PORTLAND, Ore. – Rinus VeeKay kept his Indy Lights championship hopes alive with a victory Saturday afternoon at Portland Int’l Raceway.
VeeKay led all 35 laps from the pole for Juncos Racing to finish a comfortable 3.4990 seconds clear of series points leader Oliver Askew.
VeeKay afterward dedicated his fourth win of the season to Frenchman Anthoine Hubert, a member of the Renault Sport Academy, who lost his life Saturday in an FIA Formula Two Championship race at Circuit Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium.
“I want to dedicate this win to Anthoine Hubert. I am praying for his family. I was watching the Formula Two race this morning; it was terrible to hear the news,” VeeKay said. “Several months ago, I spent a whole day on the simulator with him so it’s tough. It’s tragic for the sport of racing.”
Askew’s teammate, Robert Megennis, finished a distant third after a race-long battle with Toby Sowery.
VeeKay, 18, set his plan in motion Friday when he claimed pole position by a margin of just over one-tenth of a second ahead of Askew, who arrived in the Pacific Northwest with a commanding 52-points advantage after winning the most recent four races in succession.
VeeKay opted for a fresh set of Cooper tires for today’s race, and although he came under intense pressure over the course of the first few laps – and even picked up a warning from the race stewards for overly defensive driving – he soon began to stretch his advantage as the new rubber reached its optimal working temperatures and pressures. His lead stretched to over a second for the first time by the completion of his sixth lap, then continued to build from there.
Askew, 22, had no answer to his young rival’s pace and duly settled into second, well clear of his pursuers.
Megennis, who started third, kept in touch with the two leaders through the opening laps before slipping back into the clutches of Sowery, who made a good start from sixth on the grid but then lost all the ground he had made up when he slid wide onto the dirt at the exit of the Festival Curves. Undeterred, Sowery soon worked his way past, firstly, Brazilian Lucas Kohl, then Canadian Dalton Kellett.