Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

MRTI Toronto Notebook: Saturday

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The Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda were in action for the second week in a row after last week’s visit to Iowa Speedway. And, for the first time since the season opening event in St. Petersburg Florida, a street course awaited each series.

Saturday’s Indy Lights and USF2000 outings saw one series have a big twist in its championship battle, while the other saw a driver get his first win of the 2017 season. Reports on both races are below. 

 

INDY LIGHTS: KAISER EXTENDS POINTS LEAD WITH VICTORY AS LEIST CRASHES OUT

Kyle Kaiser grabbed his second victory of 2017. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Kyle Kaiser dominated Race 1 in Indy Lights, leading flag-to-flag after starting on the pole to take his second victory of the season. However, the championship picture saw a big twist when title rival Matheus Leist crashed in the opening laps.

Leist, running third at the time and fighting to hold off a charging Santi Urrutia, overcooked it entering turn 8 on lap 4. The car broke loose in the middle of the corner and hit the tire barriers with the left-rear corner.

His car stationary, Leist was then collected by Nico Jamin, causing further damage and eliminating both cars from the race.

Kaiser, however, went unchallenged at the front of the field for his first victory on a street circuit and increase his championship over Leist to 37 points. “It’s amazing – this is my first win on a street course. So now I can say I’ve won on an oval, a road course and a street course and this means a lot,” he said in victory lane.

Kaiser added that he and his Juncos Racing team had to manage the gap back to second place, which was over five seconds at one point, so he could push the car just the right amount without overextending himself.

“The team was telling me the gap every lap, so I knew who was behind me and how far back they were and I was using that to gauge how hard to push,” Kaiser explained. “It was a very conscious race, focusing on what I had to do but also being aware of what was going on behind me. But I try not to over think it and go into every race weekend to win. Some weekends, you don’t have the setup so you focus on not getting frustrated and running with what you have. This weekend, we had the fastest car so we maximized what we had.”

Behind Kaiser, Zachary Claman de Melo and Santi Urrutia dueled for second, swapping the position a handful of times in the first half of the race. In the end, Claman de Melo was able to hold off Urrutia and finished second in his home race. Urrutia held on for third after outlasting a late push from Colton Herta, who finished fourth. Aaron Telitz rounded out the top five.

Results are below. Race 2 begins at 12:15 p.m. ET on Sunday, and NBCSN will air its Indy Lights coverage on Monday 7/17 at 7:00 p.m. ET.

 

 

USF2000: PARKER THOMPSON RETURNS TO VICTORY LANE

Parker Thompson celebrates after winning his home race in Toronto. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

A down 2017 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda season for Parker Thompson has seen the Canadian up and comer go winless through the first nine races of the year. However, all of that turned around in Race 1 at Toronto, as the native of Alberta, Canada led flag-to-flag to score his first victory of 2017.

What’s more, Parker’s team, Exclusive Autosport, is also based in Canada, in Saskatchewan, making it an all Canadian victory lane for Race 1 in Toronto.

“When the checkered flag came out, the emotions were just so high – I was screaming, so I apologize to anybody on my radio channel,” quipped an emotional Thompson, who won four races last year on his way to second in the USF2000 championship. “This win tops anything I’ve done this year. It’s extremely hard to win in this series and I think I took a few wins for granted last year, but to have the team behind me here is so emotional. They are so invested in winning so to get the job done for them and get our first win together feels so good.”

Thompson rocketed off from pole ahead of second-place starting Oliver Askew and never looked back. Askew finished second, while Rinus van Kalmthout finished third, meaning Askew increased his championship advantage to 34 points, with Thompson moving up to third in the championship.

Askew explained that while he was occasionally quicker than Thompson, the conditions did not permit much of a push for victory once Thompson got the lead off the start.

“I was a tenth quicker than Parker but with the track having such low grip, it’s hard to pass. There’s aero loss at other tracks but here it’s magnified because it’s so slick,” Askew explained. “I couldn’t do anything because of the aero wash. You have to be so precise and get your turn-in points right and hit your marks. If you turn in too wide you’re going to completely lose the car. It’s demanding but I enjoy it – it’s a great challenge and it’s something different.”

Results are below. Race 2 kicks off at 9:40 a.m. ET Sunday morning.

 

 

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Usain Bolt, Bill Clinton among headline guests for USGP at COTA

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The Circuit of The Americas paddock ahead of the United States Grand Prix may have been busy with teams and drivers preparing for lights out, but much of the attention lay with a number of headline guests including former presidents and Olympic champions.

As part of its plans to up the excitement levels ahead of Sunday’s grand prix and mirror other sporting events, F1’s new owner, Liberty Media, announced plans a couple of weeks ago to link up with iconic boxing announcer Michael Buffer and eight-time Olympic gold medallist Usain Bolt for the pre-race festivities.

Ahead of today’s race in Austin, Buffer will introduce the drivers in a number of groups before offering the call for drivers to start their engines, similar to the pre-race procedure for the Indianapolis 500.

Honorary race starter Bolt, who competed in his last athletic world championship event in London earlier this year, will appear on the start line to complete his signature victory pose before waving the green flags to launch the formation lap.

Bolt was also treated to a hot lap around COTA by Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton before the start of the formal pre-race build up program in Austin.

Liberty issued a list of celebrities and other public figures who are confirmed to be attending today’s race, including Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden and actor Owen Wilson among others.

One name that wasn’t on the list? 42nd President of the United States, Bill Clinton, who quickly became a focus for the paddock upon arrival three hours before lights out.

The United States Grand Prix is live on NBC and NBC Sports app from 2pm ET today.