Photo: CoForce Public Relations

MRTI: Rinus VeeKay steps up to Pro Mazda with Juncos

Leave a comment

Rinus VeeKay will move up to the second rung of the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires ladder in 2018. The talented Dutch teenager will race with Juncos Racing in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, a year after coming second in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda to Oliver Askew.

VeeKay will run for the team that fielded the Pro Mazda champion this year, Victor Franzoni, and will be able to continue his battle with Askew for a second straight year in a second straight series.

Juncos’ release is below.

Juncos Racing announced today the 2017 Cooper Tires USF2000 Powered by Mazda championship runner-up, Rinus VeeKay will join the team for the 2018 Pro Mazda Presented by Cooper Tires championship. VeeKay is the first driver to join the reigning 2017 Pro Mazda champion team.

Rinus VeeKay, 17, of Hoofddorp, Netherlands recently completed a very successful run in the USF2000 championship, picking up one pole, three wins and 12 podiums within 14 races in his rookie season. VeeKay’s most notable weekend during the 2017 year came at Road America where he captured his first pole and swept the weekend taking both wins. VeeKay finished the season second in the championship, only seven points behind the champion.

Photo: CoForce Public Relations

“I feel very honored that I am able to join such a successful top team,” said VeeKay. “They have a very professional attitude and the connection we had during the test was excellent from the very first moment. I really felt at home with the team. When I visited Juncos Racing I was thrilled with their state-of-the-art facility. Everything was very clean and organized, just like a Formula 1 operation.”

VeeKay made his first run with Juncos Racing back in October during a two-day test in the new PM-18 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Team Owner Ricardo Juncos is confident the young 17 year old is a strong figure for the 2018 Juncos Racing Pro Mazda driver line-up.

“I am thrilled to announce Rinus (VeeKay) is joining Juncos Racing for the 2018 Pro Mazda season,” said Juncos. “We first worked with Rinus back in October testing at Mid-Ohio and were very pleased with him all around. He was very fast on track, and had a great professional approach when working with the crew and engineers. Rinus showed he will be a top contender on track and he is going to be an incredible asset to our Pro Mazda line-up this coming year. I want to thank Rinus and his family for the opportunity to add him to our program and look forward to a great year as we go for another championship!”

Title contenders stumble on the streets of Toronto

Photo: IndyCar
Leave a comment

The championship picture of the Verizon IndyCar Series saw a massive shakeup after Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto. While points leader Scott Dixon ended up in victory lane, his third win on the streets of Toronto and his third win of the 2018 season, all of his championship rivals stumbled.

Josef Newgarden, the pole sitter and second-place man in championship – he trailed Dixon by 33 points entering Sunday – led from the pole and looked to be a contender for the win, but a Lap 34 restart saw his day come apart.

Newgarden ran wide exiting the final corner coming to the green flag and smacked the outside wall. He plummeted through the field and pitted under caution – for a Turn 1 pileup involving Graham Rahal, Max Chilton, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Will Power, and Sebastien Bourdais – to allow the No. 1 Hitachi Chevrolet Team Penske group to examine the car for damage.

Newgarden continued on, but was never a contender the rest of the day, ultimately finishing ninth.

“I knew it would be low grip, but not zero grip. I just lost the front end completely,” Newgarden said in describing how the wall contact happened. “I feel terrible, it’s not fun to make a mistake.”

Alexander Rossi, who sits third in the championship, ran a steady sixth in the first stint until Lap 27, when contact with Will Power damaged his front wing. Rossi was then caught up in the melee on the Lap 34 restart, getting airborne over the left-front of his Andretti Autosport teammate Hunter-Reay.

Rossi again pitted for a new front wing – he had six stops in total – and ended up eighth on a day when he felt like a podium beckoned.

“It’s a pretty disappointing result. I don’t think we had the car to beat Scott (Dixon), but for sure with the problems that everyone had, we could’ve finished second. It’s been a difficult string of races,” Rossi said afterward.

Hunter-Reay, too, had a day forget. After going from sixth to third on the start, he spun his No. 28 DHL Honda into the Turn 3 Barrier on Lap 27. And like Rossi, he was caught up in the Lap 34 pileup, falling off the lead lap in the process.

Hunter-Reay languished in 16th at the checkered flag.

“It was a very unfortunate day and a big loss for us in points,” Hunter-Reay lamented. “The DHL Honda was running comfortable in third and pushing hard, but I had too much front brake lock and found the tire barrier – that’s my fault. Then after that, we got caught up in a wreck, which put us a lap down. From there we just fought to stay in front of the leader.”

Power, too, hit his struggles after the first stint, when contact with the Turn 11 wall, an incident similar to the one that his Team Penske teammate Newgarden had, bent the right-rear suspension of his No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet. He also had contact with Rossi later that lap.

Power lost two laps in the pits as the team made repairs, and he took the checkered flag in 18th.

“In the last corner, I brushed the wall and bent a rear toe link, so the car was a little bit out of whack. I didn’t even know that (Alexander) Rossi and I touched. I was just kind of trying to hang on until we got a yellow and could pit,” Power explained. “I’ve never had so many DNFs; not DNF for this race, but like a DNF in a season. Still, it’s kind of how this sport can go.”

All told, their struggles mean that Dixon leads the championship by 62 points over Newgarden. Rossi sits third, 70 points of the lead, followed by Hunter-Reay and Power, who sit 91 and 93 points out of the lead respectively.

And the next race, the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio (July 29 on NBCSN) won’t make it easy for them to make up ground, as Dixon’s record there is astoundingly strong. The four-time IndyCar champion has five wins at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, his most recent triumph coming in 2014, a race in which he famously came from last on the grid (22nd) to win.

Conversely, Newgarden, Rossi, Hunter-Reay, and Power have a combined one win at Mid-Ohio (Newgarden, last year).

However, the likes of Newgarden and Rossi still appear confident that they can make up for their Toronto struggles.

“We have to move on now and try to pick it back up. With the championship battle, we’ve got a long way to go. This doesn’t help but look, we have plenty of racing (left),” said Newgarden. “We need to keep our head up here. We’re going to be just fine, we’ve got fast cars and the best in the business. If we get our mistakes sorted out, we’re going to be just fine.”

Rossi, who finished sixth at Mid-Ohio last year, echoed similar sentiment, and thinks Mid-Ohio presents an opportunity to get back on track.

“We’re very good at Mid-Ohio, we’re kind of circling Toronto and Mid-Ohio as two races we were going to be pretty good at, so we got to reset, man, and just execute,” Rossi explained afterward. “We’re fast. We’re there every weekend. That’s the important thing. It’s a lot harder to be outside the top 10 and looking for answers. We’re fighting for pole every weekend. We’re in the Fast Six virtually every weekend, so you’re putting yourself in position to have a good result, it hasn’t come really since Texas.”

The 2018 championship is far from over – the season-ending GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma being a double-points event helps ensure as much. But, if Dixon does claim the 2018 title, Toronto may be the race that serves as the turning point.

Follow@KyleMLavigne