Canadian driver Parker Thompson wasn’t battling for the lead when the green flag flew but found himself there at the checkers, sweeping both Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda races on the streets of Toronto for Exclusive Autosport.
Thompson surged to the front of the 15-car field in the second half following a mid-race caution and took the checkered flag with a 0.6-second lead over Pabst Racing’s Rinus VeeKay.
For Thompson, the end result was the same but the path to victory was different with the driver starting from pole in Race 1 and leading every lap.
“Going into today, you’re starting fourth,” Thompson told The Apex. “It’s a mix-up. You don’t know what’s going to happen or how it’s going play out.
“Going into the race, I knew there was going to be a big battle up front. And then the first couple laps, everyone’s banzai, locking up wheels, hitting each other. So really my goal was just to play it safe. I had room to fifth when I was fourth. I had room to third. Conserve the tires.
“I knew something was going to happen, just that gut feeling of a driver. And something did happen and it worked out.”
Like the first race on Saturday, Race 2 was a tale of attrition with two drivers — Ricky Donison and Moises de la Vara — failing to start the race. One, Pabst Racing’s Lucas Kohl, retired without even completing a lap after he sustained damage in Turn 1.
The difficulties of racing on the streets of Exhibition Place also struck the leaders near the halfway point. Leader Alex Baron, driving for ArmsUp Motorsports, spun exiting a turn and speared the No. 79 BN Racing machine of David Malukas who had been running in the second position.
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Points leader Oliver Askew had been in pursuit of Baron and Malukas. Unfortunately, the Cape Motorsports driver was unable to avoid the incident. While the cars of Baron and Malukas had to be removed by the Holmatro Safety Team, Askew was able to continue to pit lane where his car was later retired.
After the caution, Thompson assumed the lead followed by VeeKay, Robert Megennis, Kaylen Frederick and Devin Wojcik.
VeeKay’s podium and Askew’s finish outside the top 10 have closed up the points battle which the Dutch driver addressed after the race.
“After Road America, when I swept and Oliver had a little bit bad luck in the first race, I closed the gap with 30 points or something,” VeeKay told The Apex. “Then, I thought, out of nothing, it was pretty reachable for me.
“With a little bit of luck, I went to 60 points behind to 30. And now I’m 19 points behind, what I heard.
“I think I have a very good shot to go for it in the next three races and hopefully take the Mazda Road to Indy scholarship for the next level.”
Over the final 10 minutes, the order behind Thompson and VeeKay shuffled with Frederick making it up to third prior to the checkered flag. The Team Pelfrey driver advanced 10 positions over the course of the race, a feat that eluded him in Race 1 where he started fourth and finished last after early contact.
“I was thinking too much, ‘okay, the podium is right there, I need be able to get there,’ and then I pushed it a bit too hard and had a small contact with the wall and then I was done with the race,” Frederick told The Apex about his Race 1 experience.
“Today, I started 13th and I’m like, ‘okay, I can only go forward here.’ I just kept it off the walls and just put my head down, put faster and faster laps in. Getting better and better, getting more comfortable with the different conditions with the track because it’s always changing.
“And I just made my way up and I couldn’t catch the two leaders because they were too far ahead after battling with Devin (Wojcik).”
Darren Keane finished in the fourth position for Newman Wachs Racing, advancing seven positions after starting 11th.
Frederick’s teammate Robert Megennis completed the top five. The St. Petersburg race winner had dropped back after attempting a pass on VeeKay that caused him to lose some track position.
Wojcik, Kory Enders, Jose Sierra, Jayson Clunie and Dev Gore completed the top 10.
Askew, Baron and Malukas were scored in the 12th, 13th and 14th positions, respectively.
The series next heads to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for a doubleheader weekend on July 28–30 in support of the Verizon IndyCar Series’ Honda Indy 200.