Rinus VeeKay wins second St. Peterburg Indy Lights race

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A late-race caution bunched the field and allowed Zachary Claman DeMelo to close on leader Rinus VeeKay in Race 2 of Indy Lights portion of the IndyCar opener on the streets of St. Petersburg. VeeKay held him at bay in a four-lap shootout to end to win his first Indy Lights race in only his second career start.

With seven laps remaining in the race, Robert Megennis brought out a caution after slapping the wall while running fifth. That wiped out a seven-second lead for VeeKay and bookended the race with drama.

The race started with fireworks. On Lap 1, VeeKay was passing pole sitter Oliver Askew on the outside of Turn 1. That put him out of line for the next corner and after clipping the curb, he bounced into Askew and sent him into the wall and out of the race. Askew was coming off a third-place finish on Saturday in Race 1. He finished last in 10th.

“It was overall a great race,” VeeKay said on NBC Sports Gold after the race. “A little touchy at the start, but that’s racing. I feel sorry for Oliver for retiring from the race. The rest of the race was great.”

We need to “put it behind us and we’re going to go to a couple of tracks where we’re really fast and see what happens.” Askew said.

With this win, VeeKay is the eighth driver to win in all three levels of the Road to Indy, joining Matthew Brabham, Victor Franzoni, Jay Howard, Nico Jamin, Sage Karam, Spencer Pigot and Aaron Telitz

Coming off a win on Saturday, Claman DeMelo finished .633 seconds behind VeeKay.

“The goal was to win both races and leave here with the points lead, so I’m happy to have the latter, but disappointed to not get the win today,” Claman DeMelo said. “I was like a kid in a candy shop near the end, because I had plenty of push-to-pass left and I was going to use them to get by Rinus, but he did a good job to keep me back there. I had a few big moments through Turn Four and almost lost it, but I gave it everything I had. I haven’t raced since Toronto (in 2018) and haven’t done much testing, so as the season goes on, I’ll get better and I’ll learn how to manage the tires better.”

Toby Sowery finished third on Sunday and was second on Saturday. He does not currently have a full-season deal and is not scheduled to race in the next event at Circuit of the Americas.

David Malukas and Julien Falchero rounded out the top five.

The Indy Lights Series returns to the track at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas on March 23. It can be seen on NBC Sports Gold.

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IMSA’s Bill Auberlen joins NASCAR America to discuss this weekend’s race at Lime Rock

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Turner Motorsport GTD driver Bill Auberlen joined NBC Sports’ Marty Snyder on NASCAR America Presents the Motorsports Hour Thursday to discuss a variety of topics, including Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship race at Lime Rock Park.

Auberlen, alongside co-driver Robby Foley, enters Lime Rock with a great amount of momentum after finishing on the GTD podium at Watkins Glen and taking the GTD class honors in the most recent IMSA race at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park.

There’s also an extra incentive for the duo to win this weekend as well, as Auberlen is one win away from tying Scott Pruett for the most IMSA victories all-time.

Both drivers will have to be on their A-game this weekend, however, as Auberlen stated that Lime Rock is one of the tougher circuits on the IMSA calendar and compared the 1.5-mile Connecticut road course to a short track.

“It’s what we call the bullring of our season,” Auberlen said. “It is a 54-second lap and we’re going to go around it a million times before the end of the day. It’s going to be a hot one, and I think whoever survives this is going to be on the podium.”

Luckily for the GTD and GTLM teams, with no Protoype and LMP2 entries competing at Lime Rock this weekend, the worry of having to yield to entries from the faster classes is gone.

“These Protoypes are so fast now, that interacting with them, you can’t imagine,” Auberlen said. “We have radars in our car that can alert us when they are coming.

“They get on you so fast that if you’re not always looking or something is not telling you they’re coming, you could have a problem and catch into them. That’s gone. Now it’s going to be focus-forward. You’re going to be focused on everything ahead of you. You got GLTM in there at the same time, but they’re virtually the same speed as us – just a little bit faster.

“It’s going to be nice. When you stand on that podium you might be able to go for an overall victory.”

Live race coverage of IMSA’s Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park begins at 3:00 p.m. ET on NBCsports.com and the NBC Sports app with an encore presentation of the race airing later in the evening at 9:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

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