Kvyat excited, Vergne less so for Malaysian GP

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The opinions are different in the Scuderia Toro Rosso camp as the Italian squad seeks an encore of its double points season opener this week in Malaysia.

At least one of the team’s drivers is happy to be there. Russian rookie Daniil Kvyat, who became the youngest points scorer in Formula One history on his debut, has special memories of the Sepang International Circuit.

“The second race of the season is also the first track that I have visited before,” he said in the team’s advance release. “I took my first ever single-seater win here for BMW in 2010 and actually this is also where I drove my very first single-seater race, so I have plenty of memories of this circuit. It’s going to seem very different this time, because there’s a huge step from Formula BMW to Formula One.”

Kvyat likes the circuit’s characteristics, and coupled with the fact he has a Grand Prix weekend now under his belt, he’s looking forward to the weekend.

“The track itself is quite interesting, while the heat and humidity make it unique in that respect,” he said. “I am sure I can be more confident this weekend, after experiencing my first race weekend in Melbourne combined with the fact I know the track.”

Teammate Jean-Eric Vergne  has scored points in both his Malaysian GP appearances (eighth in 2012, 10th in 2013), the only track where he has such a streak in his career. But he doesn’t particularly like the circuit.

“It’s not one of my favorite tracks to be honest, as I don’t feel it has any particularly challenging characteristics,” he said. “The best thing about this race is its unpredictable nature, because of the weather: you can start on slicks and within a few laps, you need extreme wets because of a heavy storm and that can be fun for a driver.”

Toro Rosso’s eighth and ninth place results at Australia netted them six points already for the Constructor’s Championship, and they look to build on that this weekend.

MRTI: Lucas Oil Raceway Recap

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Friday marked Carb Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, but there was also plenty of activity over in Brownsburg, Indiana at Lucas Oil Raceway.

Friday night’s Carb Night Classic featured the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda in their first oval events of the year: the Freedom 75 (USF2000) and the Freedom 90 (Pro Mazda).

Both races saw the points leaders in their respective series dominate, further asserting their championship prowess, and taking their first oval victories in the process.

Recaps of both races are below.

Pro Mazda: Thompson Holds Off Cunha for First Oval Win

The Freedom 90 saw Parker Thompson appear to be almost on cruise control for much of the race, as the Exclusive Autosport driver immediately jumped into the lead off the initial start and he began rocketing away from the field.

Behind him, a pair of Juncos Racing cars emerged in second and third, with Carlos Cunha ahead of Robert Megennis in that battle.

However, Thompson’s initial lead was wiped out following a Lap 46 crash involving David Malukas and Harrison Scott. The pair had been engaged in an intense battle for fourth, but came together in Turn 4, sending Scott spinning into the outside wall while Malukas eventually came to a stop alongside the front straightaway wall.

Thompson again pulled away when racing resumed on Lap 55, while Cunha immediately gave chase, passing the lapped car of Lodovico Laurini as he tried to keep Thompson in his sights.

Lapped traffic continued to play a key role in the closing stages, with Thompson getting briefly held up behind Nikita Lastochkin and Oliver Askew, allowing Cunha to close onto his gearbox in the final laps.

However, Thompson kept Cunha at bay to take the win, his third of the Pro Mazda season. Megennis drove a solid race to finish third, while Rinus VeeKay put three Juncos cars in the top five by finishing fourth. Team Pelfrey’s Sting Ray Robb finished fifth.

Thompson’s win sees him extend his points lead over VeeKay to 36, with Cunha only two points further back in third.

USF2000: Kirkwood Rolls to Victory in Oval Debut

Kyle Kirkwood was untouchable at Lucas Oil Raceway. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

If his first career oval proved a challenge for Cape Motorsports’ Kyle Kirkwood, he certainly did not show it. Starting on the pole, Kirkwood rocketed away into the lead and was never challenged.

Behind him, however, his closest title rival faltered. Alex Baron, who charged from eighth to third on Lap 1, crashed out while working his way around the lapped car of Russ McDonough. Baron was visibly upset and frustrated while walking along the pit lane after climbing out of the No. 29 Swan-RJB Motorsports Tatuus USF-17.

Racing only briefly returned to green on Lap 40 before Zach Holden rode up and over the back of Julian van der Watt, with both cars coming to a stop on the back straightaway.

A restart on Lap 50 again saw Kirkwood pull away, while Kaylen Frederick worked his way up to second around Rasmus Lindh and Lucas Kohl.

The race came to a close only eight laps later – the cautions brought a 30-minute time limit into play, preventing them from completing the originally planned 75-lap race.

In the end, no one got close to Kirkwood, who took a win on his oval debut, his third win of the 2018 season. Frederick came home second for his first podium of the year, and his first with Pabst Racing Services, while Rasmus Lindh rounded out the podium in third. Kohl and Jose Sierra completed the top five in fourth and fifth.

Kirkwood’s win combined with Baron’s crash to give Kirkwood a championship lead of 44 points. Sierra remains third, one point ahead of Igor Fraga.

Both series are back in action for double-headers at Road America on June 23-24.

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