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 Motor Speedway can have 10,000 fans for IndyCar races

Indianapolis Motor Speedway fans
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Indianapolis Motor Speedway will have crowds for its NTT IndyCar Series race weekend next month, the first time fans are allowed at the track this year.

The track announced Friday that up to 10,000 fans will be allowed in the grandstands daily from Oct. 1-4. The IndyCar Harvest GP race doubleheader will be held on the track’s road course Oct. 2-3.

IMS has played host to several events this year without fans, including the 104th Indianapolis 500 on Aug. 23 and a NASCAR-IndyCar weekend July 4-5 that included the Brickyard 400. Plans originally were made to have fans at the Indy 500 before reversing course a few weeks ahead of the race. In a letter last month, Roger Penske vowed that fans would return for the 2021 Indy 500.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS president Doug Boles said in a release. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

Fans will undergo temperature screenings upon entry and also be required to wear face coverings at all times on property. The track said each attendee will receive a mask and bottle of hand sanitizer.

The Friday, Oct. 2 race will be shown at 3:30 p.m. ET on USA, and NBC will broadcast the Saturday, Oct. 3 race at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Here’s the release from Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020 – For the first time in 2020, Indianapolis Motor Speedway will welcome fans to the Racing Capital of the World for the INDYCAR Harvest GP presented by GMR weekend. Up to 10,000 spectators can be in the grandstands each day of racing action Oct. 1-4, per approval from the Marion County Public Health Department.

Tickets are available now via IMS.com and will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis.

The massive facility, which holds more than 300,000 people, will provide two spectator zones with up to 5,000 fans in each. The zones will be located in Turns 1 and 4 of the oval, offering strong sightlines of the road course. Strict health and safety rules will be in place, including the following:

  • Face coverings must be worn throughout the property at all times;
  • All fans will receive temperature screenings before gate entry;
  • Grandstand seats will be marked for distancing;
  • Attendees must use pre-assigned gates and remain in their designated zones.

Global Medical Response, the world leader in compassionate, quality emergency medical and patient relocation services, will be the presenting sponsor of the penultimate weekend of INDYCAR racing this season.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

The plan, which includes each attendee receiving a mask and a bottle of hand sanitizer upon entering the track, was developed in consultation with state and local health officials.

This event weekend is highlighted by an NTT INDYCAR SERIES doubleheader, with races Friday, Oct. 2 and Saturday, Oct. 3. It will be the penultimate event of the series’ season as the field pursues the champion’s prestigious Astor Challenge Cup to be awarded Sunday, Oct. 25 at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

The INDYCAR Harvest GP will pay tribute to a storied IMS event, the Harvest Classic in September 1916. The Harvest Classic was the only racing event held outside of May at IMS from 1911 through 1993. The event featured three races, all won by legendary driver Johnny Aitken.

Fans also will see a host of facility improvements during the event weekend, including more than 30 new LED video boards, refreshed concession stands and restrooms, and 5G wireless connectivity throughout the facility.

The first race will air at 3:30 p.m. (ET) Friday, Oct. 2 on the USA Network. NBC will broadcast the second race at 2:30 p.m. (ET) Saturday, Oct. 3, with WTHR-13 airing the action live in Central Indiana.

Also racing that weekend will be the first pairing of two major sports car series — the Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli and its North American counterpart, GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS. Former Indianapolis 500 pole winner Ryan Briscoe is among the drivers in the Indianapolis 8 Hour event held Sunday, Oct. 4.

The event also will showcase drivers in SRO America’s Pirelli GT4 America, GT Sports Club America and the TC America series.

The full on-track schedule is available at IMS.com.