Rinus VeeKay won again today at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for Juncos Racing. The 17-year-old now has won four races in a row (and six in total) to extend his lead in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and the quest for a Mazda Scholarship worth almost $800,000 to graduate into Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, the final rung of the Mazda Road to Indy open-wheel development ladder, in 2019.
Teammate Robert Megennis shadowed VeeKay throughout the 25-lap contest to claim his third consecutive podium finish as Oliver Askew, last year’s winner of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, finished third for Cape Motorsports.
After qualifying on pole for this morning’s Cooper Tires Pro Mazda Mid-Ohio Grand Prix, David Malukas (BN Racing) maintained his edge at the start despite intense pressure from the trio of Juncos Racing cars in the hands of VeeKay, Megennis and Carlos Cunha, who also retained championship aspirations of his own.
Cunha had fought his way past fellow title hopeful Parker Thompson (Exclusive Autosport) at the first corner, but his attempts to wrest away third place from Megennis at Turn 4 on the opening lap ended with a long journey over the grass which dropped him to the back of the field.
Malukas set a torrid pace at the front but even then remained only 1.4 seconds clear of VeeKay when his car ground to a halt with an undiagnosed mechanical problem with just seven laps in the books. VeeKay inherited the lead and initially seemed to have a slight edge over teammate Megennis. But at right around the halfway stage in the 25-lap race, Megennis’ car came to life, enabling him to narrow the gap to just a couple of car lengths.
Their battle continued unabated following a brief full-course caution to remove Cunha’s car, which had stopped on the track with a fuel pump failure, but Megennis was never quite able to muster enough pace to make a pass. VeeKay duly took the checkered flag 1.3735 seconds clear to record his fourth successive victory and extend his championship lead to 25 points, 320-295, over Thompson, who could manage only a sixth-place finish.
Askew finished a similar distance farther back in third for Cape Motorsports, despite a late challenge from Team Pelfrey’s Sting Ray Robb. After losing out to charging Brazilian Pro Mazda debutant Felipe Drugovich (RP Motorsport Racing) on the opening lap, Robb stalked his rival closely – while remaining under intense pressure from Thompson – until making a fine overtaking maneuver which began with an outside-line move at Turn 4 and was finally completed on the inside at Turn 5. Robb then tried to make a similar move on Askew with three laps remaining, only to be rebuffed. He had to settle for a nonetheless impressive fourth ahead of Drugovich, who claimed the Tilton Hard Charger Award after starting from ninth on the grid, and a frustrated Thompson.
Ricardo Juncos claimed his sixth PFC Award as the winning car owner.
The Pro Mazda title chase moves next to Gateway Motorsports Park for the series’ second oval track event of the year on August 25.