Photo: Jason Zindroski/Red Bull GRC

Scott Speed completes Red Bull GRC title three-peat in L.A.

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Scott Speed has won his third consecutive Red Bull Global Rallycross championship for Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross, at the Port of Los Angeles, on a day when teammate Tanner Foust forced the issue with a perfect day of his own to win the 12th and final round of the season, and capped off a three-race win streak to end the year.

Speed is the first three-time champion in Red Bull GRC history, breaking a tie between he and Foust on two.

“The whole week leading up to the race was thinking about the what if’s. My hat’s off. I have the best team out here. It’s a team effort; I’m probably the smallest part to do with this!” Speed told NBC’s Will Christien post-race.

Speed entered the weekend with a 30-point lead over Foust and executed a clean, major drama-free day through the preliminary races before the 10-lap Supercars final.

Foust won all three heat races before the semifinals. Speed ended second, third and fourth in the three heats, which were lower results than he might have expected. In the first heat, the third driver still mathematically eligible for the title, Steve Arpin, got eliminated.

In the semifinals, Foust won semifinal one, which brought the gap down to 14 points to Speed before the second semifinal. Speed won the second semifinal, rebounding from contact with Chris Atkinson’s Subaru off the start and then using the Joker to pass Patrik Sandell and Sebastian Eriksson in one fell swoop on the fourth of six laps. That brought the gap back up to 24 points going into the final (781-757), and with Foust needing to win and have Speed end ninth or lower to overcome the gap.

Cabot Bigham had the opportunity to play spoiler for Bryan Herta Rallysport, starting on the outside of Speed and Foust on the front row going into the final. Foust, Sandell and Bigham moved into the top three positions through the opening corners with Speed falling back to fourth.

Foust controlled the race from there en route to the flag over Speed, who used the Joker to pass Sandell for second on the final lap. He ended 19 points behind, unofficially, with Arpin in third.

With his 16th career win, Foust regained the lead in all-time GRC finals wins. “The key is qualifying, so the battle was getting that done. We snuck that from Scott. There was a glimmer of hope. We made it through the heats and actually had a chance to win if Scott was eighth or less. We were hungry for it! I thought he might get caught up a bit. I’m so happy for our team on the Rockstar and Andretti tent. We had a tough Atlantic City but won everything since. Hopefully we’ll carry some of that for next year to make it even faster and better,” Foust told Christien.

MRTI: Toronto digest

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Last year’s visit to the streets of Toronto for the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires proved to be a pivotal point in the championship chase that year.

Kyle Kaiser swept both races in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, and doing so gave him firm control over the championship, and he all but clinched it ahead of the season finale at Watkins Glen – Kaiser needed to only start that event to wrap up the title.

And in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, while Parker Thompson swept the weekend, Oliver Askew was caught up in a crash in Race 2. Combine that with a second place finish from 2017 title rival Rinus VeeKay – VeeKay also finished third in Race 1 – and it kept the championship within reach of VeeKay, who took it all the way to the finale at The Glen.

The 2018 visit north of the border will likely be remembered for a similar impact on the MRTI championships, both in Indy Lights and USF2000 and, maybe most significantly, in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires.

A look at big stories to emerge from a wild weekend on the streets of Toronto is below.

Indy Lights

Santi Urrutia scored a much needed win in Race 2 on the streets of Toronto. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
  • Santi Urrutia’s championship hopes were teetering entering the weekend – he was 49 points out of the lead and had been vastly overshadowed by title combatants Pato O’Ward and Colton Herta for most of the season. But, his Race 2 victory combined with a second place in Race 1 to close him to within 40 points of O’Ward for the championship lead. He’s still a bit of a long shot, but his chances look much brighter leaving Toronto than they did entering.
  • More significantly, Colton Herta’s title hopes may have taken an enormous hit. After crashing in Race 1 qualifying, just after grabbing the pole as well, Herta suffered a thumb fracture that he aggravated again after crashing during Race 1. It forced the team to recommend Herta essentially sit out Race 2 – he pulled off after running only a couple laps and finished sixth – and he dropped to 18 points behind O’Ward, who won Race 1 and finished second in Race 2. The margin is hardly a commanding one for O’Ward, but with the next stop at the ultra-physical Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Herta’s injured hand could remain a factor in the coming races and allow O’Ward to widen the margin.
  • One can’t help but feel bad for Victor Franzoni. Coming off the high of winning his first Indy Lights Race at Road America, Franzoni’s season took a turn for the worse. He crashed in Race 1 and then pulled off in Race 2 in order to conserve finances and resources – Franzoni detailed afterward that the budget is tight for him this year and crash damage from Race 1 does him no good. It would be a genuine shame if Franzoni’s season was derailed by funding issues, as the likeable Brazilian has made great progress all year and has the potential to make it as a Verizon IndyCar Series driver. He just needs the backing to get there.

Pro Mazda

Rinus VeeKay now trails Parker Thompson by only seven points in the Pro Mazda championship. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
  • No Mazda Road to Indy Championship was shaken up as much as Pro Mazda. Parker Thompson entered the weekend with a sizeable lead of 46 points over Rinus VeeKay. He exits the weekend only seven points ahead after finishes of eighth in both races – he was involved in a crash in Race 1 and made an unscheduled pit stop after thinking he suffered suspension damage in Race 2. Meanwhile, VeeKay dominated the weekend, winning from the pole in both races. It all means that what was once looking like a possible runaway has been all but reset. And we might see a genuine duel between them all the way to the season finale at Portland International Raceway.
  • There are few words to describe the relief everyone felt in seeing Harrison Scott walk away unhurt after his frightening airborne crash in Race 1. This was the first major crash test in a race for the Tatuus PM-18, and it aced it. And big kudos should also be given to the AMR Safety Team, who were already tending to Scott barely a few seconds after his car had come to a rest. Scott did start Race 2, but pulled off with a mechanical problem…which seems minor in comparison to what could have happened in Race 1.
  • Oliver Askew had his best race of the year in Race 2, finishing second to VeeKay for his second podium of the season. It’s been a tough year for Askew and Cape Motorsports after winning last year’s USF2000 title, and getting a podium under their belt could be just what they needed heading into the season’s stretch run.

USF2000

Kyle Kirkwood continued his USF2000 dominance on the streets of Toronto. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
  • After another weekend sweep, Kyle Kirkwood has one hand on the USF2000 championship. He leads Kaylen Frederick by a staggering 131 points – that’s over four road course races worth of points. He may well leave Mid-Ohio as the USF2000 champion. And even if he doesn’t, it would take something unheard of to keep the championship from his grasp.
  • Kaylen Frederick sits second, only three points up on Igor Fraga. Fraga had his best race since Race 2 on the streets of St. Petersburg, when he finished second, and he nearly outdueled Kirkwood for the win in Race 2. Both he and Frederick have caught fire of late, and their battle for second is very evenly matched.
  • Don’t count out Rasmus Lindh in the battle for second in the championship either. The Swedish driver is seven points behind Frederick and scored his third podium of the year by finishing third in Race 2 at Toronto. Second is well within his reach.

The Mazda Road to Indy is off this weekend before heading to Mid-Ohio, where Indy Lights and USF2000 again have double headers, while Pro Mazda will enjoy a triple header.

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