Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

MRTI: Toronto Sunday recap

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Sunday for the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires completed their weekend on the streets of Toronto, and the “concrete canyon” north of the border more than made its mark on the title fights in all three series.

The Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires saw a fringe title contender keep his hopes alive with a win, while one of the main combatants finished second as the other DNF’ed due to an injury.

And the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires saw a once sizeable gap between the top two in title chase almost completely erased after a weekend sweep for the driver in second and a second tough outing for the points leader.

Meanwhile, the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda saw its points leader essentially put one hand on the championship trophy after completing a weekend sweep of his own.

Reports on all three races are below.

Indy Lights: Urrutia Wins Race 2; O’Ward Finishes Second While an Injured Herta DNFs

Santi Urrutia dominated Race 2 for his second victory of the 2018 season. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Santi Urrutia led from the pole and led every lap on his way to a dominant victory in Indy Lights Race 2 on the streets of Toronto.

It is the second victory of the year for Urrutia – he won Race 2 on the streets of St. Petersburg – and sees him gain a little ground on points leader Pato O’Ward in the championship. O’Ward finished second, followed by Aaron Teltiz.

However, Colton Herta, who suffered a thumb fracture in a crash just after taking pole in Race 1 qualifying and crashed again during Race 1 to further complicate the injury, pulled off after only doing a couple of laps. A disappointed Herta was following guidance of the Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing team, as contesting Race 2 on the bumpy Toronto street circuit could have ultimately caused further problems for Herta and made the injury worse.

Victor Franzoni also pulled off after only a few laps, but his DNF was down to budget concerns. A crash in Race 1 forced him and Juncos Racing to conserve resources and finances in Race 2, and they elected to pull off rather than risk more crash damage.

Results of Race 2 are below. O’Ward now leads Herta by 18 points, with Urrutia closing the gap down to 40 between the top three.

Pro Mazda: VeeKay Completes Weekend Sweep as Thompson Again Struggles in Race 2

Rinus VeeKay completed a weekend sweep on the streets of Toronto and again slashed the gap to points leader Park Thompson. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Rinus VeeKay was once again in perfect form in Pro Mazda Race 2 on Sunday, leading every lap from the pole to take his second win of the weekend, and his fourth of the 2018 season.

Meanwhile, title rival Parker Thompson endured a second consecutive troublesome day – he started 14th and ran as high as seventh before an unscheduled stop after possible contact with Sting Ray Robb.

VeeKay led from the pole off the start, but the battle from second on back was a tightly contested battle royale in the opening laps. Robert Megennis got around David Malukas for second on Lap 1, but the two of them had the rest of the field on their tails as Oliver Askew, Carlos Cunha, Sting Ray Robb, Raul Guzman, Andres Gutierrez, Parker Thompson, and the rest of the field created a train behind them.

Things came to a head at the beginning of Lap 3 when Guzman and Gutierrez got together in the final corner – their contact and crash resulted in a lengthy caution after the back of Guzman’s No. 27 RP Motorsport Tatuus PM-18 came off and dropped a lot of fluid on the track.

VeeKay again shot off into the lead and away from the field when racing resumed, while the previously intense battle for second picked up right where it left off, with Megennis, Malukas, Robb, Cunha, Thompson, and Nikita Lastochkin again continuing their train from P2 on back.

It was here that Thompson’s Race 2 unraveled, as he tried a dive inside of Robb to take sixth in Turn 3, but overshot the corner slightly and ended up making slight contact with Robb. Thompson subsequently pitted, thinking the car suffered damage after he began falling back. He eventually rejoined the fight, but two laps off the lead.

Up front, VeeKay seemed to be on cruise control in the lead, while Askew emerged in second ahead of Megennis. However, the finish was put in doubt due to a late caution when Cunha and Malukas went off in Turn 3 in separate incidents – Cunha slid into the tire barrier, while Malukas slid into the runoff area.

That allowed Askew to get on VeeKay’s gearbox for a final restart, but VeeKay held him off in the final laps to complete the weekend sweep. Askew came home second, his best finish of the season, while Megennis came home third, his third podium of the year.

Thompson ended up finishing eighth.

Race 2 results are below. VeeKay now trails Thompson by only seven points.

USF2000: Kirkwood Outduels Fraga for Race 2 Win

Kyle Kirkwood came out on top in Race 2 after a race-long battle with Igor Fraga. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

USF2000 also saw a driver complete a weekend sweep, as Kyle Kirkwood took his second win of the weekend, but things were not quite as straightforward in this one.

Kirkwood started eighth, and found himself in the lead after a chaotic Lap 1 saw Keith Donegan and pole sitter Kaylen Frederick overshoot Turn 3 – Donegan ended up in the tire barrier while Frederick was blocked by Donegan’s incident. It resulted in a Turn 3 pileup that also collected Dakota Dickerson – he spun in the aftermath – as well Darren Keane, Colin Kaminsky, Russell McDonough, and more.

When racing resumed, Kirkwood was immediately under threat from Igor Fraga, who quickly got by him in Turn 3.

Kirkwood then spent the rest of the race hounding Fraga at every corner, several times trying an outside pass entering Turn 3, but coming up short every time – he even came close to crashing once after locking up the brakes and overshooting the corner entry.

However, in Turn 8 in the final minutes, Kirkwood was finally able to make the winning move and pass Fraga for the lead, which he held from there to take the win.

Rasmus Lindh finished third after a race-long battle with Daniel Frost and Kaylen Frederick, who rebounded to run inside the top five. Frost ended up fourth, in his USF2000 debut, while Frederick went off again in Turn 3 in the final minutes and fell back to eighth. Julian Van der Watt rounded out the top five in fifth.

Results are below. Kirkwood’s championship lead now stands at an astounding 131 points over second-place Frederick.

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IMSA Prototype Season in Review

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IMSA Wire Service

It was a year of change for the IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda. The longtime sprint series evolved in 2018 to six one-hour, 45-minute endurance races that allowed teams to run single or two-driver combinations with a required minimum-time pit stop. The result: record-high car counts in the LMP3 class with Kris Wright ultimately winning the series championship for Extreme Speed Motorsports, while Cameron Cassels took home the LMP3 Masters title. In the MPC class, meanwhile, series veteran Jon Brownson won his first championship in the final season for the class with a breakthrough win one week ago in the season finale at Road Atlanta.

This season-in-review takes a look back at the path each of the three champions took on their way to history.

1. Daytona International Speedway, January 6

Winners
LMP3: Roman De Angelis, No. 4 ANSA Motorsports Ligier JS P3
LMP3 Masters: Gary Gibson, No. 44 Ave Motorsports Ave-Riley AR2
MPC: Robert Masson, No. 11 Performance Tech Motorsports Elan DP02

How the Champions Fared
Not only was the season-opener during the Roar Before the Rolex 24 weekend the first endurance race for the IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda, it also was the first race for the series at the iconic Daytona International Speedway. Wright, driving the No. 30 Extreme Speed Motorsports Ligier JS P3 scored his first podium of the season alongside co-driver Daniel Morad with a third-place finish behind Porsche GT3 Challenge driver and winner Roman De Angelis and co-drivers Austin McCusker and David Droux, finishing second for the upstart Forty7 Motorsports team. Masson scored the MPC win, lapping all but one car, while Brownson came home fifth.

2. Sebring International Raceway, March 16

Winners
LMP3: Leo Lamelas / Pato O’Ward, No. 7 Charles Wicht Racing Ligier JS P3
LMP3 Masters: James McGuire Jr., No. 26 K2R Motorsports Ligier JS P3
MPC: Dave House, No. 86 ONE Motorsports Elan DP02

How the Champions Fared
The round at Sebring featured a late-race restart that saw eventual 2018 Indy Lights champion and 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Prototype Challenge champion O’Ward drive from fourth to first in the closing laps to secure the win for full-time driver Lamelas. Wright, meanwhile, finished third for the second consecutive time to start the season with a new co-driver, Michael Whelden. The No. 47 Forty7 Motorsports entry again finished second with McCusker now joined by TJ Fischer, who would go on to run the full season with the team. Coming out of Sebring, McCusker would lead Wright by four points, 64-60. Between Sebring and the next round at Barber Motorsports Park, Wright would decide to contest the full season for Extreme Speed Motorsports.

It was a special victory in the MPC class with House becoming IMSA’s oldest race winner at the age of 75. Foreshadowing a points race that what would ultimately come down to the season finale at Road Atlanta, the top five in the MPC standings are separated by two points leaving Sebring, with Brownson seventh, 12 points out, after a ninth-place finish.

3. Barber Motorsports Park, April 21

Winners
LMP3: Kris Wright / Yann Clairay, No. 30 Extreme Speed Motorsports Ligier JS P3
LMP3 Masters: Rob Hodes, No. 51 K2R Motorsports Ligier JS P3
MPC: Michal Chlumecky, No. 31 Eurosport Racing Elan DP02

How the Champions Fared
The only standalone event for the IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda would prove to be the turning point in the LMP3 class. Leading all but one practice session on the weekend and starting the race from the pole, Wright and co-driver Clairay dominated the event, only losing the lead briefly on a cycle of green flag pit stops. Wright’s biggest competition for the championship, meanwhile, the No. 47 Forty7 Motorsports team, seemed poised to score its third consecutive runner-up finish of the season to hold onto the LMP3 points lead, but contact between Fischer and an MPC car with five minutes remaining relegated the team to a 16th-place finish. Entering the weekend down four points in the standings, Wright left Barber up six points, 95-89, over Lamelas.

Chlumecky scored his first MPC class win since 2012, while teammate Brownson, the Sebring pole winner, capped off a Eurosport Racing 1-2 finish placing second in the team’s No. 34 entry. Masson rounded out the podium with a third-place finish in the No. 11 Performance Tech Motorsports Elan DP02 to regain the class lead. Brownson left Barber eight points behind Masson, fifth in the standings.

4. Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, July 8

Winners
LMP3: Austin McCusker / TJ Fischer, No. 47 Forty7 Motorsports Norma M30
LMP3 Masters: Dean Baker, No. 4 ANSA Motorsports Ligier JS P3
MPC: Howard Jacobs / James French, No. 77 Performance Tech Motorsports Elan DP02

How the Champions Fared
The long overdue first victory for Forty7 Motorsports finally came at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park for McCusker and Fischer, but a second-place finish for Wright meant McCusker could only gain three points on the series leader, with Wright keeping the deficit at 13 points. Dean Baker would score the LMP3 Masters win, the fourth winner in four races following Gibson at Daytona, McGuire Jr. at Sebring and Hodes at Barber. Cassels finished on the LMP3 Masters podium for the first time in 2018 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, finishing the race seventh overall and third in LMP3 Masters.

Leading the MPC standings coming into Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Robert Masson enlisted son and defending series champion Kyle Masson as a co-driver for the remainder of the season. The plan appeared to work with the duo crossing the line first, but upon post-race analysis of drive-time requirements, it was concluded that Kyle Masson did not record the minimum 40 minutes of drive time and the car was moved to the back of the MPC results. That penalty elevated Jacobs and French to the race win in Performance Tech’s No. 77 entry and moved Brownson, who finished second for the consecutive race, to the class championship lead. Coming out of Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, the top six in points were separated by just two points with two races remaining.

5. VIRginia International Raceway, August 18

Winners
LMP3: Kris Wright / Stephen Simpson, No. 30 Extreme Speed Motorsports Ligier JS P3
LMP3 Masters: Dean Baker, No. 4 ANSA Motorsports Ligier JS P3
MPC: Howard Jacobs / James French, No. 77 Performance Tech Motorsports Elan DP02

How the Champions Fared
Wright enlisted IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship regular Stephen Simpson as co-driver at VIR and delivered a knockout punch in the LMP3 title fight, scoring the win and opening a 23-point lead over McCusker, who finished sixth. Baker would win his second consecutive race in LMP3 Masters with a second-place finish overall alongside Zacharie Robichon. Hodes would lead the LMP3 Masters points by two points over Jim Garrett, eight points over Cassels and nine points over Joel Janco.

Robert Masson seemed poised to take the points lead and win alongside Kyle Masson as the duo drove brilliantly in the rain, building a nearly one-lap lead. A mechanical issue with 17 minutes remaining, however, set up a late-race sprint to the finish with French winning on the last lap for Jacobs.

With only one race remaining, House moved into the class lead by three points, 143-140, over Jacobs. The top seven teams were mathematically eligible for the championship and separated by a mere eight points.

6. Road Atlanta, October 12

Winners
LMP3: Austin McCusker / TJ Fischer, No. 47 Forty7 Motorsports Norma M30
LMP3 Masters: Cameron Cassels, No. 75 Performance Tech Motorsports Ligier JS P3
MPC: Jon Brownson, No. 34 Eurosport Racing Elan DP02

How the Champions Fared
The second win of the season for the No. 47 Forty7 Motorsports entry and co-driver McCusker and Fischer was not enough to take the championship away from Wright, who finished second at Road Atlanta to sweep podiums in all six races on the series schedule.

Cassels scored his first LMP3 Masters win of the season, and despite entering the weekend eight points behind in the standings, would also win the LMP3 Masters championship after each of the title contenders ran into various issues on-track.

Brownson called it an “honor” to win the final race for the MPC class. Brownson, who started in the first race for the series in 2006, scored his first win of the season in the No. 34 Eurosport Racing entry to win the final championship for the class.