Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

MRTI Toronto Notebook: Sunday

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Sunday’s races for Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda were significantly more chaotic than Saturday’s, as big crashes took out several cars in both races and several heavy hitters encountered trouble.

In the end, each series saw a driver survive the carnage to complete a weekend sweep. Reports for both races are below.

 

INDY LIGHTS: KAISER SWEEPS AS TITLE RIVALS FALTER

Kyle Kaiser was atop the podium again in Race 2 at Toronto. Aaron Telitz was second with Zachary Claman de Melo third. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Kyle Kaiser had been the model of consistency during the 2017 Indy Lights campaign, but admittedly felt like he needed more race wins to build momentum heading into the season’s home stretch. And that’s exactly what happened, as Kaiser won Race 2 on Sunday to back up his Race 1 victory on Saturday, completing a sweep of the weekend at Toronto.

In Victory Lane, Kaiser revealed that he had high expectations ahead of the weekend, but was still beside himself with sweeping both races. “I knew this would be a good weekend for us because the team has always had a good setup here – Spencer won both races two years ago. But it’s really been a dream weekend – I’ve never had a double win weekend before. Actually, I can’t believe it,” Kaiser quipped afterward.

However, Sunday’s outing was not nearly as straightforward as Saturday’s. Colton Herta led from the pole to start race 2, with Kaiser going three-wide with Santi Urrutia and Nico Jamin entering turn one. Jamin, on the outside, was the odd man out and got pushed into the outside wall on corner exit. Shelby Blackstock then rear-ended Jamin and went up and over the right side of Jamin’s car, resulting in an immediate full course caution. Neil Alberico and Garth Rickards also were collected, with Jamin, Blackstock, and Alberico all falling out.

A lap 7 restart saw Herta lead Kaiser while Urrutia battled Aaron Telitz and Zachary Claman De Melo for third. Urrutia’s day would soon come to an end, though, as his car rolled to a stop on the front straightaway on lap 12 with mechanical issues, forcing a second full course caution.

Herta again kept Kaiser at bay on the restart and seemed poised to claim his third victory of the year. But, a damaged rear suspension that surfaced early in the race came back to bite Herta, as it finally broke as he was venturing through turn 6 on lap 26. He dropped out on the spot and was credited with 10th.

Herta’s problems left Kaiser all alone out front. Kaiser described afterward that he was content riding in second, with the knowledge that he would score good points be in position to capitalize on any mistakes.

“I know it sounds weird, but I was OK with the points for second,” Kaiser revealed. “But I saw Colton getting close to the wall a couple times and I thought if he made a mistake, I would be ready. I’m usually on the bad end of luck but this year I was rewarded. I am definitely more confident and more relaxed heading into Mid-Ohio, having a little bit of a cushion in the championship.”

Behind him, Telitz outdueled Claman de Melo in the battle for second, while Claman de Melo hung on for third, his second podium of the weekend. Juan Piedrahita was fourth while Matheus Leist rebounded from early trouble to finish fifth. Leist, running inside the top ten at the time, gently nosed into the turn 3 tire barrier on lap 10, but was able to quickly rejoin the fight without losing much time.

Kaiser now leads Leist by 51 points leaving Toronto, with Herta still in third. Claman de Melo has climbed all the way up to fourth, while Telitz sits fifth. Coverage of Indy Lights from Toronto airs on NBCSN Monday 7/17 at 7:00 p.m. ET.

Full results for Indy Lights Race 2 can be viewed here.

 

USF2000: THOMPSON SWEEPS AS ASKEW GETS COLLECTED IN PILEUP

Parker Thompson flew the Canadian flag again in Victory Lane on Sunday. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Race 2 was a case of “Right place, right time” for Parker Thompson. Running fourth in the early laps, he made it through a big pileup in front of him as Alex Baron, David Malukas, and Oliver Askew all crashed out together while battling for the lead.

Malukas tried an inside pass on Baron in turn 3, but the two made contact and crashed up against the inside wall on corner exit. Points leader Askew, running third at the time after both Baron and Malukas passed him in the opening laps, was left with nowhere to go and piled into the back of them. Malukas and Baron were out on the spot, while Askew managed to drive his wounded Tatuus USF-17 back to the pits, only for the team to find too much damage to continue. Askew was credited with 12th, with Baron and Malukas 13th and 14th.

Up front, Thompson held off Rinus van Kalmthout on the restart, while a big scramble for third place between Robert Megennis, Devin Wojcik, and Kaylen Frederick saw Frederick eventually emerge in third after making a pass on Wojcik in the final laps. Darren Keane came home fourth after a late charge, with Megennis coming home fifth as Wojcik fell back to sixth.

An elated Thompson was beside himself in victory lane after his weekend sweep. “I’m surprised I still have a voice! What a feeling, to get two in ‘TO’ in front of the Canadian fans! I’d say this is unbelievable, but it’s passed that now and into its own new realm,” Thompson quipped.

Thompson detailed that he was confident he had the pace to challenge Baron, Malukas, and Askew, but elected to play it safe early on. “I knew I had the pace so I hung back to let things string out before I attacked,” he explained. “I saw the three of them lock up so I backed off and I had just enough of a gap to squeeze through. And after yesterday, I was really calm on the restart. I had my team owner, Michael Duncalfe, talking to me on the radio keeping me prepared, so I just got a good jump on the restart and worked to keep Rinus behind me the rest of the way.”

Van Kalmthout, meanwhile, was enveloped in a battle for second that prevented him from mounting a challenge on Thompson. However, he was happy to end the day with a strong points haul.

“Once we went green, I had a good restart and I wanted to pass Parker for the points, but Robert (Megennis) had a great restart and he was right on my gearbox,” detailed the 16-year-old Dutchman. “I had to defend, and there was some wheel-banging, and that let Parker get away. I had the speed, getting the quick lap late in the race, but I got the most points I could and that’s what’s important.”

Leaving Toronto, Askew’s once insurmountable points lead is down to 18 over van Kalmthout, while Thompson now sits third, ahead of Kaylen Frederick and Calvin Ming.

Full results for USF2000 Race 2 can be viewed here.

Indy Lights and USF2000, along with the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, are back in action at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on July 28-30.

Follow Kyle Lavigne.

VIDEO: A unique look at Mexico’s famous Carrera Panamericana

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Since returning to the Formula 1 calendar in 2015, the Mexican Grand Prix has already established itself as one of the sport’s most exciting and vibrant races, with hundreds of thousands of fans flocking to the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City.

In order to get a flavor of Mexico’s rich racing heritage, NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton took time out of his summer break to explore Mexico City and also take part in the famous Carrera Panamericana road race.

The Carrea Panamericana is Mexico’s equivalent of the Mille Miglia, initially acting as a border-to-border sportscar event before being cancelled in 1955.

The race was revived in the 1980s, and continues to this day, offering drivers a gruelling, week-long challenge against the clock at high speed on public highways through the mountains of central Mexico.

2017’s Formula 1 race is set to be a poignant one for Mexico following the devastating 7.1 magnitude earthquake that struck earlier this week, claiming the lives of over 200 people.

With the race set to go ahead as planned, it will be an important statement of unity from Mexico when it welcomes F1 at the end of October, the grand prix taking place on October 29 and acting as another chapter in the nation’s steeped motorsport history.

Mexico’s only F1 driver, Sergio Perez, has set up a fund through which donations can be made to help those affected by the earthquake with full details below.

Donations can also be made via PayPal by clicking here.

F1/IndyCar clashes frequent for 2018 as schedules shape up

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The latest meeting of the World Motor Sport Council may not have yielded much in the way of groundbreaking news, but the confirmation of Formula E and the World Endurance Championship’s 2018 schedules did help us get a grip on next year’s racing calendar.

Perhaps the most notable thing with next year’s schedules is the heavy reduction in clashes between the FIA’s three premier track championships – F1, Formula E and WEC – next year, making good on its plans for calendar harmonization moving forward.

WEC confirmed its ‘super season’ schedule earlier this month, stretching 13 months from May 2018 to June 2019, and added Silverstone last week, with the calendar gaining FIA approval in Paris.

Of the 2018 WEC rounds, there is just one clash with another FIA track championship: between the 6 Hours of Fuji and the F1 United States Grand Prix on the October 21 weekend.

While the more pressing worry for drivers is between WEC and Formula E after the July 16 debacle this year, no WEC and F1 clashes is good news for Fernando Alonso, who could well appear at Le Mans next year as part of his Triple Crown bid.

Formula E does have a number of F1 clashes, albeit not until the sixth event of its season, with the Rome race being held on the April 15 weekend where the Bahrain Grand Prix also sits (for now – China is due to swap dates).

Other Formula E and F1 clashes come on April 29 (Paris/Azerbaijan), June 10 (Zurich/Canada) and July 29 (Montreal/Hungary), although by shifting the New York City ePrix back one week to July 14-15, a gap has been found in the schedule.

For those operating across all three series (including yours truly), there is now a busy run between the start of the F1 season in Australia and the start of the summer break in Hungary with just three empty weekends.

As for IndyCar clashes? The condensed nature of the series’ schedule and the expansion of F1’s calendar to 21 races means they are inevitable. That said, as IndyCar is outside of the FIA’s realm of control, it was never really in the mix for its harmonization plans.

Yet again there is a clash between the Indianapolis 500 and the Monaco Grand Prix, sadly something we have become accustomed to in recent years, but over half the IndyCar calendar faces an F1 clash next year. There may be further ones to come when a couple other race dates get announced.

Here’s a full run-down of the F1/IndyCar double dip weekends thus far:

April 7-8: Chinese GP, Phoenix Grand Prix
April 14-15: Bahrain GP, Grand Prix of Long Beach
May 12-13: Spanish GP, Indianapolis GP
May 26-27: Monaco GP, Indianapolis 500
June 9-10: Canadian GP, Texas 600
June 23-24: French GP, Road America GP
July 7-8: British GP, Iowa Corn 300
August 25-26: Belgian GP, Gateway 500
September 15-16: Singapore GP, Sonoma GP

Bahrain, China ‘on-track’ to swap F1 race dates for 2018

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Next year’s Formula 1 races in China and Bahrain are “on-track” to swap dates in order to maximize their local exposure, according to the sport’s commercial chief, Sean Bratches.

The provisional F1 schedule for 2018 lists the Chinese Grand Prix as the second round of the season, taking place on April 8, with the Bahrain Grand Prix taking place one week later on April 15.

However, plans are afoot to swap the races around due to the Qingming national holiday that is set to take place in China on the April 8 weekend, potentially having a negative impact on crowd numbers at the Shanghai International Circuit.

“We’re trying to take into account global events, local events, religious holidays and things to ensure we’re maximizing the opportunity for fans to attend the grands prix,” Bratches told Reuters.

“We’re talking to both of them to that end and if we can reach a mutually agreed upon solution, which appears to be on-track to happen, you’ll probably see that,” he said.

No updates were made to the F1 schedule for 2018 at the latest meeting of the World Motor Sport Council in Paris this week, meaning no switch between Bahrain and China will be ratified until the start of December at the earliest.

NASCAR America: Scott Speed’s quest for Red Bull GRC three-peat

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Red Bull Global Rallycross points leader Scott Speed is going for his third consecutive championship next month (Saturday, October 14, 4:30 p.m. ET, NBC from Los Angeles) for the Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross team.

Prior to that, he joined Thursday’s edition of NBCSN’s NASCAR America, checking in with his former Red Bull Racing teammate Brian Vickers, show host Carolyn Manno and analyst Steve Letarte.

Speed talked teammate dynamics – he and Tanner Foust have been the class of the Red Bull GRC field for several years – and what it takes to succeed in the diverse championship that features racing on both pavement and dirt.

“Tanner comes from more of a more rally background and I come from more of an open-wheel, road course background,” Speed explained. “You have to meet in the middle and often times that creates success. Our personalties are polar opposites and that’s a good thing.”

One other thing Speed addressed was Austin Cindric’s couple notable incidents in the last month or so. Going for his maiden NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win, Cindric hit Kaz Grala at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park to move for the lead and ultimately the win.

Cindric then made his GRC Supercars debut at the most recent weekend in Seattle and the two collided after a miscommunication in a preliminary race, prior to the Joker section of the course.

“He’s a young kid with not a lot of experience. He’s made a couple big mistakes. He came in like a wrecking ball,” Speed laughed.

“I was more mad because the car couldn’t restart at first. But it did, and we got going.”