LEXINGTON, Ohio – Parker Thompson has been on a roll of late in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda and that roll continued Saturday at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
The 19-year-old led throughout Saturday’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 Exclusive Autosport.
Dutch teenager Rinus VeeKay finished second for Pabst Racing, while Kaylen Frederick, 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 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 (N.Y.) Int’l on Sept. 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 Saturday morning. He 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 too. 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 and Darren Keane, 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.
“That was amazing,” said Thompson. “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.”
Parker Thompson, Rinus VeeKay, Kaylen Frederick, Oliver Askew, Calvin Ming, David Malukas, Robert Megennis, Lucas Kohl, Moises de la Vera, Devin Wojcik, Andres Gutierrez, Dev Gore, Jacob Abel, Bruna Tomaselli, Jayson Clunie, Darren Keane, Colin Kaminsky, Phillippe Denes, Kory Enders.