Dutchman Rinus VeeKay shrugged off yesterday’s disappointment of a drive-through penalty by thoroughly dominating this morning’s Cooper Tires Indy Lights Grand Prix of Road America Powered by AER.
VeeKay, who won twice at the scenic and challenging Wisconsin road course during the 2017 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship, qualified his Juncos Racing Dallara-AER IL-15 solidly on pole position and was never remotely threatened during the all-green, 20-lap race.
Yesterday’s winner, Ryan Norman, had to be content with second this time around, closely followed to the flag by Andretti Autosport teammate Oliver Askew.
VeeKay’s impressive performance ensured a hugely successful weekend for last year’s Mazda Scholarship winners. In addition to VeeKay, who won the 2018 Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, reigning USF2000 champion Kyle Kirkwood swept both Indy Pro 2000 races, while Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 $200K Scholarship Shootout winner Hunter McElrea claimed his first USF2000 victory on Saturday.
Teenager VeeKay took full advantage of his pole position to jump immediately into the lead ahead of fellow front-row starter Norman. He completed the first lap more than one second in front and extended his lead on each and every lap before taking the checkered flag 12.8989 seconds to the good. VeeKay’s win ensured another PFC Award for the winner car owner, Ricardo Juncos.
After qualifying a strong third for Belardi Auto Racing, local favorite Aaron Telitz lost out to Askew in the opening few corners, whereupon his attempt to out-brake the Florida driver at Turn Five resulted in him running wide and falling to the back of the field. Telitz lost no time in trying to make up for lost ground before eventually finishing fifth.
In the meantime, Norman and Askew were in a battle for second place, Askew looking to have out-dragged his teammate on the long downhill run toward Turn Five on the fourth lap, only for Norman to dive back to the inside under braking and reclaim the position in opportunistic style.
Askew then fell back into the clutches of a third Andretti car, driven by Robert Megennis. The pair exchanged positions a couple of times – with Englishman Toby Sowery also right in the thick of the battle for BN Racing/Team Pelfrey – until points leader Askew finally reasserted himself and ran third for the majority of the race before redoubling his efforts in the closing stages. Norman, though, judged his pace to perfection to cross the line still three-quarters of a second clear of Askew.
While Sowery slipped back as the race progressed, BN Racing teammate David Malukas moved steadily forward. Starting seventh, Malukas slipped past Megennis for fourth after 16 laps. Askew was by then out of reach in third, but Malukas still secured the Tilton Hard Charger Award for his efforts.
VeeKay’s third win of the season enabled him to close the gap to Askew to just three points at the halfway point of the 18-race season. The Indy Lights contenders will head next to the streets of Toronto, Ont., Canada, for another pair of races on July 13-14.