Categories
Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

Thompson Continues his USF2000 Charge with Victory at Mid-Ohio

Pabst Racing Clinches its First Mazda Road to Indy Team Championship
 
LEXINGTON, Ohio – Parker Thompson has been on a roll of late in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda. The 19-year-old series veteran from Red Deer, Alb., Canada, led throughout this afternoon’s 30-minute Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Presented by Allied Building Products to claim his third win in the last four races for the Exclusive Autosport team.
 
Dutch teenager Rinus VeeKay finished second for Pabst Racing, while Kaylen Frederick, from Potomac, Md., the youngest driver in the field at just 15, completed the podium for Team Pelfrey.
 
VeeKay’s result, paired with a fifth-place finish for Guyana’s Calvin Ming, enabled Pabst Racing, from Oconomowoc, Wis., to secure the Team Championship with one race remaining. VeeKay also closed the gap to championship leader Oliver Askew, who finished fourth for Cape Motorsports, to just 13 points heading into the season finale at Watkins Glen International, N.Y, on September 2. At stake is a Mazda Scholarship worth almost $400,000 which will assist the champion in graduating to the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, the next level on the Mazda Road to Indy open-wheel development ladder, in 2018.
 
Thompson, who scored the Canadian-based Exclusive Autosport team’s first and second victory two weeks ago in Toronto, laid down the gauntlet by posting the fastest time on the final lap of qualifying for the championship’s 13th of 14 rounds earlier this morning. He duly translated his third pole of the season into the lead at the start, chased by fellow front row qualifier VeeKay and Askew, who had led the way in qualifying until encountering some slower traffic during the crucial final couple of minutes.
 
Askew made a bold move for second place on the entry to Turn One only to be rebuffed by his championship rival, VeeKay. Askew instead ended up losing a position to VeeKay’s teammate, Brazilian Lucas Kohl, at Turn Two. One lap later, Askew also was overtaken by Frederick at Turn Four.
 
While Thompson made his escape at the front of the field, VeeKay cruised to a relatively lonely second place after his pursuers lost time behind Kohl. Frederick moved into the final podium place by squeezing past the Brazilian on the long downhill run toward Turn Four, and was followed on the next lap by Askew.
 
Once into fourth, however, Askew encountered a problem with his car’s steering rack which left him vulnerable to the third Pabst car of Ming in the closing stages.
 
A late full-course caution, due to an incident in Turn Five involving Kory Enders (DEForce Racing) and Darren Keane (Newman Wachs Racing), set up a four-lap dash to the finish. Thompson had no problems in fending off VeeKay and Frederick, while Askew narrowly maintain fourth ahead of Ming. 
 
David Malukas (BN Racing) passed Kohl soon after the restart to claim sixth ahead of Robert Megennis (Team Pelfrey), from New York, N.Y., who worked his way up from 12th, and Kohl.
 
Moises de la Vara (DEForce Racing), from Guadalajara, Mexico, secured the Staubli Award with his ninth-place finish, while Dev Gore, from Atlanta, Ga., ensured a good day for the Exclusive Autosport team by adding the Tilton Hard Charger Award to his teammate Thompson’s race win and the PFC Award.
 
Parker Thompson (#91 Exclusive Autosport Openhwy): “That was amazing. In maybe two percent of my career can I say I had a perfect car but today, I had a perfect race car. We’ve worked so hard to get to this point that it almost looked easy – and it almost was easy. It was almost unreal when I got to the podium. Right now, I’m not racing for a championship, I’m racing for my career. I have to put out performances like this if I’m going to stay on the Mazda Road to Indy next year, so I did what I needed to do. I’m so proud of the Exclusive Autosport team. We’ve really turned our season around.”
 
Rinus VeeKay (#21 Jumbo Supermarkets The Netherlands/Total-Pabst Racing): “My plan going in was just to drive smart and gain as many points on Oliver as I could. I saw Lucas and Kaylen pass him but I had to keep going. Parker had a good start and I was not so good so I had to defend from Oliver. I kept him behind so that was good. I was pushing pretty hard in the middle of the race so I didn’t have as much grip at the end. I had a good gap so I was not happy to see the yellow flag. I had a good restart and was able to keep Kaylen behind me, so this is a good result.”
 
Kaylen Frederick (Pilot ONE Racing-Team Pelfrey): “Yesterday I learned that you really have to set up four corners in advance when you’re going to make a move. I couldn’t get around people and that was frustrating. We looked at video and worked through a few strategies for the start and that’s where I made up all my positions. When I got behind Rinus, I just kept my head down and focused on getting better and better laps. I was happy when the yellow came out because I thought I might be able to get Rinus, but then I had to worry about Oliver. I couldn’t make the move stick on Rinus but I still like the result.”
 
###
 
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

Thompson Doubles Up for Exclusive Autosport in Canadian Homeland

Dutchman VeeKay Finishes Second to Narrow Points Deficit to Crash-Affected Askew
 
TORONTO, Ont., Canada – For the second day in a row, Canadian Parker Thompson guided his Exclusive Autosport Tatuus USF-17 to a hard-won victory in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix of Toronto Presented by Allied Building Products. The native of Red Deer, Alb., was assisted on this occasion by an incident which eliminated the top three contenders, including Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda points leader Oliver Askew. Thompson then had to work hard to keep fellow teenager Rinus VeeKay, from The Netherlands, behind him.
 
Also for the second successive day, Pabst Racing’s VeeKay earned an extra championship point for posting the fastest lap of the race. He now trails Askew by only 18 points with just three races remaining this season.
 
Kaylen Frederick, 15, from Potomac, Md., also impressed for Team Pelfrey, claiming the Tilton Hard Charger Award as he rose from 13th on the grid to third at the checkered flag.
 
Askew started from the pole for Cape Motorsports, having posted a new qualifying lap record yesterday, but came under pressure immediately from fellow front row qualifier David Malukas (BN Racing). When the two leaders both left their braking a fraction too late and slid wide in Turn Three, Anglo-Frenchman Alex Baron (ArmsUp Motorsports) was perfectly positioned to take advantage and advance from third to first in one fell swoop. Askew continued in second, but Malukas was determined to use his pace to its fullest effect. 
 
Thompson and VeeKay also were in close attendance as the five leaders edged clear of Team Pelfrey’s Robert Megennis and the remainder of the field. Malukas snuck past Askew for second place in Turn Eight on Lap Four, and immediately began to put the pressure on Baron, who was turning consistent laps at the front of the pack. 
 
Malukas drew alongside Baron several times on the drag race along Lake Shore Boulevard, only for Baron to ensure he held the preferred inside line under braking for Turn Three. Finally, on the ninth lap, Baron slipped a little wide at the exit, whereupon Malukas dived for the inside as they accelerated uphill out of the hairpin before making contact with the rear of Baron’s car and spinning him around. A close-following Askew also was involved.
 
Thompson and VeeKay managed to avoid the spinning cars and inherited the top two positions as the Safety Car was deployed to clear the track. 
 
Thompson romped clear at the restart to claim his third win in two years on the streets of Exhibition Place just a few miles from downtown Toronto, while VeeKay charged hard to close the gap and finished just 0.6379 second in arrears.
 
Frederick charged through to seventh prior to the caution and, despite losing a position to Devin Wojcik (ArmsUp Motorsports) soon after the restart, quickly regrouped and continued his forward progress to finish fourth.
 
Darren Keane (Newman Wachs Racing), from Parkland, Fla., also drove a fine race, raising from 11th on the grid to fourth ahead of Megennis and Wojcik, who claimed a season-best sixth.
 
Exclusive Autosport team owner Michael Duncalfe, from Saskatoon, Sas., Canada, claimed his second successive PFC Award as the winning car owner, while Keane secured the Staubli Award.
 
Askew leads the championship with 283 points to VeeKay’s 265 as the USF2000 contenders head next to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for another double-header event on July 28-30.
 
Parker Thompson (#91 Exclusive Autosport Openhwy): “I’m surprised I still have a voice! What a feeling, to get two in ‘TO’ in front of the Canadian fans! I’d say this is unbelievable, but it’s past that now and into its own new realm. I knew I had the pace so I hung back to let things string out before I attacked. I saw the three of them lock up so I backed off and I had just enough of a gap to squeeze through. And after yesterday, I was really calm on the restart. I had my team owner, Michael Duncalfe, talking to me on the radio keeping me prepared, so I just got a good jump on the restart and worked to keep Rinus behind me the rest of the way. The Exclusive Autosport crew has done such a great job – to take two wins, two poles and multiple podiums in their first season on the Mazda Road to Indy is outstanding. We’re only getting stronger.”
 
Rinus VeeKay (#21 Jumbo Supermarkets The Netherlands/Total-Pabst Racing): “My first thought when I saw what was happening to the guys ahead of me was to not get in there, to just go around and stay on track. Once we went green, I had a good restart and I wanted to pass Parker for the points, but Robert had a great restart and he was right on my gearbox. I had to defend, and there was some wheel-banging, and that let Parker get away. I had the speed, getting the quick lap late in the race, but I got the most points I could and that’s what’s important. But I have to say, if I couldn’t win here, I am happy that Parker won.”
 
###
 
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

Canadian Thompson Claims Emotional Repeat USF2000 Win in Toronto

First-Ever Win for Saskatchewan-based Exclusive Autosport Team
 
TORONTO, Ont., Canada – Series veteran Parker Thompson, from Red Deer, Alb., Canada has endured a torrid time since joining the Canadian-based Exclusive Autosport team’s campaign for this year’s Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, but, in storybook style, all the pieces fell into place today on home soil in the first of two races this weekend which comprise the Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix of Toronto Presented by Allied Building Products. Thompson, 19, who claimed an emotional victory last year on the streets surrounding Exhibition Place, rediscovered that form today as he led throughout an all-green 30-minute race to secure his first win of the season.
 
Oliver Askew, from Jupiter, Fla., extended his championship lead for the Cape Motorsports team by finishing second ahead of his closest title rival, Dutchman Rinus VeeKay (Pabst Racing), who snared the bonus point for fastest race lap in the closing stages.
 
After a particularly difficult time last Sunday on the Iowa Speedway oval, Thompson and the team regrouped this week and were determined to put on a good showing in their native Canada. Thompson delivered in spades. He qualified on the pole yesterday afternoon – a first for Exclusive Autosport – and made a perfect getaway at the rolling start to lead from Askew, VeeKay and Kaylen Frederick (Team Pelfrey).
 
The top three positions remained unchanged throughout the 25-lap, 30-minute race, but there was plenty of action in their wake. Firstly, a mistake by Frederick while under pressure from David Malukas (BN Racing) saw him collect the wall in Turn Eight. Malukas then closed quickly on the leading trio and managed to sneak past VeeKay for third place in Turn Eight before a broken camber bolt in his rear suspension ended another promising day after just nine laps.
 
Mexico City’s Jose Sierra drove an impressive race for DEForce Racing to finish fourth on his debut and snag the Staubli Award. Sierra profited when a close-following Calvin Ming (Pabst Racing), from Guyana, and Frenchman Alex Baron (ArmsUp Motorsports) collided at Turn Three while Baron was trying to make a pass. Robert Megennis also was in the mix for Team Pelfrey before clipping the wall in Turn Six and breaking his Tatuus USF-17’s suspension.
 
Brazilian Lucas Kohl thereby inherited fifth place, which earned him the Tilton Hard Charger Award having lined up 12th on the starting grid.
 
Baron recovered to sixth ahead of teammate Devin Wojcik, who survived two scrapes with the wall in the closing stages. Both picked up two positions after Moises de la Vara (DEForce Racing) was penalized for overly defensive driving.
 
The PFC Award went to winning car owner Michael Duncalfe following his team’s maiden USF2000 victory.
 
A separate qualifying session earlier this morning saw Askew snare the pole position for tomorrow’s 11th round of the 14-race season with a new lap record of 1:12.2192 (89.029 mph). The green flag is slated for 9:40 a.m. EDT tomorrow morning. Live timing and live streaming will be available on the series website, usf2000.com, as well as on indycar.com and the Road To Indy TV App and RoadToIndy.TV.
 
Parker Thompson (#91 Exclusive Autosport Openhwy): “When the checkered flag came out, the emotions were just so high – I was screaming, so I apologize to anybody on my radio channel. This win tops anything I’ve done this year. It’s extremely hard to win in this series and I think I took a few wins for granted last year, but to have the team behind me here is so emotional. They are so invested in winning so to get the job done for them and get our first win together feels so good. It’s been a testing season – Exclusive Autosport is new to the Mazda Road to Indy so we knew we had a tough challenge against some very dominant teams. But coming into our home race, we were very confident. I know I’m fast here and I knew we had a great street course setup from St. Pete and the team did what they do best: they gave me a great race car and I drove it well to take the win. I can’t thank them enough!”
 
Oliver Askew (#3 Mazda Motorsports/MC Racing-Cape Motorsports): “I was a tenth quicker than Parker but with the track having such low grip, it’s hard to pass. There’s aero loss at other tracks but here it’s magnified because it’s so slick. I couldn’t do anything because of the aero wash. You have to be so precise and get your turn-in points right and hit your marks. If you turn in too wide you’re going to completely lose the car. It’s demanding but I enjoy it – it’s a great challenge and it’s something different. I’ll have a better starting position tomorrow so I’ll be able to go for more points.”
 
###
 
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

Parker Thompson Going All-in For Victory in Toronto

TORONTO, Ont. — Last year, Parker Thompson put together an impressive Cooper Tires USF2000 Powered by Mazda season, finishing second in points with a victory on the streets of Toronto.

The Alberta native returns to Ontario’s capital a year later, looking to repeat the dominating performance once again – though driving for a different race team than last season. Exclusive Autosport made the decision to enter USF2000 competition after taking home multiple F1600 Championships, pegging Thompson as one of their drivers.

With a pair of thirds in eight races this season, Thompson has been pleased with the team’s progress, noting they are the first team in the last decade to enter the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires and score podium finishes.

While the transition period has been smooth, he stated one of the biggest differences from the past two years to now is playing the role as a team leader.

“You have to lead car development, media, marketing – you have to be the lead, and get the engineers up to speed, too,” he told POPULAR SPEED. “I’m working with Christophe Boisclair – he’s an amazing engineer, but it’s his first year in USF2000. He did great in F1600; they’ve won many championships. But now, you’re not only adding mechanical changes but aerodynamics. So that’s something we’re working together and getting used to.”

Thompson feels they are right on the cusp of breaking through for their first career victory but need to eliminate the small mistakes they have been making throughout race weekends.

“It’s not necessarily that we don’t have a fast car; it’s just we miss little things on tire strategy, whether it be qualifying or the races, that kind of leads to a fifth-place finish or just off the podium,” he said. “I think once we start learning how these weekends go and we get better at the strategy throughout the weekend, we will be right there.”

Returning to a place that he has won at before couldn’t come at a better time, based on where he sits in points. Currently sitting fourth in the standings, just over 100 points behind Oliver Askew, the focus has been solely put on getting to victory lane.

“There’s a lot more for me to gain than there is for me to lose,” the Canadian said. “So I’m not thinking about the championship at all, but coming out of here with two race wins for the Canadian fans. So that’s what we’re focused on at the end of the day. We’re going for wins no matter what, and hopefully, we have some good results at the end of the weekend.”

While you may say he is set to ‘go for broke,’ the advice he received from his coach Buddy Rice will be in the back of his mind throughout both events – risk versus reward.

“He always taught that before you make any decision on-track, two things that come up – is it worth the risk, or is it worth the reward? I think that’s an important thing to keep in mind when you’re racing, especially here on a street course,” he said. “Is it a couple of extra tenths worth a hit on the wall? You have to make that quick second decision. ”

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

MRTI Observations: Saturday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

After a Friday filled with action for each level of the Mazda Road to Indy, Saturday also delivered with close competition across the board.

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

Rebound for Thompson

After experiencing mechanical issues in race one, Parker Thompson rebounded in the second race for the Cooper Tires USF2000 Presented by Mazda with a fourth-place finish for his fifth top-five in six events.

The Canadian came just short of winning the championship in his second season of competition last season, winning four races over the season. Now ranked fourth in points, 88 makers behind Oliver Askew, he will need the 16-year-old to have a rough weekend if he hopes to make up ground.

Double for Davis

Kevin Davis is going to leave Indianapolis possibly singing ‘Ring around the Rosey’ after incidents in both Pro Mazda Presented by Cooper Tires events. In the first race, he went spun on Lap 2 with Charles Finelli, followed by getting turned the wrong way in the second round, due to contact from Jeff Green.

The Illinois-driver fought back to finish 10th for his first top-10 finish of the season after placing 11th in the pair of rounds in St. Petersburg and 12th on Friday. He currently leads the National Class standings.

New Points Leader

After feeling he left something on the table on Friday, Kyle Kaiser put together an impressive show on Saturday, capturing his first Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires victory of 2017. It marked his fourth straight podium finish, giving him the series points lead, 13 markers ahead of Nico Jamin. Jamin won round one for the weekend, followed by a fourth in the second race.

Herta entered the weekend with a 16-point lead ahead of Jamin, but experienced trouble in both races. He had a right rear puncture in round one, followed by going off-track en route to 10th on day two.

First Career Top-Five

After crashing out in the first race of the weekend on Lap 1, Kory Enders rebounded in the second event for a fifth-place finish.

Before Saturday, his season has been up and down so far, with a pair of top-10s matching three finishes outside of the top-14.

Much Needed Podium

After coming just a mere couple points shy of last year’s Indy Lights title, Santiago Urrutia has not performed as expected. Although the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports pilot scored a runner-up at St. Petersburg, it marked his only top-10 of 2017 entering Indianapolis after four events.

This weekend, he put together a pair of solid races with a seventh in round one, followed by a runner-up on Saturday.

“It has been tough to get the car quick and get into the top five,” he admitted post-race. “We tried to get the lead but second place is really good for us. We’re working as a team to figure out where we’re losing time and when we find that, we’re going to be okay. There is still a long way to go in this championship, so we have to get podiums and points, points, points.”

Ran Off-Road

Besides some trouble on the opening lap, the USF2000 put together a clean event – but that doesn’t mean the last lap ran smoothly. The battle for third saw contact, with Robert Megennis hitting Dakota Dickerson and both drivers going off the track. They both fell back several spots, with Megennis finishing seventh and Dickerson in 10th.

The incident just adds to a rough weekend for Megennis who failed technical inspection following Friday’s event, along with his Team Pelfrey teammate Kaylen Frederick. He started off this season well by winning the opening round of the season but now has two finishes outside of the top-10 to his credit.

Dickerson, meanwhile, entered Saturday’s race with momentum after scoring his first top-five 0f 2017 on Friday. He now has three sixth-place finishes, a pair of 10ths, and a fourth to his credit this season.

Last Place for Blackstock

During the second event of the weekend for Indy Lights, Shelby Blackstock was the only driver to experience a significant problem with an off-track excursion in turn one. As a result, he would finish last on the grid – 14th.

Ever since he posted a fourth-place finish in the season opener, Blackstock’s finishes have continued to get worse each passing week, with this being the first outside of the top-10.

The next event for the series is the Freedom 100 on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval, which saw him finish fourth last season.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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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.

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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

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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.

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Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

MRTI Observations: Barber Day No. 2

On Saturday, fans at Barber Motorsports Park were treated to a pair of exciting Mazda Road to Indy events. Oliver Askew continued his strong start in Cooper Tires USF2000 Presented by Mazda, sweeping the weekend with his third victory in four races. Meanwhile, Nico Jamin made it three winners in three races for the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires.

Here are some observations from Saturday’s action at Barber.

Mixing It Up

While both USF2000 races at Barber saw Askew win ahead of Kaylen Frederick, there were a couple new faces behind them.

Parker Thompson scored his first podium finish of 2017 with Exclusive Autosport.  The Alberta native has finished in the top-five each race so far, and is hoping to win the championship after a runner-up last year to Anthony Martin.

Meanwhile, Toby Sowery made his debut this weekend with the BENIK team, following up Friday’s 11th-place finish with a fifth in race two. Whether he will return for Indianapolis has yet to be announced.

Ready to Battle

As Andretti Autosport shows speed in the Verizon IndyCar Series, their Indy Lights team is just as strong.

Following Colton Herta’s victory at St. Petersburg, Nico Jamin gave the organization their second win of 2017, leading 27 of 30 laps. It marks a solid rebound as Jamin failed to post a top-five in St. Petersburg, with finishes of seventh and 14th. Dalton Kellett also came back strong, finishing sixth at Barber after kicking of 2017 with a pair of 12ths.

With two podiums at St. Petersburg, Herta continues to lead the points despite finishing 10th at Barber. Notably, Herta had to make a pit stop on Lap 1 after contact with Kyle Kaiser on the aborted start.

Dickerson Fights Back

While the first USF2000 event was clean, the second didn’t go as smoothly with three separate incidents on the opening lap. One of those who found himself facing the wrong way was Dakota Dickerson. Dickerson fought back, though, passing Darren Keane for 10th on the last lap.

Switching to Newman Wachs Racing for 2017, Dickerson has solidly started off 2017 with three straight sixth-place finishes, followed by Saturday’s 10th. As the team grows used to USF2000 competition, Dickerson could possibly be fighting for podiums.

Notably, this is the second year for Dickerson in USF2000 after scoring nine top-10s in 2016, with a best finish of fourth at the Honda Indy Toronto in July en route to placing ninth in the season-ending standings. Newman-Wachs Racing already announced plans to move Dickerson up to Pro Mazda Presented by Cooper Tires for 2018.

Talented Field

As Nico Jamin became the third straight different winner, he was followed to the line by Kyle Kaiser and Neil Alberico.

The runner-up marks Kaiser’s best finish of 2017 following a sixth and fourth to start this season. Early projections had the Juncos Racing driver as part of the championship battle after finishing third in points in 2016. The California native put together an impressive campaign last year, scoring two wins and nine podiums.

Meanwhile, Alberico has been hit or miss so far this season as he posted a second in Round 1 at St. Petersburg, prior to finishing 15th in the second event. Now with a third to kick off Barber, it will be critical for the momentum to carry through Sunday. In his rookie campaign last year, the California native finished 10th in points following six top-10s in 18 races.

Strong Starts Spoiled

Rookies Calvin Ming and Andre Castro both started off their USF2000 campaigns solidly, scoring a top-10 finish in each of the first three rounds. Unfortunately, they finished 21st and 22nd on Saturday after being involved in first lap incidents.

Consequently, both Ricky Donison and Bayley Mickler probably want to leave Barber in the rearview after failing to post a top-20 in either event. Donison entered this weekend following a pair of 13th at St. Petersburg, while Mickler made his debut at Barber.

Looking to Rebound

When Indy Lights starts their second race of the weekend, Aaron Telitz and Santiago Urrutia will be looking to get up front. Both drivers finished outside the top-12 due to being involved in the first lap incident.  

Urrutia knows how to make it happen as he kicked off his sophomore campaign with Belardi Auto Racing at St. Petersburg with a 13th in Round 1, followed by a runner-up.  He also finished second in points last year to Ed Jones.

Meanwhile, Telitz began his rookie campaign with a win and a fifth at St. Petersburg. He enters the series with Belardi after winning last season’s Pro Mazda Championship.

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.

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Commentary Open Wheel

MRTI Observations: USF2000 Barber Race No. 1

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

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

No drama?

The Florida native’s victory was easy, given a lack of passing throughout the event. The top-three stayed single-file, building a gap over the field as they traded quick lap times. Even a restart with six minutes remaining did nothing to create action as Askew pulled ahead easily.

While the front five was relatively boring, there were battles throughout positions 16th through 22nd highlighted and Ayla Agren’s impressive maneuver by Andre Castro in Turn 3 for eighth with minutes left. For Agren, it marks her best finish of 2017.

While fans would’ve probably preferred more action, it is refreshing to see a lack of incidents and over-driving, especially considering the average age of this year’s roster. As Anthony Martin alluded to on the broadcast, it’s a testament to their level of talent, and upbringing whether through go-karts or F1600.

Now, will the second race go just as calmly on Saturday? It depends on whether drivers can figure out the passing zones, and if their composure remains in check.

Not Incident Free

While there wasn’t a lot of passing around Barber, the race did not go without any incidents at all.

Ricky Donison was the first driver to go off the track, getting stuck in the gravel pit in Turn 17 for a full course yellow flag. Donison did not have a good weekend to start off 2017 at St. Petersburg, either, posting a best finish of 13th.

Bailey Mickler was having a solid debut running in 11th, till contact from Lucas Kohl sent him around in Turn 5. Kohl was penalized for the contact, receiving a drive-through penalty.

Flinn Lazier also saw his debut spoiled late, too, as he went off track in Turn 8 on the last lap.

Familiar Faces Reign at Top

While Oliver Askew won, he was followed by fellow rookies Kaylen Frederick and Rinus Veekay. Sophomores Robert Megennis and Parker Thompson rounded out the top-five. These fans up front mark no surprise as they made up the top-five in the first round of 2017 at St. Petersburg, with three of them backing it up in the second event.

We are only three races into 2017, but if you are looking at setting up the championship outlook, this is a good start. Notably, Thompson has experience with battling for a title, as he finished second to Martin last year – but is with a different team for 2017. Megennis, meanwhile, placed sixth.

Biggest Mover – Devin Wojcik

Even though passing was at a premium, drivers were able to make their way through the field. Wojcik made up the most spots, passing eight cars to finish 12th.

So far this year, he has struggled with qualifying as he started 15th in race one at St. Petersburg before finishing 19th. He rebounded to finish seventh in the second event and could do so again this weekend.

It is also worth keeping an eye on Kory Enders as he finished 17th at Barber, after a top-10 in St. Petersburg.

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.

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Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

Starting Grids Set for Four of Six Mazda Road to Indy Season-Opening Races

Mazda Scholarship Driver Telitz Captures Pole for Indy Lights Debut

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The season-opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg kicked off today with practice and qualifying for four of the six races which comprise the start of a new campaign for the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires.

A dramatic qualifying session for Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, the highest rung on the acclaimed open-wheel development ladder which offers Mazda Scholarships to enable talented drivers to reach all the way from the grassroots of the sport to the Verizon IndyCar Series, ended with Aaron Telitz marking his first Indy Lights start with pole position for Belardi Auto Racing.

Telitz, 25, from Birchwood, Wis., who is stepping up after winning last year’s Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, jumped to the top of the timing charts moments before young Mexican Pato O’Ward ended his session in the barriers at Turn Eight. Ironically, Telitz and O’Ward had been teammates last year in Pro Mazda – and had shared one victory apiece on the streets of St. Petersburg.

O’Ward, 17, from Monterrey, Mexico, had posted the fastest time in practice this morning for Team Pelfrey and also set the pace prior to Telitz’s fine lap of 1:07.5844. Even worse, as a penalty for causing a red flag stoppage, O’Ward was penalized with the loss of his fastest time, dropping him from second on the grid to ninth in the closely packed field.

Kyle Kaiser (Juncos Racing), from Santa Clara, who won the pole in 2016, will start second for the opening race of the weekend, the Mazda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented by Cooper Tires, which will start at 5:10 p.m. EDT tomorrow afternoon.

Juan Piedrahita (Team Pelfrey), from Bogota, Colombia, will line up third ahead of rookies Matheus Leist (Carlin), from Brazil, and Colton Herta (Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing), from Valencia, Calif.

Qualifying for Race Two will take place at 7:55 a.m. tomorrow.

USF2000 Champ Martin Fastest in Pro Mazda

Anthony Martin, from Kalgoorlie, Australia, will start on pole for the Hi-Tide Kids on Track Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Round One of the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires. Martin, 22, who is stepping up to Pro Mazda after winning last year’s USF2000 championship, set the fastest time at 1:13.6718 for Cape Motorsports, edging out Brazilian Victor Franzoni (Juncos Racing) by a scant 0.012 second.

Franzoni had been fastest in the first practice session this morning at 1:14.1486.

TJ Fischer, based in Los Angeles, will start third for Team Pelfrey ahead of teammate Carlos Cunha, from Campinas, Brazil, and Californian teenager Phillippe Denes for World Speed Motorsports.

The race will start tomorrow at 11:50 a.m.

Qualifying for Race Two, the Allied Building Products Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, will take place at 7:30 a.m. tomorrow, with the green flag slated for 4:30 p.m. on Sunday.

Megennis, Thompson Earn Poles for USF2000 Double-Header

A new era for the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda kicked off today with qualifying for the first two races of the new season which will take place tomorrow on the streets of St. Petersburg.

The brand-new Tatuus USF-17 looks set to provide some sensational action this year, as evidenced by the closeness of the times in each of the two 20-minute sessions.

Last year’s Rookie of the Year, Robert Megennis, was first out of the blocks yesterday for Team Pelfrey, posting the fastest time during a 30-minute period of practice that was punctuated by a variety of incidents. The teenager from New York, N.Y., maintained that form this morning on a slightly reconfigured race track, stopping the clocks in 1:15.3708 (85.975 mph) to secure pole position for the Hi-Tide Boats Lifts Grand Prix of St. Petersburg – and the first championship point of the 2017 campaign.

Calvin Ming (Pabst Racing), from Guyana, will start second for the opening race ahead of Oliver Askew, from Jupiter, Fla., representing the defending champion Cape Motorsports team. Askew, 20, is commencing his very first full season of car racing after winning the inaugural Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 $200K Scholarship Shootout last fall.

Dakota Dickerson (Newman Wachs Racing), from San Diego, Calif., and Kaylen Frederick (Team Pelfrey), from Potomac, Md., will round out the top five starters. The top 11 qualifiers were all blanketed by less than one second.

The race is set for 8:40 a.m. tomorrow, with the green flag due to be waved by Tatuus Race Cars Director Gianfranco DeBellis.

Qualifying for Race Two, the Allied Building Products Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, which is slated for a 2:00 p.m. start tomorrow, ended with Parker Thompson, from Red Deer, Alb., Canada, atop the charts for the new Exclusive Autosport team. Thompson, who finished a close second in the 2016 title-chase, set an identical time – 1:15.3708 – to that set earlier by Megennis.

Askew, who bounced back impressively from an incident on Thursday afternoon which caused damage to his Soul Red Tatuus, will start second for Race Two ahead of Dutch teenager Rinus VeeKay (Pabst Racing), Dickerson and Megennis.

Live timing and live streaming of all sessions will be available on the respective series websites, indylights.com, promazda.com and usf2000.com, as well as on indycar.com and the Road To Indy TV App.

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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, together with its subsidiaries, is a leading designer, manufacturer and marketer of innovative, great-performing tires that people depend on for all of life’s road trips, whether on city streets, off-road adventures or high-speed tracks. In fact, Cooper is proud to sponsor and race in all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy development program within the IndyCar racing series. Cooper tires can also be seen on the track as a sponsor of the short course off-road TORC Series. Headquartered in Findlay, Ohio, Cooper, together with its subsidiaries, has manufacturing, sales, distribution, technical and design operations in more than one dozen countries around the world. In our second century in the tire business, Cooper looks toward a future where innovation will continue to drive our products and our products will continue to drive the world. To connect with Cooper, visit www.coopertire.com, www.facebook.com/coopertire or www.twitter.com/coopertire.