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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Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”