Categories
Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

VeeKay Wins the Battle as Askew Secures USF2000 Title

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Rinus VeeKay from Hoofddorp, the Netherlands, came from behind this afternoon at the famed Watkins Glen International road course to secure an emphatic third victory of the season for Pabst Racing in the 14th and final round of the year’s Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda. But the 16-year-old’s joy was tempered because he knew that second place was more than enough for fellow rookie Oliver Askew (Cape Motorsports), 20, from Jupiter, Fla., to secure the championship and a Mazda Scholarship worth almost $400,000 to ensure graduation to the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, the next step on the Mazda Road to Indy open-wheel development ladder, in 2018.
 
VeeKay’s teammate, Calvin Ming, from Guyana, vaulted from sixth on the grid to finish on the podium for the sixth time during another strong rookie campaign.
 
The pressure was palpable this morning during qualifying, with every championship point crucial for the two title contenders. After being comfortably fastest in the opening practice session on Friday, VeeKay, who trailed by 13 points,  had opted to run a minimum of laps in the second session to ensure he would have two virtually brand-new sets of Cooper tires – one for qualifying and another for the race. 
But then Askew stepped up in qualifying, posting a new lap record even faster than the old Pro Mazda mark to snatch his eighth pole of the season. VeeKay tried his best but came up just over a tenth of a second shy to ensure the two rivals would start side by side on the front row of the grid.
 
Askew took full advantage by leading from the start, only for VeeKay to challenge him on the outside line into Turn One. Askew wisely didn’t force the issue and it was VeeKay who emerged in the lead. Indeed, the young Dutch sensation was never seriously threatened as he romped clear, turning a string of consistently fast laps to take the victory by a commanding 9.6053 seconds.
 
Askew was more than content to run in second, secure in the knowledge that after already earning one championship point in qualifying, all he required was a fourth-place finish to achieve his goal. He did so by seven points, 351-344.
 
Ming remained close behind in third but was never quite close enough to challenge.
 
Kaylen Frederick, from Potomac, Md., the youngest driver in the field at age 15, finished fourth for Team Pelfrey, while David Malukas (BN Racing), from Chicago Ridge, Ill., charged from 14th on the grid to fifth. He also recorded the second fastest lap of the race.
 
DE Force teammates Andres Gutierrez, from Monterrey, Mexico, and Kory Enders, from Warwick, N.Y., couldn’t quite match their form from qualifying, which saw them share the second row of the grid, but still finished well in sixth and seventh, followed by Darren Keane (Newman Wachs Racing), from Parkland, Fla., who drove well to overcome a crash during first practice, Brazilian Lucas Kohl (Pabst Racing) and Robert Megennis (Team Pelfrey), from New York, N.Y., who earned the Tilton Hard Charger Award after rising from 20th on the grid to 10th.
 
Augie Pabst claimed the PFC Award as the winning team owner, while South African Callan O’Keeffe finished 12th to secure the Staubli Award for Team BENIK.
 
Rinus VeeKay (#21 Jumbo Supermarkets The Netherlands/Total-Pabst Racing): “I’m happy but I could be happier. I hadn’t really planned to pass Oliver at the start but I saw him brake for the inside and I went for the outside and all of the sudden I passed him. We had a good race down the back straight but I didn’t want to give the position back. I think he backed off to be sure of the position for the championship, but I put my head down and got away from the field. I will take some time in the off-season and figure out what I want to do next year. I definitely want to stay in the Mazda Road to Indy. I don’t know where on the ladder but I think we will move up. It was a great season, with 12 podiums out of 14 races with three wins, so I cannot thank the Pabst team enough for giving me a great car and getting better every weekend.”
 
Oliver Askew (#3 Mazda Motorsports/MC Racing-Cape Motorsports): “I’ve dreamed about this moment for so long. It’s such a huge weight off my shoulders, to be champion. My learning curve has been really steep this year but I’ve had so many great people around me who have helped me progress. I learned something every day at the racetrack. The priority was to finish on the podium in case Rinus won and got maximum points, and we did that. I just did the best I could to keep Calvin behind me. I can’t thank the Cape team enough. We started on the wrong foot this weekend but once again when it counted we got pole and I had a great car. I’m so happy to be able to continue my relationship with Mazda and Cooper Tires, they’ve helped me so much. Thanks also to Team USA Scholarship for giving me the opportunity, and Rising Star Racing. This is not going to sink in for a while – I can’t wait for next year!”
 
###
 
About USF2000: The Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda debuted in 2010 and is a continuation of the highly-regarded USF2000 series which ran from 1990 through 2006, launching the careers of many of today’s top drivers. Sanctioned by INDYCAR and managed by Andersen Promotions, the series is the first official step on the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires ladder system. The top driver in the Championship class will earn a scholarship package from Mazda to advance to the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires the following year. Additional information can be found at www.usf2000.com and at RoadToIndy.Info.
 
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. Mazda is also the title sponsor of the renowned Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. 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 IndyCar racing series. Cooper tires can also be seen on the track as a sponsor in the short course off-road TORC Series. 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.comwww.facebook.com/coopertire or www.twitter.com/coopertire.
Categories
Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

Askew Holds Advantage Over Veekay Heading into Finale

After Oliver Askew won five straight Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda races in the first half of the season, a lot of people locked him as the series title holder. However, the trophy engraving may have begun a little too soon.

Entering the season finale on Saturday at Watkins Glen International, Askew only holds a 13-point advantage over Rinus Veekay. 

Since winning the Mazda Road to Indy Shootout to get the scholarship to run this season, Askew has been fast and nearly unstoppable. His statistics will ultimately go down as some of the best in series history, with seven victories and 11 podium finishes in 13 races. 

“I have been working harder than I ever have to secure this championship,” Askew said. “I think the same can be said about Cape Motorsports and everyone around me that has helped get to this point. We all want this, and if we keep doing what we have been every race so far this season, I don’t see a reason why it can’t happen. The mindset that I’ve developed throughout this year will be the same in the final race – I will be focusing on the elements within my control and will maximize the opportunity given to me.”

Though he’s been fast, he slipped up twice this season. He finished 17th at Road America following a steering rack issue, and then was caught up in a crash in Toronto en route to placing 12th. 

Both times, Rinus Veekay has been right there to capitalize, consistently scoring points over the year with no finishes outside of the top-six, including 11 podiums. Although those results are strong, they haven’t proven enough when compared to Askew’s victories. 

When the green flag drops on Saturday, though, don’t expect Veekay to be thinking about that.

“You start the race and just forget about everything else. Otherwise, you can go crazy,” Veekay said. “Don’t worry about plans, just react to what’s happening. But to get 11 podiums in 13 races so far is a great year. It was a difficult beginning, but to get where we are now – I was reading on Twitter the other day, and I didn’t realize it, but I have never lost a position in a race. I have equaled my qualifying position or moved up. It was the best start you can have in your first year in racing.”

So who holds the advantage here?

Askew has proven to be quick on a weekly basis, and this weekend should be no different. If he can run up front and score another podium, the championship is easily his.

However, with 33 points on the table, any slip up could swing the results in Veekay’s favor. So Askew will be wanting to push hard and try to score another win, being a little conservative at times could be useful to protect the advantage.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

Askew Takes Win Number Seven of the Season at Mid-Ohio

LEXINGTON, Ohio – Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda rookie Oliver Askew was under a lot of pressure as he arrived at the challenging Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for a pair of races this week that could well determine the outcome of the championship and a Mazda Scholarship worth almost $400,000 which will assist in graduation to the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, the next level on the Mazda Road to Indy open-wheel development ladder, in 2018.
 
The 20-year-old from Jupiter, Fla., in his first full season of car racing, had seen his once comfortable 60-point advantage whittled away to just 18 markers over fellow rookie Rinus VeeKay (Pabst Racing), from Hoofddorp, The Netherlands, with only three races remaining in the season. Today, Askew qualified Cape Motorsports’ Soul Red Tatuus-Mazda USF-17 comfortably on pole position, then led throughout the 30-minute race to secure his seventh win out of 12 races.
 
USF2000 veteran Parker Thompson, from Red Deer, Alb., Canada, who scored the first two victories for the Exclusive Autosport team just two weeks ago on the streets of Toronto, continued his excellent form by finishing a strong second ahead of title aspirant VeeKay.
 
Subsequently, Askew, who had on probation for previous start violations, was adjudged to have accelerated before the prescribed marker at the initial start and was assessed a 10-point championship penalty. He now leads VeeKay by 19 points with only one more race tomorrow and the season finale at Watkins Glen International in early September remaining.
 
Askew led from Kohl at the start, with Thompson and VeeKay anxiously looking for a way past. Thompson made his move for second place stick on the third lap, while VeeKay followed suit next time around. The trio traded fastest laps as they pulled well clear of Kohl, who in turn was under no pressure from teammate Calvin Ming, from Guyana, South America.
 
Just when it looked like Askew had the race under control, an incident between Kaylen Frederick (Team Pelfrey), from Potomac, Md., and Moises de le Vara (DEForce Racing), from Guadalajara, who were battling mightily over seventh place, ended with contact at Turn Five, which necessitated a full-course caution. The restart came with less than five minutes remaining, and Askew was up for the challenge as he made an exemplary getaway to cement his advantage over Thompson and VeeKay.
 
Askew took the checkered flag 1.3282 seconds in front of Thompson, with his constant shadow VeeKay – on his very first visit to Mid-Ohio – right behind in third.
 
Kohl held on for fourth ahead of Ming and David Malukas (BN Racing), from Chicago Ridge, Ill., who earned the Tilton Hard Charger Award following his impressive drive from 17th on the grid. Frederick, Kory Enders (DEForce Racing), from Warwick, N.Y., who snagged the Staubli Award, and Darren Keane (Newman Wachs Racing), from Parkland, Fla., also were in close attendance at the finish line.
The Cape brothers, Dominic and Nicholas, claimed another PFC Award as the winning team owners.
 
Qualifying for the penultimate round of the 14-race season will take place tomorrow morning at 8:00 a.m. EDT, followed by the green flag at 12:10 p.m.
 
Oliver Askew (#3 Mazda Motorsports/MC Racing-Cape Motorsports): “The penalty doesn’t change my mindset. The focus is to just keep on winning races and the championship will come in the end. We have the speed to qualify on pole and that’s huge here because it is quite difficult to pass. There was a ton of pressure going into this weekend and that pressure is still there. Cape Motorsports has dominated here the past few years, winning every race, so I know I’ll have a fast car again tomorrow and can go for the pole and the win again.”
 
Parker Thompson (#91 Exclusive Autosport Openhwy): “I’m going to try to get as many wins for Exclusive Autosport as I can and when the dust settles on the championship, then it settles. I knew going in that I had a mathematical shot at the championship but realistically, it was going to be pretty hard to close that gap up. We had a shot for pole and for a win and that’s great. We ran old tires in the race today so that we would have new tires for qualifying and Race Two tomorrow, which puts us on a different strategy than everyone else so that’s going to be interesting!”
 
Rinus VeeKay (#21 Jumbo Supermarkets The Netherlands/Total-Pabst Racing): “It was tough after qualifying. I had a pretty good session but I had a two-position grid penalty which put me in P4 and I was not so happy with that. I went into the race not sure what was going to happen, but focusing on just running hard. Third was the best spot I could get but it wasn’t enough to catch Oliver. We are going to go back now, watch videos, look at a lot of data and try to learn as much as possible. Hopefully we’ll have a super qualifying and win tomorrow to take some of these points back.”
###
 
About USF2000: The Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda debuted in 2010 and is a continuation of the highly-regarded USF2000 series which ran from 1990 through 2006, launching the careers of many of today’s top drivers. Sanctioned by INDYCAR and managed by Andersen Promotions, the series is the first official step on the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires ladder system. The top driver in the Championship class will earn a scholarship package from Mazda to advance to the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires the following year. Additional information can be found at www.usf2000.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. Mazda is also the title sponsor of the renowned Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. 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 IndyCar racing series. Cooper tires can also be seen on the track as a sponsor in the short course off-road TORC Series. 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.comwww.facebook.com/coopertire or www.twitter.com/coopertire.
Categories
Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

USF2000 Observations: “Some Kid Decided to Run Into Me”

TORONTO, Ontario — The Honda Indy Toronto delivered the best of both worlds for the Cooper Tires USF2000 Powered by Mazda – a clean race, along with a dramatic follow-up. Despite this, the red and white maple leaf waved in front of the Canadian fans both days with Alberta native Parker Thompson sweeping the weekend.

With the weekend complete, here are some observations…..

“I’m Honestly Speechless”

After placing second in the points standings last year driving for Cape Motorsports, Parker Thompson landed himself with a new team for 2017. Canada-based Exclusive Autosport made the decision to enter USF2000 competition after taking multiple F1600 Championships and wanted Thompson to lead the team.

While most teams tend to struggle in their rookie campaign, Exclusive Autosport came out of the gate strong, only scoring one finish outside of the top-five in the first eight races this season. Though one thing was missing – a victory.

Thompson proved last year he knew his way around the street circuit, sweeping the weekend, and that dominance showed through again this year, as he swept the weekend once again.

“If we could have swept any weekend on the calendar, I think it would’ve been Toronto,” he told POPULAR SPEED. “It is ultimately the best race of the season for us. (The) Canadian team, Canadian car, Canadian race and Canadian fans – unbelievable. I’m honestly speechless. That’s pretty rare for me. I usually have lots of words, but today has been unbelievable.”

The Canadian led all 25 laps in race one after starting from the pole, followed by avoiding a Lap 9 crash among the leaders to take over the top spot, driving away from the field on the restart.

“I backed off about a quarter of the way into the race because I knew something was going to go wrong,” he said. “I saw them battling way too hard, way too early so I backed off to make sure everything would be okay for us, and it worked out. I kind of foreseen that accident happening. I saw them going into turn three, made contact, and I knew coming around turn three that they’d probably be together, and I came around, and they were off to the side. It was just enough room to get by first.”

Currently sitting third in points, but 77 markers behind Oliver Askew, Thompson says his team is focused on trying to “out-win the season.”

“We’re going to go for as many wins as we can to try and finish off the season, and what happens, happens,” he said. “When the dust settles in the championship, it settles. I think if we just do our job as a team and go after race wins, it’ll just play out for us.”

An Inevitable Crash

From the drop of the green flag in the second race, the battle for the lead between Alex Baron and David Malukas for the top spot was intense, as Malukas tried to find away around Baron for the top spot. The battle grew to a point where Parker Thompson backed off in the fourth spot to give them room, while Oliver Askew hoped he could avoid it when it happened.

“It was an inevitable that they were going to crash,” Askew told POPULAR SPEED. “They were pretty desperate for a win there early. We went to turn three – I couldn’t back up because Parker was right behind me. They did end up crashing, and they wheel-hopped together and went to the inside. I was trying to avoid it, but they shot into me on the inside.”

Going into turn three, Malukas got a run on Baron, making a move to the inside. However, Baron came down on him, resulting in contact and both cars going around, with Askew getting caught up in the process.

“Well, basically I was in the lead, and some kid decided to bump into me from a stupid length behind me, and basically wreck me,” Baron told POPULAR SPEED.

Malukas took time post-race to review a replay of the crash with his team, confused why he was getting all the blame for the accident.

“I looked at the video and looking at that, going into turn three, I come in for a good pass, and then he puts me down close to the wall and gives me zero room,” he told POPULAR SPEED. “From that point, there’s nothing that I could do. I looked at the video, and I’m right next to the wall, right next to him – by that point, we’ve already touched in the middle of the apex. But before, if he would’ve given me a little more room, it would’ve been a clean pass.”

Despite posting just two top-10’s in six starts, he remains confident in his team based on the speed they showed at Road America and this past weekend.

“We had a good race in Road America and had a lot of speed here, as well,” he said. “In race one, we were six-tenths faster till we had a mechanical failure. This race, we had the new tires and were pushing. Confidence wise, it’s a good boost. It’s just quite unlucky, again, for this crash. So hopefully the next race we can finish up front.”

Solid Weekend for Veekay

In both events across the weekend, Rinus Veekay was able to run up front, placing third and second in the pair of races to gain valuable points in the championship, now sitting 18 points behind Oliver Askew – compared to a gap of over 30 points entering Toronto.

Veekay has been solid on a weekly basis this year, not placing outside of the top-six with nine top-five’s in 10 races. In comparison, though, Askew has won five races – along with two finishes outside of the top-10.

Despite the points gap shrinking, Askew is remaining focused on the end goal, knowing that he cannot get complacent.

“I think we saw that we could have a bad weekend, at Road America for example,” he said. “It was tough for us. We just have to keep going, one race at a time. I don’t think they’ve taught me anything particular, but just things, in general, each week.”

Frederick Rebounds

Kaylen Frederick did not start off the weekend as he wanted, but he will leave Toronto with a smile on his face.

The teenager had a mechanical issue on Lap 2 of the first race, followed by qualifying 13th for the second event following a penalty. However, he was able to avoid the wrecks on Sunday, driving through the field to place third.

“It was great,” he told POPULAR SPEED. “I went into the race thinking I could only move forward from here, so I just put my head down and passed cars one-by-one. As they were crashing out, I kept it off the wall, so I’m really happy with how things played out today.”

With eight top-six finishes in 10 races, Frederick knows he has the speed to run up front but is aware that qualifying needs to go better if he wants to break through for his first career victory.

“I think if I start up in the top-five and keep doing what I’m doing, it’ll come,” he said.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

 

 

Categories
Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

Askew Romps to Sixth Win of the Season in Sole Oval Outing

NEWTON, Iowa. – Cape Motorsports’ Oliver Askew couldn’t ask for a more perfect day. The 20-year-old rookie from Jupiter, Fla., secured his fifth pole position this morning at Iowa Speedway followed by a flag-to-flag win in the Mazda Iowa 60 Presented by Cooper Tires a few short hours later to stretch his lead in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda with five rounds remaining.
 
Following a three-hour test session on Friday with Pabst Racing’s Calvin Ming at the top of the timetable and a 45-minute practice session yesterday paced by young Kaylen Frederick of Team Pelfrey, single-car qualifying took place with Ming, teammate Rinus VeeKay and Alex Baron of ArmsUp Motorsports locking up the front two rows.
 
Askew was able to hold off Ming at the green flag to move into the lead and he never looked back, crossing the finish line with an almost four-second advantage over his nearest championship rival VeeKay, a two-time winner this season,  who found a way past Ming in the closing stages. Baron and Robert Megennis (Team Pelfrey) rounded out the top five.
 
The biggest movers in the caution-free race were Frederick, who maneuvered from eighth to sixth and earned the Tilton Hard Charger Award, and Devin Wojcik of ArmsUp Motorsports with a drive from 11th to ninth.
 
Askew now holds a 32-point advantage in the championship over VeeKay followed by Frederick, Parker Thompson (Exclusive Autosport) and Ming.
 
Baron claimed the Staubli Award while the PFC Award went to the winning team of Cape Motorsports. 
 
USF2000 will head across the border this week for the Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix of Toronto Presented by Allied Building Products on July 15/16, Rounds 10 and 11 of the 14-race schedule.
 
Oliver Askew (#2 Mazda Motorsports/MC Racing – Cape Motorsports):  “I had no experience on an oval at all coming into this year, so I don’t think anyone knew what to expect. The team told me it was halfway and I thought that should have been the race distance! It’s different when you’re not under pressure, you feel the fatigue more – I went to cheer to the guys when I came across the line, but I couldn’t take my hand off the wheel. It felt like it was soldered on. We struggled a bit yesterday but we made a really good change last night and were quick today. It’s hard to pass here but we knew that if we got the pole and through the first couple of corners, we’d be set. It was awesome to be able to pull away. Then I was just focusing on attacking the corners and not getting lazy. We have to take one weekend at a time and do our best.”
Rinus VeeKay (#21 Jumbo Supermarkets The Netherlands/Total – Pabst Racing): “This was fun – when you pass someone on an oval, it’s more of a kick than when you pass on a road course. It’s much trickier. Calvin and I pretty much stayed together but it was hard to overtake. And with the bumps, there are not many lines that you can take. I really did have a moment out there, though. Getting around a lapped car going into Turn Two the wind hit my wing, which put me sideways and I had to correct several times. I was behind Calvin for 30 or 40 laps when we came up on a lapped car. Calvin took the outside, I drafted on the inside and got by. I was able to drive away from Calvin and made some gains on Oliver, but couldn’t reach him. But the team gave me a great car: it was so good to drive.”
 
Calvin Ming (#22 Mings Products and Services (MPS)/APAN – Pabst Racing): “I made a really good start alongside Oliver. You can kind of go flat into Turn One and I tried to follow Oliver but his car was just planted. I got a little sideways but you have to push from the start to see if you can get a good run. It meant Oliver got a good lead from the start – he just kept opening it up and I couldn’t pull it back. This was my first full weekend on a oval and it was a great experience. We did over 200 laps on the test day and it was quite a bit to take in. The track was a lot different today than yesterday with the heat and sun. A lot of grease came up and the cars were really sliding around.”
###
About USF2000: The Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda debuted in 2010 and is a continuation of the highly-regarded USF2000 series which ran from 1990 through 2006, launching the careers of many of today’s top drivers. Sanctioned by INDYCAR and managed by Andersen Promotions, the series is the first official step on the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires ladder system. The top driver in the Championship class will earn a scholarship package from Mazda to advance to the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires the following year. Additional information can be found at www.usf2000.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. Mazda is also the title sponsor of the renowned Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. 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 IndyCar racing series. Cooper tires can also be seen on the track as a sponsor in the short course off-road TORC Series. 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.comwww.facebook.com/coopertire or www.twitter.com/coopertire.
Categories
Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

MRTI Observations: Friday at Road America

In the first of three days of competition for the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires, a new face graced victory lane while another kept his streak rolling.

Rinus Veekay broke through for his first career Cooper Tires USF2000 Powered by Mazda win to start the day, followed by Victor Franzoni scoring his third straight Pro Mazda Presented by Cooper Tires victory.

Here are some observations from all the on-track action.

Victorious Veekay

After coming close to victory lane at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last month, Rinus Veekay made it happen on Friday afternoon as he led 11 laps en route to scoring his first career win. The Pabst Racing driver didn’t have it easy, though, as he had to out-battle David Malukas as the pair went back and forth throughout the course of the event.

The key for Veekay in winning was his ability to get stronger as the race went on, building on his knowledge with each lap around Road America.

“I learned to be very patient in this race,” he said. “I was behind Oliver and David early and sometimes when I made a move, it worked, and sometimes I made a little mistake. But I learned from it. It was a great battle – we touched wheels but it was very fair, a real fight like you want to have. I love this track, it reminds me of Spa, with the long straights with very technical corners. It brings the driving part of you out. I can’t wait for tomorrow!”

Veekay’s success is nothing of a surprise, though, as he has been impressive in his rookie campaign so far this year with only one finish outside of top-five in seven events. Now having closed the gap in the standings down to just 34 points behind Oliver Askew, a hot streak could very well allow him to become a champion this year.

Freaky Fast Franzoni

Franzoni is having a dream season right now in Pro Mazda if you look at the statistics alone. After starting off the year with a pair of runner-ups, he has now scored three straight victories. His event came to him easier than Veekay’s, though, as he was able to get the lead on Lap 3 from Anthony Martin, extending his advantage from there on to the checkered flag.

The success right now means everything for the Juncos Racing driver as he knows what is at stake should he win the championship – a scholarship to compete in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires full-time in 2018,

“This championship is the only chance I have to move up in my career, so I have to win,” he said. “I don’t have too many options.”

While he had everything go his way on Friday, the second event of the weekend on Saturday will be more challenging. He was unable to complete a full quick lap in time trials as a result of two ill-timed red flags in the session, resulting in him qualifying last on the grid. He has the speed, so the question now is can he make up the ground?

Problems for Askew

Since winning the scholarship to compete in USF2000 full-time with the Mazda Soul Red livery, Oliver Askew has been just spectacular. After posting a runner-up in the season opener at St. Petersburg, he followed it up with five straight wins entering this weekend.

Unfortunately, bad luck struck for him as he would have to pit on Lap 9 due to a loose wheel, causing him to finish 17th. While he entered the weekend just 60 points ahead of the field, he is now just 34 markers ahead of Veekay.

Being the first time this year he has faced adversity, it will be critical for him to turn around and post a solid finish on Saturday to prove he is not giving up his advantage quite yet.

Fischer Places Last

After posting only one top-five last year, T.J. Fischer came into this season as one of the front-runners with three third-place finishes and a runner-up, leaving him poised as to break through to victory lane.

However, mechanical problems saw him go two laps down on Friday at Road America, leaving him last on the grid on 15th.

Set to start in second for race number two on Saturday, a victory would allow Fischer to gain valuable back points in the championship with Franzoni starting last.

Nice Rebound, Frederick

The sixth-place finish for Kaylen Frederick gives him only his second finish this year outside of the top-five, but that does not tell the whole story.

The Team Pelfrey driver had to work hard as he qualified 12th, and failed to make up ground in the first half of the race due to going off-track on a couple of occasions. Through the second half, though, he posted some of the quickest lap times, allowing him to make moves and pull off a solid finish.

Frederick admitted when speaking with Popular Speed earlier this past week that the start of the events was his weak point, with a focus on minimizing mistakes moving forward.

He has proven he can be fast – as evidenced by qualifying in the runner-up spot for four races this year. Now if he can do that in Saturday’s morning session, and build on what he showed during the second half of Friday, his fourth podium could be right around the corner.

First Podium Finish

Shout-out to Nikita Lastochkin for scoring his first career Pro Mazda podium finish with a third on Friday afternoon. Starting the event in fourth, he made his way forward in the early stages past Carlos Cunha and remained up front as the field spread out around the road course.

Now with four top-fives in five races, Lastochkin is an excellent choice for a darkhorse as someone that could sneak in for a win before the year is over if the improvement continues on a weekly basis.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

All Eyes on Askew Entering Road America

Right from a young age, Oliver Askew has been around racing, getting his start behind the wheel at seven-years-old.

One of my friends got rental karts for his birthday and I really liked it,” Askew recalled. “My dad took me to Palm Beach International Raceway and I drove their karts for a few years until he bought me my own. I raced club events there with Kyle Kirkwood – so we have been racing together since I was around 8 and he was about 6 years old.”

From there, he got a chance to attend the Skip Barber Racing School, competing in some events, prior to joining Team USA. Being successful there allowed him to take part in the Mazda Road to Indy Shootout, which he won to allow himself to compete in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Powered by Mazda Championship.

“I realized going in that it could make or break my career,” he said. “I put everything I had into it: I tried to keep my cool and I knew that even though I was in a good position going into the final, one mistake could have taken me out of contention. 

“This was my big break. It gave me the chance I had been looking for. Not only am I racing on the Mazda Road to Indy, which is a dream come true for me, but I’m a Mazda driver. Mazda is such a great company and brand and I am so proud to represent them. Looking at the drivers who have gone through this program, most of them end up as professional racing drivers. We all look to guys like Spencer Pigot as our biggest role models.”

Right out of the gate, Askew has impressed. After posting a runner-up in his debut on the streets of St. Petersburg, he backed it up with five straight victories.

“Based on testing and Spring Training, we knew we would be competitive,” he said. “The championship is the primary goal. That’s one of the reasons I was so happy with our qualifying at St. Petersburg: it’s so easy to crash there and so many drivers leave there with a deficit, so I didn’t take any chances. Hopefully we can keep our momentum up.”

Now following the month off, he heads into Road America next weekend, leading by 60 points ahead of Rinus Veekay in search of a sixth win.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

Mazda Scholarship Winner Askew Again Dominates USF2000 Field

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.  – There’s no stopping Oliver Askew. The 20-year-old from Jupiter, Fla., captured his second win in as many days on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Grand Prix road course – and his fifth in six starts – to strengthen his claim to the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda and, potentially, a second consecutive Mazda Scholarship which would assist in graduation to the next step on the Mazda Road to Indy – the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires – in 2018.
 
Teenaged Dutchman Rinus VeeKay, who earned the Staubli Award, finished second for Pabst Racing in this morning’s Mazda Road to Indy Grand Prix Presented by Royal Purple Supporting Lupus Foundation of America, while Kaylen Frederick, from Potomac, Md., profited from a last-lap incident to finish third for Team Pelfrey.
 
Following a full-course caution due to a multi-car incident in Turn One, Askew, who yesterday had secured his fourth straight pole position, pulled clear of his rivals by the completion of the first lap of green-flag racing.
 
VeeKay jumped ahead of front row starter Frederick into second place at the restart and quickly made the place his own, leaving Dakota Dickerson (Newman Wachs Racing), who made a lightning start to vault from seventh to fourth at the original start, to come under pressure from Robert Megennis (Team Pelfrey).
 
Canadian Parker Thompson slotted into fifth for Exclusive Autosport until a sticking throttle caused him to run briefly off the road and lose several positions on Lap 11. South African Callan O’Keeffe continued his strong showing on his North American debut for Team Benik, moving up into fifth before also running into mechanical difficulties, which eventually forced him to pull off course with less than five minutes remaining in the half-hour race.
 
The officials had no alternative but to call for a full-course caution, which ended with enough time for a one-lap dash to the checkered flag. Askew took the win by 1.2488 seconds over VeeKay, but following the race incurred a penalty notice for failing to follow Race Director instructions pertaining to restart procedures and has been placed on probation.  
 
Behind, however, the battle for third ended in tears as Dickerson and Megennis collided in Turn Two, which left the way clear for Frederick to inherit the final podium position.
 
Thompson took advantage of the incident to dive past Kory Enders (DEForce Racing), from Warwick, N.Y., for fourth place, while Australian Luke Gabin secured his best finish of the season, sixth, for Exclusive Autosport. Gabin also earned the Tilton Hard Charger Award after fighting his way from 16th on the grid.
 
After routine technical inspection which followed yesterday’s race, cars #80 (Robert Megennis) and #81 (Kaylen Frederick) were disqualified per Rule 14.28.9. The revised result elevates Calvin Ming (Pabst Racing) to second place and Ricky Donison (Cape Motorsports) to third. Ming, from Guyana, and Donison, from Bangalore, India, became the first drivers from their respective nations to stand on a Mazda Road to Indy podium.
 
Askew now leads the championship by a 60-point margin over VeeKay, 188-128, after six rounds of competition. The Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda will head next to Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., for two more races in support of the Verizon IndyCar Series at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., on June 23-25.
 
Oliver Askew (#3 Mazda Motorsports/MC Racing-Cape Motorsports): “I definitely didn’t want to see that yellow. I had such a big lead and then to have to regroup and try to figure out how to break away again was tough. I had to make a plan and execute it. Our pace here is fantastic; the Cape team gave me a great car. I tried not to look in my mirrors, especially at the start – I just went to Turn One as deep as I could and tried not to get hit from behind, because that’s the only way that I could get passed. But like I said yesterday, it’s surreal. I’m just living in the present and doing my job the best that I can, and that’s working out. It’s still a steep learning curve, as this is my first full season in cars, but I really appreciate the opportunity from Mazda and the car that the Cape boys have given me. It’s a highlight of the day, seeing them waving their hands and going crazy as I cross the line. It’s so cool to see them and all the fans. I really appreciate their support.”
###
About USF2000: The Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda debuted in 2010 and is a continuation of the highly-regarded USF2000 series which ran from 1990 through 2006, launching the careers of many of today’s top drivers. Sanctioned by INDYCAR and managed by Andersen Promotions, the series is the first official step on the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires ladder system. The top driver in the Championship class will earn a scholarship package from Mazda to advance to the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires the following year. Additional information can be found at www.usf2000.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. Mazda is also the title sponsor of the renowned Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. 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 IndyCar racing series. Cooper tires can also be seen on the track as a sponsor in the short course off-road TORC Series. 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/coopertire.
 
Categories
Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

MRTI Observations: USF2000 Indianapolis Race No. 1

Starting on pole, Oliver Askew led flag-to-flag en route to scoring his fourth straight Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda victory at Barber Motorsports Park.

Here are some observations from the first of two races this weekend.

First Podiums

As Askew celebrated on the podium, he was joined by Kaylen Frederick and Calvin Ming. 

Frederick has been impressive so far this year in his rookie campaign, posting a top-five finish in each round. While Friday at Indianapolis marked his third straight runner-up, he along with Team Pelfrey teammate Robert Megennis failed post-race technical inspection, per Rule 14.28.9.

Therefore while Ming crossed the finish line in third, he was credited with a runner-up result for his first podium of 2017 after posting a previous best finish of seventh-place so far this season. It marks a significant rebound after placing 21st in round two at Barber Motorsports Park after crashing on the opening lap.

Additionally, Ricky Donison now moves from fourth to third. The event marked his fifth career start as he began in the lowest-tier of the Mazda Road to Indy after capturing his third straight JK Tyres Rotax National Championship. If he could put together a solid weekend, it’d be a confidence boost for the Cape Motorsports rookie as Barber Motorsports Park did not go according to plan. He was the first driver to go off track in the first event, before getting involved in an incident in the second race.

Trouble for Thompson

After coming up just short of winning the championship in his second season of competition, a lot of people believed Parker Thompson was one of the favorites entering 2017. Following this weekend, he will have a hole to climb out of to make it happen.

After starting off the season with a pair of thirds and fifths, he finished 21st in race one at Indianapolis after having mechanical issues on the opening lap. His team was able to make quick repairs, allowing him to return only one lap off the leaders, unable to make up much ground.

First Top-Five

Crossing the yard of bricks has worked out well for plenty of drivers so far, including Dakota Dickerson with his first top-five of 2017 after placing fourth. Heading into the weekend, he noted his Newman Wachs Racing needed to find more pace.

“(We) definitely need to step up the pace for the next couple of races,” he said before this weekend. “We know as a team what we need to do moving forward to improve where we’re finishing.”

In his rookie campaign, it took him till the 11th event of the season on the streets of Toronto to post his first top-five. By already finding himself at that level in round five, he could break into the top-five in points this year after finishing ninth last year with Afterburner Motorsports.

Messy Start

While the series has been praised for having great talent and clean racing, today wasn’t one of those cases. A called-off start, as well as cleaning up two cars stuck in turn seven ate up 17 and a half of the 30 minutes allotted for the event. The top-five were spread out comfortably, but being able to run more laps could’ve changed the outcome for the back half of the field as they battled side-by-side.

The delay came as a result of Colin Kaminsky and Cory Enders stopping on course, as Kaminsky lost his rear wing while Enders had substantial right damage. Enders was unable to continue, while Kaminsky replaced the wing to finish 14th.

Enders’ season has been up and down so far, with a pair of top-10s matching up to a 15th and 17th. Meanwhile, Kaminsky needs a good run as he has yet to post a top-10 in 2017.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

Perfect Day for USF2000 Championship Leader Askew in Indianapolis

Teenager Frederick Again Impresses with Another Second-Place Finish
 
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.  – Oliver Askew is fast making the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda his own personal playground. The 20-year-old winner of last fall’s inaugural Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 $200k Scholarship Shootout today claimed two pole positions (including for tomorrow morning’s race) and another beautifully controlled victory for the Cape Motorsports team. Askew, from Jupiter, Fla., led from flag-to-flag this afternoon at a warm and breezy Indianapolis Motor Speedway Grand Prix circuit in the Mazda Road to Indy Grand Prix Presented by Royal Purple Supporting Lupus Foundation of America.
 
Kaylen Frederick, 14, from Potomac, Md., claimed his third successive second-place finish for Team Pelfrey, while Guyana’s Calvin Ming completed the podium for Pabst Racing.
 
The opening stages of today’s fifth round of the 14-race championship were interrupted by full-course cautions following a succession of incidents around the 2.439-mile road course. Once the race was under way in earnest, however, there was no touching Askew, who made an exemplary restart and controlled the race from the front with a series of consistently fast laps. How consistent and how fast? Well, he stretched his lead to Frederick to almost two seconds with a trio of laps all within a few thousandths of a second of each other, then rammed home his superiority by securing the additional bonus point for the fastest lap of the race at a new record-breaking time of 1:25.4916 for an average speed of 102.705 mph. 
 
Askew’s mark in the new Tatuus USF-17 eclipsed the previous standard, set by Nico Jamin during his championship-winning 2015 campaign, by almost a full second.
 
In Askew’s wake, Frederick saw off an early challenge from Ming to take the checkered flag 3.3461 seconds adrift of the winner and almost two seconds clear of Ming, who thoroughly deserved his first podium finish of the season.
 
Askew’s Cape Motorsports teammate, Ricky Donison, from Bangalore, India, made a huge leap forward by qualifying third and finishing a strong fourth (his previous best was a lowly 13th). Dakota Dickerson, from San Diego, Calif., rounded out the top five for Newman Wachs Racing.
 
UK-based South African Callan O’Keeffe also impressed on his debut with Team Benik by finishing sixth among a quality field of 23 cars, fractionally ahead of Dutchman Rinus VeeKay (Pabst Racing) and New Yorker Robert Megennis (Team Pelfrey).
 
Norway’s Ayla Agren (Team Pelfrey) and Mexican Moises de la Vara (DEForce Racing), who earned the Tilton Hard Charger Award after starting 17th, completed the top 10 ahead of another debutant, David Malukas, of Lithuanian descent but based in Chicago, with the new BN Racing team.
 
The PFC Award was secured by the winning team, Cape Motorsports. Ming took home the Staubli Award.
 
Askew’s fourth straight win extended his championship lead to 43 points, 156-113, over Frederick heading into tomorrow’s sixth round which will start at 10:15 a.m. Askew will be joined on the front row by Frederick, with VeeKay and Donison on row two of the grid. Live timing and live streaming will be available on the series website, usf2000.com, as well as on indycar.com, the Road To Indy TV App and RoadToIndy.TV.
 
Oliver Askew (#3 Mazda Motorsports/MC Racing-Cape Motorsports): “I tried not to think about winning here, because I didn’t want to jinx myself. The place has so much history and it’s what INDYCAR is. That’s where I want to be in the future so to win here is really cool. But this whole year hasn’t sunk in yet; I don’t feel as though it’s real. Seven months ago I didn’t think I’d be able to keep racing, so to be here is pretty crazy. I knew I had the pace to pull away. I just had to make sure I got a good jump at the start. Having a yellow start throws everyone off, but you have to regroup and figure out how to restart the race. I had the plan of where to accelerate, how to warm up the tires and where to get the jump by the time the green came out. It was hard work during the yellow, keeping the tires warm – it may look like we’re just cruising but the reality is that it’s really hard work.” 
###
About USF2000: The Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda debuted in 2010 and is a continuation of the highly-regarded USF2000 series which ran from 1990 through 2006, launching the careers of many of today’s top drivers. Sanctioned by INDYCAR and managed by Andersen Promotions, the series is the first official step on the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires ladder system. The top driver in the Championship class will earn a scholarship package from Mazda to advance to the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires the following year. Additional information can be found at www.usf2000.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. Mazda is also the title sponsor of the renowned Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. 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 IndyCar racing series. Cooper tires can also be seen on the track as a sponsor in the short course off-road TORC Series. 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/coopertire.