-year-old Malukas also was initially pursued by Cunha’s teammate Rinus VeeKay, who vaulted from fourth to second in the opening few corners. Behind, Sowery immediately made up a couple of positions to fourth after failing to post a representative lap time in qualifying.
The race was neutralized even before the end of the first lap following an incident in Turn Five which resulted in impressive Mexican debutant Raul Guzman being eliminated on the spot with a broken suspension. Thompson, too, was caught up in the melee, dropping from fifth on the grid to ninth at the end of the opening lap. Worse was to come shortly after the restart when some contact in Turn One between Oliver Askew (Cape Motorsports) and Robert Megennis (Juncos Racing) once again resulted in Thompson having to take sudden evasive action. He resumed at the back of the pack in 12th.
Malukas made full use of the clear track ahead of him at the restart by romping clear of the field. In his wake, Sowery took advantage of a massive draft by sneaking past both Cunha and VeeKay on the drag race to Turn One, only for VeeKay to redress the order again at Turn Five.
The in-fighting allowed Malukas to pull out more than 1.6 seconds on that first green-flag lap, whereupon Sowery, once into second place, put his head down and turned a succession of fastest race laps. Sowery reduced the deficit to Malukas to less than a second before settling into a rhythm and following his teammate to the finish line. They were separated by 1.3845 seconds at the checkered flag.
VeeKay displayed good pace in the early stages until both he and teammate Cunha began to struggle as their chosen low-downforce setups led to increasing oversteer as the race progressed. Scott finally found a way past VeeKay for third on Lap 13.
In the meantime, the man to watch was Thompson, who charged through the midfield like a hot knife through butter. He made short work of Cunha on Lap Nine, appropriately diving past under braking on the outside line at Canada Corner, then repeated that breathtaking maneuver with an identical pass on VeeKay with just three laps remaining. Thompson then posted the fastest lap of the race as he closed to within half a second of Scott at the finish line.
Scott’s fine drive from eighth on the grid to third earned him the Tilton Hard Charger Award, while BN Racing’s Bryn Nuttall claimed another PFC Award as the winning car owner.
Thompson’s performance enabled him to extend his championship lead to 46 points, 237-191, over VeeKay as the series heads next to the streets of Toronto, Ont., Canada for two more races on July 13-15.
David Malukas (#79 HMD Trucking-BN Racing Tatuus-Mazda PM-18): “Yesterday was relatively easy: I made a good start and was able to pull away. But today, Cunha got around me in Turn One, but then he left a gap in Turn Three and I got it back. And after the safety car, I got a good shot and got away and after that, it was just a matter of staying focused and not looking in my mirrors. There was so much adrenaline, I was exhausted at the checkered.
“Yesterday was for me, my first series win, but today was for the team. And to have Toby come from P6 to second was great! But I love Road America. My whole family is here, and all my friends, and we have a lot of fun here. And I think the fans here are the best! It’s a good, positive feeling and I think that helps me stay focused. I’ll remember this moment my whole life.”
Toby Sowery (#78 BN Racing Tatuus-Mazda PM-18): “It was quite frantic at the start. Yesterday, I got a gap at the start and jumped into second but today, everyone was very close. It was a risky move, getting around four cars in Turn Five, but it worked. I could get close to David but no more. He did a good job all weekend, no mistakes. But I want to beat him now! I’m happy with two P2s, coming over to the series and to a new track, and getting used to the team, the car, and the tires. If the chance comes again, I’d love to come back.”
Harrison Scott (#10 epicura/Masterpack Innovative Printing-RP Motorsport Racing Tatuus-Mazda PM-18): “It feels a bit like a win. I think we had a car fast enough for the pole but we had a mechanical failure in qualifying and I started eighth, without getting a run on new tires. We weren’t fast enough to catch the BN boys but to be the best of the rest and get another podium, I’m over the moon.”