VeeKay Doubles Down at Mid-Ohio to Extend Pro Mazda Points Lead
LEXINGTON, Ohio – Rinus VeeKay won again today at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for Juncos Racing. The gifted 17-year-old from Hoofddorp, the Netherlands, now has won four races in a row (and six in total) to extend his lead in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and the quest for a Mazda Scholarship worth almost $800,000 to graduate into Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, the final rung of the Mazda Road to Indy open-wheel development ladder, in 2019.
Teammate Robert Megennis, from New York, N.Y., shadowed VeeKay throughout the 25-lap contest to claim his third consecutive podium finish as Oliver Askew, last year’s winner of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, finished third for Cape Motorsports.
After qualifying on pole for this morning’s Cooper Tires Pro Mazda Mid-Ohio Grand Prix, David Malukas (BN Racing), from Chicago, Ill., maintained his edge at the start despite intense pressure from the trio of Juncos Racing cars in the hands of VeeKay, Megennis and Brazilian Carlos Cunha, who also retained championship aspirations of his own.
Cunha had fought his way past fellow title hopeful Parker Thompson (Exclusive Autosport) at the first corner, but his attempts to wrest away third place from Megennis at Turn Four on the opening lap ended with a long journey over the grass which dropped him to the back of the field.
Malukas set a torrid pace at the front but even then remained only 1.4 seconds clear of VeeKay when his car ground to a halt with an undiagnosed mechanical problem with just seven laps in the books. VeeKay inherited the lead and initially seemed to have a slight edge over teammate Megennis. But at right around the halfway stage in the 25-lap race, Megennis’ car came to life, enabling him to narrow the gap to just a couple of car lengths.
Their battle continued unabated following a brief full-course caution to remove Cunha’s car, which had stopped on the track with a fuel pump failure, but Megennis was never quite able to muster enough pace to make a pass. VeeKay duly took the checkered flag 1.3735 seconds clear to record his fourth successive victory and extend his championship lead to 25 points, 320-295, over Thompson, who could manage only a sixth-place finish.
Oliver Askew, from Jupiter, Fla., finished a similar distance farther back in third for Cape Motorsports, despite a late challenge from Team Pelfrey’s Sting Ray Robb. After losing out to charging Brazilian Pro Mazda debutant Felipe Drugovich (RP Motorsport Racing) on the opening lap, the youngster from Payette, Idaho, stalked his rival closely – while remaining under intense pressure from Thompson – until making a fine overtaking maneuver which began with an outside-line move at Turn Four and was finally completed on the inside at Turn Five. Robb then tried to make a similar move on Askew with three laps remaining, only to be rebuffed. He had to settle for a nonetheless impressive fourth ahead of Drugovich, who claimed the Tilton Hard Charger Award after starting from ninth on the grid, and a frustrated Thompson.
Ricardo Juncos claimed his sixth PFC Award as the winning car owner.
The Pro Mazda title-chase moves next to Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Ill., for the series’ second oval track event of the year on August 25.
Rinus VeeKay (#2 Jumbo Supermarkets/La Place Restaurants/KNAF Talent First-Juncos Racing Tatuus-Mazda PM-18): “I knew the first lap would be the most important, but David had a good jump on me and drove away. I saw he pulled off the track – I felt sad for him, to lose a win like that, but I’m happy for myself in the championship. I drove in my mirrors the whole race as Rob was really quick. But the team did a great job to have three great cars on the grid and four podiums this weekend. The team has worked so hard these past few races and it gives me so much confidence that I can push harder and harder. I’m so happy with where things are right now so to give them two wins here and a big lead in the championship feels really great.”
Robert Megennis (#9 Palo Alto Networks-Juncos Racing Tatuus-Mazda PM-18): “It was a bit of a chaotic start. I tried to get around Rinus like I got around the third and fourth place drivers yesterday, but Rinus didn’t leave me the room they did – but I didn’t expect him to. I had a couple of guys right on my tail trying to get by, but I held them off. I drove a good race and had a super fast car, which got me the quickest lap of the race. I got close to Rinus but I couldn’t get by him in the aero wash. But I’m really happy with a second-place finish; it’s the closest we’ve been all year. I’d love to end the season on a high so after two podiums here, we have some momentum going to the oval.”
Oliver Askew (#3 Mazda Motorsports/Doug Mockett & CompanyTeam USA Scholarship-Cape Motorsports Tatuus-Mazda PM-18): “It was partially inherited since a couple of guys in front of me drove off, but I was able to capitalize on that so I’m really happy to get back to the podium. The Cape guys worked hard to help me take the fight to the front. And with the misfortune for Carlos and David, third in the championship is still a realistic goal for us. I’m looking forward to having that as the goal to end the season. I really appreciate everything the team has done to help me, as well as Mazda Motorsports, Cooper Tire, Doug Mockett, Bell Helmets, Sparco and Young Ventures.”
About Pro Mazda: The Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires debuted in 2013 as a new series, replacing the Star Mazda Championship which ceased operation in 2012 after 22 years. The series is sanctioned by INDYCAR and owned and operated by Andersen Promotions. It is the second official step on the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires ladder system with the series’ champion awarded a scholarship package from Mazda to advance to Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires competition the following year. For more information, visit promazdachampionship.com.
About Mazda, Mazda Motorsports: Mazda Motorsports boasts the most comprehensive auto racing development ladder system of any auto manufacturer in the world. The Mazda Road to 24 program offers a number of scholarships to advance drivers up the sports car racing ladder, beginning with the Global MX-5 Cup series and culminating with the Mazda Prototype team. The Mazda Road to Indy is a similar program that includes Mazda-powered categories of USF2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights. In grassroots road racing, more Mazdas race on any given weekend in North America than any other manufacturer. Follow all of the latest news at MazdaMotorsports.com, @MazdaRacing on Twitter, and MazdaMotorsports on Instagram and Facebook.
About Cooper Tire & Rubber Company: Cooper Tire & Rubber Company is the parent company of a global family of companies that specializes in the design, manufacture, marketing and sale of innovative, great-performing tires that you can count on to last for thousands of miles, getting you where you need to go, and back again. Cooper is proud to be the spec tire for all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires, a development program within the Verizon IndyCar Series. Cooper tires can also be seen on the track as a sponsor of the Americas Rallycross and short course off-road racing. Headquartered in Findlay, Ohio, Cooper, with its subsidiaries, has manufacturing, sales, distribution, technical and design operations in more than one dozen countries around the world. To connect with Cooper, visit www.coopertire.com, www.facebook.com/coopertire or www.twitter.com/teamcoopertire.