MRTI: Toronto Friday recap

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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The Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires kicked off its weekend on the streets of Toronto on Friday. The Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires held practice, while the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires held their first qualifying sessions of the weekend (Race 1 qualifying for USF2000, while Pro Mazda held qualifying for Race 1 and Race 2).

Quick recaps of those sessions for all three series are below.

Pro Mazda: VeeKay Sweeps Toronto Poles

Rinus VeeKay entered the weekend 46 points down to Parker Thompson in the championship and in need of a banner outing in order to make up ground. And he got his weekend off to a perfect start by capturing the pole for both Pro Mazda races, taking a pair of crucial championship points in the process.

Race 1 sees David Malukas, the winner of both races at Road America, flank VeeKay on the front row, with Thompson qualifying third ahead of Sting Ray Robb and Robert Megennis.

Race 2 again sees VeeKay and Malukas on the front row, though Thompson will start 14th and last on the grid after not setting a time due to an electrical issue. Megennis, Harrison Scott, and Sting Ray Robb round out the top five starting spots for Race 2.

In all, it means the door could be open for VeeKay to gain significant ground on Thompson in the championship hunt.

USF2000: Dickerson Takes Race 1 Pole, Kirkwood to Start Third

Dakota Dickerson will lead the USF2000 field to the green in Race 1 at Toronto. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Dakota Dickerson claimed the pole for Race 1 of the USF2000 weekend at Toronto in only his second weekend with ArmsUp Motorsports – he joined the team at Road America at the end of June.

However, he was not the driver with the fastest time at the end of the session. That driver was points leader Kyle Kirkwood, but he, Kaylen Frederick, and a host of others were penalized for not slowing down for a yellow flag.

Once everything was sorted out, the reshuffled order resulted in a pole for Dickerson.

Kaylen Frederick, who has three second place finishes in a row entering the weekend, will start Race 1 in second while Kirkwood will start third. Rasmus Lindh and Darren Keane rounded out the top five.

Of note: Alex Baron, currently second in the USF2000 championship, is conspicuous in his absence, as Swan-RJB Motorsports, the team with whom Baron competes, is not entered at Toronto. This means that Kirkwood, whose next closest rival is Frederick, is essentially 115 points up on “second place” Frederick, who is in position to overtake Baron this weekend.

Indy Lights: Franzoni Tops Friday Practice

Victor Franzoni during practice at Toronto. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Friday practice for Indy Lights saw Victor Franzoni go to the top of the board, followed by Santi Urrutia. Championship combatants Pato O’Ward and Colton Herta ended up third and fourth, with Ryan Norman, Aaron Telitz, and Dalton Kellett rounding out the field.

All three series will complete their first races of the weekend on Saturday. Pro Mazda will be the first to do so at 10:50 a.m. ET, followed by USF2000 at 11:45 a.m. ET. Race 1 for Indy Lights rolls off at 12:40 p.m. ET.

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Hunter and Jett Lawrence walk a delicate balance between winning races and favoring the fans

Hunter Jett Lawrence fans
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ANAHEIM, California – Hunter and Jett Lawrence are two of the most popular riders on the Monster Energy Supercross circuit, with fan bases that established and grew immediately when they came to America to ride for HRC Honda. Connecting with those fans came naturally for the charming Australian brothers, but it has not come without cost.

“It’s cool they’re there and it’s one of the things we try to do is give the fan that interaction,” Hunter told NBC Sports during Supercross Media Sessions ahead of the 2023 season. “It’s why we do ride days, meet-and-greets, press conferences  – all that stuff, because it’s exciting for them. We are trying to bridge the gap so they get personal interaction. Because that’s all they’re after. It’s all about getting that fan to think, ‘I know that guy. I didn’t meet him, but I get him. I get his humor.’ ”

There is no artifice in either brother. Their fan appeal is directly attributable to who they are at their core. And it’s that very genuineness that has throngs of fans standing outside their hauler, waiting for just a moment of their time.

“It’s about being yourself – talking to people,” Hunter said. “It’s not like I turn it on or turn it off; it’s just about being yourself. This is who we are, this is who you get and this is how it will be. You can’t portray something you’re not. If you keep saying you’re an orange, but apples keep popping out, it’s only a matter of time [until they figure it out].”

The key word is ‘throngs’, however. One person wanting just a few moments of time is incidental. Dozens are an entirely different matter.

“It’s tough in Supercross because it’s such a long day,” Hunter said. “The recovery side of it’s tough to do everything. We get stuck outside the grid; we can’t be there for like 10 minutes. We’re stuck there for like an hour. It gets overwhelming at times.

“You feel bad because you want to sign everything, but you’re still here for a job. Every race day is like that. We do the best we can, but there are so many people who wait out front. They’re screaming for you. Even when we’re coming off the sessions, they’re already yelling before you put your bike on the stands. You don’t even get time to take you helmet off.”

It can be a double-edged sword. Personality is only one part of the equation. A much bigger part of the brothers’ fan appeal comes because of their success. Hunter finished second in the last two Supercross 250 West title battles and third in the past two Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships.

Jett won the last three titles he competed for, including last year’s 250 East Supercross Championship and the last two Motocross contests.

“I think they expect me to have nothing else to do on a Saturday and that I have unlimited energy,” Jett said. “But, I’m trying to recover for the next race.”

It’s a matter of timing. Jett has gained a reputation last year for handing out hundreds of donuts before the races during Red Bull fan appreciation sessions. And after the race, once the business at hand has been settled, Jett is equally available to the fans.

“After the race it’s fine; I’ll stay behind.” Jett said. “My job is done on the racing side of things, but until that last moto is done, my main thing is dirt bikes. The fans come along with it. The fans are part of the job, but main job at hand is the racing side of things. After the race, I’ll stay there for an hour or so. It’s a lot calmer.”