Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

MRTI: Mid-Ohio digest

Leave a comment

With the weekend at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course now behind them, the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires only has two race weekends left in the 2018 season.

The Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires head to Gateway Motorsports Park on August 25, while the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda is off until the season-ending weekend at Portland International Raceway – all three series end the season with double-headers at Portland.

The streets of Toronto flipped the championships upside down in Indy Lights and Pro Mazda, and Mid-Ohio continued the momentum swing that started at Toronto and saw Pato O’Ward and Rinus VeeKay take control of their respective championships.

In USF2000, meanwhile, the championship is over, as Kyle Kirkwood wrapped it up before the calendar flipped to the month of August in what has been a thoroughly dominant season, especially in the summer months.

A look back at big storylines to emerge from the MRTI’s weekend at Mid-Ohio is below.

O’Ward Begins Distancing Himself from Herta

Pato O’Ward swept Mid-Ohio, padding his championship lead over Colton Herta. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

The seesaw title fight between Pato O’Ward and Colton Herta swung very much in the favor of O’Ward in the month July. O’Ward has had back-to-back weekend sweeps at Toronto and Mid-Ohio, while Herta suffered an injured hand after a Race 1 qualifying crash in Toronto that kicked off a problematic weekend – he crashed again during Race 1, and withdrew after a few laps in Race 2 to protect the injury.

Herta made a valiant effort to challenge O’Ward at Mid-ohio, but ultimately came up short, finishing second in both races.

It means that O’Ward leads Herta by 32 points exiting the weekend. Ovals award more points in 2018 – an oval win is worth 45, compared to 30 for road/street courses, but Herta is still going to need help to catch O’Ward.

Even if he gets maximum points (pole, most laps led, and victory) at Gateway and both races at Portland, it will not be enough to overtake O’Ward – Herta would gain 23 points in that scenario, not enough given the 32-point gap between them.

However, even though the Indy Lights field is small, Gateway could see a points swing of as much as 26 if Herta gets pole, leads the most laps, and wins, with O’Ward finishing seventh.

Indeed, it is still possible for Herta to catch O’Ward, but he’ll likely need help to do it. As of right now, O’Ward is the favorite to take the Indy Lights title in 2018.

Pro Mazda: VeeKay Seizes Championship Control from Thompson

Rinus VeeKay and Juncos Racing have a lot to smile about after taking control of the Pro Mazda championship. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

The month of July began with Rinus VeeKay trailing Parker Thompson by 46 points entering Toronto. As the month comes to an end, VeeKay leaves with a 25-point lead, a swing of over 70 points across the four races at Toronto and Mid-Ohio.

Struggles for Thompson – who had a pair of incidents at Toronto and finished eighth in both races, and then struggled to finishes of fifth and sixth at Mid-Ohio – combined with four straight wins from VeeKay to completely flip the championship on its head.

VeeKay, last year’s runner-up in USF2000, is now in full command of the Pro Mazda championship chase, but the fight between the two is still somewhat up in the air.

If Thompson scores maximum points at Gateway – pole, fastest lap, most laps led, and race win – he’ll shave at least 10 points off the lead, and a similar effort at Portland would put him ahead of VeeKay at season’s end.

Of course, both drivers will have plenty of competition that could disrupt their plans. David Malukas has a pair of wins to his name in 2018, and has been ultra quick all year. Oliver Askew has been hot and cold somewhat, but he has two podiums in the last four races and will be motivated to get to Victory Lane before the year ends.

Harrison Scott also has two wins in 2018, and if he returns at Gateway, he could be a factor again.

Of course, VeeKay has a pair of strong teammates in Carlos Cunha and Robert Megennis – Cunha and Megennis have five podiums each, with Megennis particularly strong in recent races and on a streak of three podiums in a row.

More podiums, or even victories, for Cunha and Megennis could hurt Thompson in the final three races, as he’ll need every point he can muster, especially at Gateway.

Granted, he dominated the only other oval on the schedule – Lucas Oil Raceway – leading every lap from the pole to take the win while VeeKay finished fourth. He’ll desperately need a repeat of that to give himself a better title shot entering Portland.

There are still lots of variables in play in the Pro Mazda championship, but rest assured, VeeKay holds the position of power entering the final three races.

USF2000: Kirkwood’s Scintillating “Soul Red” Season

Kyle Kirkwood has been flying high all year in USF2000. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Seasons like the one Kyle Kirkwood has enjoyed in the 2018 USF2000 season don’t come often. The 19-year-old Floridian traded blows with Alex Baron in the opening four races – each had two wins after St. Petersburg and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, though Kirkwood held the points lead due to Baron’s finish of 22nd in Race 1 at St. Pete.

But, a Kirkwood victory coupled with a Baron crash at Lucas Oil Raceway gave Kirkwood a 59-point cushion, and the rout was on from there. Kirkwood has enjoyed a winning streak of nine in a row, bringing his win total to 10 in 2018.

And with Baron not racing at Toronto or Mid-Ohio, little was left to prevent Kirkwood from clinching the championship early.

Kirkwood’s next stop will be Pro Mazda in 2019, thanks to the $325,000 Mazda Scholarship he’ll receive as the USF2000 champ – he’ll also carry the “Soul Red” livery in Pro Mazda next year. But, there are still two more USF2000 races up for grabs before he gets to Pro Mazda next year.

And given how the season has gone so far, he stands a strong chance of taking his winning streak into double digits.

Follow@KyleMLavigne

 

Dakar Stage 8 Highlights: Ricky Brabec blows engine, retires

1 Comment

The motorcycle class of the Dakar Rally has been a seesaw affair through seven stages, but Ricky Brabec seemed poised to win the class for the USA. Until he blew an engine in Stage 8 that is – and gave up a more-than seven second lead. He was the second rider to retire after starting the stage as the leader. Joan Barreda retired in Stage 3.

Brabec was looking to become the first American rider to win in 27 years, but his fate was eerily similar to last year. Three days from the end of the stage, he retired about 50 kilometers into the stage, which is precisely when and where he retired in 2018.

With Brabec’s trouble, Toby Price leapfrogged from third to second in class despite riding with a metal pin in his wrist. In the world’s most grueling endurance event, it has never been more obvious that it isn’t over till it’s over.

Meanwhile, Nasser Al-Attiyah continues to run a consistent rally. With a 46 minute advantage over Nani Roma and Sebastien Loeb, all he needs to do is stay error free for the final two stages to win his third Dakar.

Here are some of the other highlights:

In the cars class, Sebastien Loeb scored his fifth stage win of the Rally by seven minutes over Nasser Al-Attiyah, but problems in Stage 3 have kept him from being competitive for the overall lead. … Jakub Przygonski earned his third podium of the Rally. All of these have been third-place finishes.

Class Leaders: Al-Attiyah holds an advantage of 46:29 over Roma and 46:45 over Loeb.

In motorcycles, Ricky Brabec’s blown engine opened up the class once more. … Matthias Walkner narrowly edged Pablo Quintanilla by 45 seconds. … But it was Toby Price’s third-place finish that helped elevate him to the class lead. … Sam Sunderland was supposed to blaze the path for the riders, but a malfunctioning navigation system kept him from rolling off first. Blazing the trail is a disadvantage and officials adjudged him to have tampered with his system to avoid that fate. Sunderland was penalized an hour to finish 35th on the stage. He dropped to ninth in class.

Class Leaders: Price inherited the lead over Quintanilla by 1:03 and 6:35 over Walkner

In side by sides, Francisco Lopez Contardo scored the victory over Cristian Baumgart by 4:47. … Gerard Farres Guell rounded out the top three.

Class Leaders: Contardo holds an advantage 0f 54:10 over Rodrigo Piazolli and one hour, 08:09 over Guell

In quads, there was no surprise in Nicolas Cavigliasso winning his seventh stage of the season. … He padded his overall advantage over Gustavo Gallego by more than nine minutes. … Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli finished third.

Class Leaders: Cavigliasso holds and advantage of one hour, 24:52 over Ferioli and one hour, 44:04 over Gallego

In trucks, Dmitry Sotnikov won the stage to take over the class lead. He beat Ton Van Genugten by 22:01. … Siarhei Viazovich rounded out the top three. … Eduard Nikolaev lost the class lead by finishing eighth – nearly one hour behind Sotnikov.

Class Leaders: Sotnikov holds an advantage of 26:49 over and one hour, 7:43 over Gerard de Rooy

Stage Wins

Motorcycles
Sam Sunderland [2] (Stage 5 and 7), Matthias Walkner [2] (Stage 2 and 8), Joan Barreda [1] (Stage 1), Xavier de Soultrait [1] (Stage 3), Ricky Brabec [1] (Stage 4) and Pablo Quintanilla [1] (Stage 6)

Quads
Nicolas Cavigliasso [7] (Stage 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8) and Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli [1] (Stage 3)

Cars
Sebastien Loeb [4] (Stage 2, 5, 6 and 8), Nasser Al-Attiyah [2] (Stage 1 and 4) and Stephane Peterhansel [2] (Stage 3 and 7)

Side-by-sides
Francisco Lopez Contardo [4] (Stage 2, 6, 7 and 8), Reinaldo Varela [1] (Stage 1), Gerard Farres Guell [1] (Stage 3), Sergei Kariakin [1] (Stage 4) and Rodrigo Piazzoli [1] (Stage 5)

Trucks
Eduard Nikolaev [3] (Stage 1, 2 and 5), Andrey Karginov [2] (Stage 3 and 4), Dmitry Sotnikov [2] (Stage 6 and 8) and Gerard de Rooy [1] (Stage 7)

For more watch the daily highlight show on NBCSN. Click here for the complete schedule.

Or check out the streaming show at 6:30-7 p.m. by clicking this link.