All three levels of the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires open-wheel development ladder are headed to Toronto, Ont., Canada, this weekend, a talented supporting cast for the headline NTT IndyCar Series Honda Indy Toronto event.
The Cooper Tires Grand Prix Presented by Allied Building Products takes place on a challenging 1.786-mile, 11-turn street circuit at Exhibition Place near downtown, and will include Rounds 10 and 11 of the Indy Lights series and the eighth and ninth rounds of both the Indy Pro 2000 and USF2000 championships.
At least 13 different nations from five continents will be represented on the starting grids for the three series.
Indy Lights: Askew, VeeKay in a tight points battle
Five different winners have emerged from the first half of the 18-race Indy Lights season, although Oliver Askew and Rinus VeeKay (photo above) have established themselves as the mid-season favorites. At stake is a highly prized scholarship which will guarantee entry into at least three NTT IndyCar Series races in 2020, including the 104th Indianapolis 500.
Askew, 22, from Jupiter, Fla., and VeeKay, 18, from Hoofddorp, Netherlands, have been rivals since making the transition from karting to the Road to Indy in 2017. Askew emerged on top that first year, winning the USF2000 championship and a Mazda Scholarship to graduate into Indy Pro 2000 in 2018. But VeeKay gained his revenge in 2018 by winning the Indy Pro 2000 title and a scholarship valued at almost $600,000 to compete this year in Indy Lights.
They are still closely matched: Askew has won three times for Andretti Autosport and currently holds a narrow three-point advantage over VeeKay, who also has won three times this season for Juncos Racing, including the most recent race two weeks ago at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis.
Both have fared well on the Toronto streets in the past. VeeKay scored a brace of USF2000 podium finishes on the pair’s first visit to Exhibition Place after Askew had qualified on pole for one of the races. Last year VeeKay swept both Indy Pro 2000 races from the pole as Askew established a new race lap record.
Askew’s Andretti Autosport teammates, Robert Megennis and Ryan Norman, also have tasted the fruits of victory this year. Norman finished third and fourth in the two Toronto races last year and is keen to build upon that experience this week.
Another former race winner, Aaron Telitz, is set to return to the Indy Lights fray this week with Belardi Auto Racing. Telitz has finished on the Toronto podium each of the past two years in Indy Lights, and in 2017 swept both Indy Pro 2000 race wins on his way to securing the championship.
Dalton Kellett is another contender who is especially looking forward to the weekend. Hailing originally from Stouffville, Ont., Kellett is coming off a victory in his LMP2 sports car debut in last weekend’s IMSA championship at nearby Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. Kellett, who joins VeeKay at Juncos Racing, scored a pair of fifth-place Indy Lights finishes in 2018.
The weekend will begin with a 40-minute practice session at 10:10 a.m. EDT on Friday, July 12. The first 30-minute qualifying session at 8:40 a.m. on Saturday will set the grid for Race One at 12:45 p.m., while a separate period of qualifying at 8:15 a.m. on Sunday will form the grid for Race Two at 11:00 a.m.
In the U.S., both races will air live and on demand on NBC Sports Gold with practice and qualifying coverage carried via live streaming on the Road to Indy TV App, RoadToIndy.TV, indylights.com and indycar.com. Internationally, all practice, qualifying and race events will be live streamed on the Road to Indy TV App, RoadToIndy.TV and at indylights.com. Additional coverage can also be found on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network broadcasts which airs live on network affiliates, Sirius 216, XM 209, indycar.com, indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile App powered by NTT Data.
Indy Pro 2000: Canadian Thompson seeks Toronto glory
The outcome of this year’s Indy Pro 2000 championship and a scholarship to graduate into Indy Lights for 2020 remains finely poised as the series heads to the Cooper Tires Grand Prix Presented by Allied Building Products for the mid-point in its 16-race season. Four different drivers representing four different teams – Parker Thompson (Abel Motorsports); Rasmus Lindh (Juncos Racing); Danial Frost (Exclusive Autosport); and Kyle Kirkwood (RP Motorsport Racing) – have shared top honors in each of the four race weekends held thus far.
Lindh, who won twice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway GP road course in May, leads Thompson by just 29 points, with Kirkwood – a double-winner at the most recent event, Road America – one point behind Thompson in third.