Rinus VeeKay might not have won this year’s Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires championship trophy but he certainly demonstrated his class during this weekend’s Cooper Tires Indy Lights Grand Prix Presented by Allied Building Products. VeeKay, 19, claimed a complete sweep at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, securing two pole positions, two race wins and two fastest race laps, and for the second day in a row he led all 30 laps en route to an emphatic victory for Juncos Racing.
After tying up the championship yesterday for Andretti Autosport, Oliver Askew finished second in this morning’s 18th and final round. Toby Sowery completed an impressive final phase of the season by finishing third for HMD Motorsports/Team Pelfrey.
Tomorrow at the Road to Indy Championship Celebration Awards Banquet in nearby Monterey, Calif., Askew will pick up the champion’s trophy and a scholarship valued at $1.1 million to guarantee entry into a minimum of three NTT IndyCar Series races in 2020, including the 104th Indianapolis 500.
Significantly cooler conditions this morning made not a lot of difference to VeeKay, who capitalized on his pole position to take the lead as the field headed uphill past the pits and then downhill into the heaviest braking area of the track at Turn 2, the Mario Andretti Hairpin. A good start by Sowery from third on the grid briefly elevated him to second place, but Askew was having none of it and promptly drove around the outside at Turn 2, keeping his nerve and then sneaking back into second place at Turn 3.
VeeKay and Askew traded fastest laps during the first seven laps before VeeKay turned the best lap of the race at 1m16.4032s, an average speed of 105.451 mph on Lap 7. He then carded another 1m06.51s on his next time around the 2.238-mile road course to finally eke out a significant margin for the first time. A series of consistently fast laps enabled VeeKay to stretch his advantage to over three seconds by Lap 20, by which time the game was clearly up for Askew, who settled for second place and eventually took the checkered flag almost six seconds behind his rival.
The victory was VeeKay’s sixth of the season and his 15th in total on the Road to Indy in the span of just three years. He always pocketed the Tilton Hard Charger Award.
“The Juncos team gave me a great car and I had a good start, though Oliver was good with the push-to-pass. I’ve learned a lot about tire management and that really came into play today. It was great to win the little battle with Oliver today, to end up with more Road to Indy wins than he has. But the Road to Indy has taught me so much. Everything I’ve learned is what I will take to IndyCar, and I can show them what the Road to Indy means to drivers. I’m so happy, it is the best way to end the Road to Indy for me. I knew the championship was not to be this weekend so to take both wins means a lot. It shows the IndyCar teams what I can do.”
Sowery finished on the podium for the third time in as many races, well clear of Robert Megennis, who pulled off the move of the race with a bold inside pass of Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Norman under braking for the Mario Andretti Hairpin on Lap 7.