Decisive Mazda Road to Indy Weekend in Store at Mid-Ohio
 July 24, 2018| 
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VeeKay on a Roll in Pro Mazda

It’s coming down to crunch-time for all three tiers of the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires open-wheel development ladder, which collectively offers scholarships and prizes valued at more than $3.5 million to assist drivers in their progression from the grassroots of the sport to the Verizon IndyCar Series.

The title-chases for both Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires are finely poised heading into this weekend at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, near Lexington, Ohio, which will feature double-headers for each of the two series. Meanwhile, the outcome of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda is highly likely to be settled in favor of 19-year-old Kyle Kirkwood, from Jupiter, Fla., who requires only a modest points haul from the unique triple-header on deck to put the top prize beyond the reach of his rivals.

The Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires – and a Mazda Scholarship worth $790,300 to move on to Indy Lights in 2019 – is very much up for grabs with just five rounds remaining in the 16-race season.

Prior to the most recent pair of races on the streets of Toronto, Canadian rookie Parker Thompson held a seemingly commanding 46-point advantage for his Canadian-based Exclusive Autosport team. But that margin has been whittled to a mere seven points, 263-256, following a weekend to forget for Thompson and Dutch teenager Rinus VeeKay’s impressive two-race sweep for Juncos Racing.

The victories heralded a welcome return to form for VeeKay, 17, following a mixed bag of results since claiming both wins on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., way back in March.

This weekend’s Cooper Tires Pro Mazda Mid-Ohio Grand Prix will see the pair anxious to continue their rivalry from last year, when Thompson claimed a win and a second in USF2000 competition while VeeKay earned a second and a third.

Intriguingly, Oliver Askew, 21, from Jupiter, Fla., who won one of the two USF2000 races last year and beat both of them to the championship crown and the right to carry the Mazda Soul Red colors into Pro Mazda for 2018, also should be in the mix with Cape Motorsports following a strong second-place finish in the most recent race in Toronto.

Others to watch among a strong 16-car lineup include Chicago teenager David Malukas, who won both races at Road America last month for BN Racing and set the fastest time during last week’s series test at Mid-Ohio; Brazilian Carlos Cunha and Juncos Racing teammate Robert Megennis, from New York, N.Y., who both claimed podium results in Toronto; and the Team Pelfrey pair of Sting Ray Robb, 16, from Payette, Idaho, and Mexican teenager Andres Gutierrez, both of whom deserve a break following a dismal sequence of misfortune.

The field also will include four drivers making their Pro Mazda debuts: highly rated 18-year-old Brazilian Felipe Drugovich (RP Motorsport Racing), who won the MRF Challenge series in India earlier this year and currently leads the Euroformula Open (F3) Championship in convincing style; Colombian teammate Mathias Soler-Obel, who is stepping up from USF2000; Mexican Moises de la Vara (DEForce Racing), who has already won the NACAM Formula 4 Championship after competing previously in USF2000; and Antoine Comeau, from Joliet, Ill., who also joins DEForce Racing after a background in Radical sports cars.

Three 40-minute test sessions will kick off the Mid-Ohio activities on Thursday, July 26, followed by a 25-minute practice on Friday at 10:20 a.m. and then the first of two 20-minute qualifying sessions later in the afternoon at 2:00 p.m. Qualifying Two will take place at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday with the green flag for the pair of races set for 4:10 p.m. on Saturday and 11:05 a.m. on Sunday, July 29. All times are EDT.

Coverage of on-track action in all three series can be found on a series of platforms including Road to Indy TV, the Road to Indy TV App and dedicated broadcast channels on demand via Apple TV, Amazon Fire and Roku and, most recently, the Xbox One Official App as well as live streaming and live timing on the series’ respective websites and indycar.com. Indy Lights is also featured on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network broadcasts on Sirius 214, XM 209, IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and on the INDYCAR Mobile app.

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