Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

MRTI: Toronto Saturday recap

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Saturday was a bit of a carnage-filled day for all three series of the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires, as all three series were affected by multiple caution periods for incidents on track.

The Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires saw one championship contender take his fifth win of the year, while the other saw his day end early against the wall.

Similarly, the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires saw one title rival gain ground by taking a dominant victory, while the other was one of several drivers to be involved in a crash – and one incident saw a driver get airborne in one of the scarier looking accidents Pro Mazda has seen in a while.

And in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, the runaway championship leader took his fifth win in a row to increase his already enormous points lead.

Reports on all three races are below.

Indy Lights: O’Ward Takes Victory as Herta Crashes

Pato O’Ward celebrates winning Indy Lights Race 1 on the streets of Toronto. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Pato O’Ward came out on top in Indy Lights Race 1, while title rival Colton Herta crashed for only the second time this year.

O’Ward took the lead on the start after the pole sitting Herta struggled to get away – Herta detailed that Santi Urrutia, who started third, had gotten under the back of Herta’s car and just slightly lifted it off the ground, which bogged Herta down when the green flag waved.

It allowed O’Ward to surge into the lead ahead of Aaron Telitz and Ryan Norman, while Herta fell to fourth and Urrutia fell to seventh – Urrutia eventually came into the pits to allow his No. 5 Belardi Auto Racing team to assess the damage, as he suffered a hole in the nose cone.

Herta began charging forward, passing both Norman and Telitz to run second behind O’Ward, and he even got within a couple car lengths of him. However, Herta’s charge came to an abrupt end on Lap 23 when he impacted the Turn 5 wall on exit, damaging the right side of his Dallara IL-15.

Racing resumed in Lap 26, with O’Ward maintaining a lead over the Belardi teammates of Telitz and Urrutia, who used an earlier yellow for Dalton Kellett – Kellett gently nosed his car into the tire barriers before continuing – to catch up to the field.

Urrutia and Telitz battled for second, and Urrutia came out on top after an outside pass in Turn 3, but he cut across the nose of his teammate entering the corner, causing a broken wing for Telitz.

Urrutia then set his sights on O’Ward, but with a light rain starting to fall, Urrutia spun exiting Turn 8. Victor Franzoni then crashed in Turn 5, bringing out a final caution. And with the series unable to clean things up in time get back going, the race ended under yellow.

O’Ward was left to take the win, followed by Urrutia and Ryan Norman, who survived the chaos to take his first podium finish of the year. Telitz ended up fourth with Kellett and fifth. Franzoni and Herta were credited with sixth and seventh.

O’Ward that, despite leading every lap, the race was from easy, due tricky conditions, highlighting a light rain that hit the track during the race.

“That was one of the hardest races of the season, mentally and physically,” O’Ward revealed. I had to be very careful. I saw the rain getting harder and harder, and you never know what to expect. Some corners here are a real risk in the rain. I tried to keep it clean and do everything in my power to keep the car on the track and not make any mistakes

Race 2 rolls off at 12:25 p.m. on Sunday. O’Ward now leads Herta by eight points.

Pro Mazda: VeeKay Wins Crash-Filled Race 1 as Thompson Falters

Rinus VeeKay celebrates winning Race 1 on the streets of Toronto. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Rinus VeeKay dominated Race 1 in Toronto to take his third victory of the year, but his run to an unchallenged victory felt like somewhat of an afterthought in a race heavily affected by crashes.

The carnage began with a frightening incident on Lap 1, in which RP Motorsport driver Harrison Scott launched over Sting Ray Robb entering Turn 3. Scott had tried to pass Antonio Serravalle on inside but accidentally clipped the Exclusive Autosport driver, damaging Scott’s car and causing him to hit the back of Sting Ray Robb.

Scott was subsequently launched up and over Robb and landed upside down in the Turn 3 runoff area. Serravalle, Robb, and Andres Gutierrez were also involved, while Robert Megennis went off in Turn 1 in a separate incident – the combination of everything resulted in a full course caution.

Racing resumed on Lap 8, with Rinus VeeKay leading Parker Thompson and David Malukas, but their battle for second ended in tears one lap later when they made contact in Turn 1. Malukas tried diving inside of Thompson, but the two got together, sending Malukas into the wall and damaging the rear suspension of Thompson. Both dropped out, and the incident opened the door for VeeKay to gain significant ground on points leader Thompson.

Racing resumed again on Lap 13, but another caution flew one lap later when Kris Wright ended up in the Turn 8 tire barriers.

A final restart on lap 19 saw VeeKay take off away from the field and he cruised home in the final laps to take the win. His Juncos Racing teammate Carlos Cunha took advantage of the carnage to finish second after starting 11th, while Raul Guzman survived an intense battle with Oliver Askew and Nikita Lastochkin to finish third – Askew and Lastochkin ended up fourth and fifth.

VeeKay described afterward that, while he feels sympathy for championship rivals Thompson and Malukas, winning on a when when the struggled is a big help to his title chances.

“I feel badly for them, but to have Parker and David not finish is a boost for me in the championship,” VeeKay revealed. “It was hard with all the yellows as well, since there was so much time spent not completely focused on the race. I knew the guys that were close to me in lap times were out, so I just had to do a good restart and set the quickest race lap. I focused on that and not hitting any walls, just being very clean.”

Results are below. Race 2 rolls off Sunday at 10:40 a.m. ET, with VeeKay again starting on the pole, while Thompson will start 14th. VeeKay now sits 26 points behind Thompson in the championship.

USF2000: Kirkwood Takes Fifth Win in a Row

Kyle Kirkwood took his fifth USF2000 win in a row by winning Race 1 on the streets of Toronto. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Kyle Kirkwood continued to bully the USF2000 field on Saturday, taking the lead right off the start – he started third, but passed pole sitter Dakota Dickerson and Kaylen Frederick in Turn 1 – and led every lap from there, with a late caution sealing the victory for him as the race ended under yellow.

The victory is Kirkwood’s fifth in a row, and sixth of the 2018 season.

“We started third but I timed the start perfectly and I was on Dakota’s gearbox the entire way into Turn 1. He left the door open just a little bit and I was able to take it,” Kirkwood of his opening lap pass. “We had one caution but I kept that gap and honestly, it couldn’t have gone any better. Now that we have a big lead I can charge after wins as hard as I can.”

Behind Kirkwood, Dickerson came home in second for his first podium of 2018, while Frederick finished third, his fourth podium finish in a row. Rasmus Lindh and Keith Donegan completed the top five.

Results are below. Race rolls off Sunday morning at 9:45 a.m.

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Indianapolis 500 weather forecast: Rain chances decreasing for start

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INDIANAPOLIS — As the green flag keeps approaching for the 103rd Indianapolis 500, the chances of clear skies Sunday keep increasing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The chance of rain at the start of the race was down to about 30%, according to the wunderground.com site as of late Saturday night, and the forecast seemed good until late afternoon when the odds of precipitation rose to about 80%.

If the race starts on time at12:45 p.m. ET, that should be a long enough window to run the full 500 miles and certainly an official race (102 of 200 laps).

With Indiana on the western edge of the Eastern Time Zone and a 9:02 p.m. sunset on race day, Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Doug Boles said the green flag probably could be held as late as 6 p.m. if a worst-case scenario of bad weather hits.

THE 103RD INDIANAPOLIS 500: Click here for how to watch

“We ran the NASCAR race (in 2017) almost right up to sunset,” Boles said. “The challenge of getting closer to sunset is just getting people out when it’s still light. The race itself is more than 2 hours and 40 minutes so you have to back-time yourself.

“We’ll sit down with IndyCar over the next 24 hours and at least have that in the back of our mind. If there’s a window to get it done, our intent would be get it in Sunday, so we would want to go as late as we could.”

Boles said National Weather Service representatives are on site this weekend to help with forecasting. Regardless of if there still is a threat of rain, the track will start the race on time as long as the surface is dry.

“I can’t imagine we’d postpone the start because we think it might rain,” Boles said. “If it’s not raining, we’re running the race.

Boles said track officials are monitoring Sunday’s weather daily but won’t discuss any potential contingency plans until Saturday night. Regardless of whether it’s raining Sunday morning, some pre-race ceremonies likely will remain in place.

“It’s hard to speculate on what’s going to happen,” he said. “It’s likely Sunday morning will be the first time that we have any definitive statement on what we think is going to happen. Instead of giving you information that we don’t know what it’s going to be like, I’d rather wait until that Sunday when we see the conditions, and we’ll let you know.

“Obviously, if it’s raining, then we’ll have to decide what the next steps are.”

Boles said Indiana weather traditionally is unpredictable, noting that qualifying was completed last Sunday despite predictions of a complete washout.

“Last year the prediction was it was going to rain on race day, we got up next morning, and it was perfect,” Boles said. “It just changes so rapidly around here.”

Should it rain, IndyCar officials will make every reasonable attempt to run the Indy 500 on time,. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway also recently used a new sealant on the track surface which makes it quicker to dry the racing surface.

During the previous 102 runnings of the Indy 500, there have been 12 impacted by rain: three complete postponements; two partial postponements and seven shortened races.

So what happens if it does rain? Some options:

Rain-shortened race

The Indy 500 could turn into the Indy 255. If more than 255 miles (102 laps) are completed in Sunday’s race, the race can be deemed official. If the race is called, driver’s finishing positions are based on their position in the race at the time of the caution flag for rain.

The Indy 500 has been shortened by rain only seven times, most recently in 2007. The race was stopped nearly three hours because of rain on Lap 113 and was declared officially over with Dario Franchitti in the lead when rain again hit at the 415-mile mark.

Partial postponement

If fewer than 102 laps are completed Sunday, the race will resume on the next dry day. With most Americans on holiday Monday because of Memorial Day, a partial postponement still might allow for a healthy audience at the track and watching on NBC.

The race has been partially postponed only twice in the 102 previous runnings, in 1967 and 1973.

Complete postponement

Fans shouldn’t worry too much about a complete postponement of the race, as it has only happened three times, most recently in 1997. If rain completely postpones the Indy 500, the race will be rescheduled for the next day with the start time dependent on the forecast.

The 1997 race ran 15 laps on Monday before rain again postponed the remainder of the race until Tuesday. The 1915 and ’86 runnings were postponed until the following Saturday.