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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An IndyCar iRacing Challenge at Talladega? Drivers have discussed it

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If Dale Earnhardt Jr. is interested in an IndyCar iRacing event on an oval, he might like the latest idea being kicked around by NTT Series drivers.

“I personally would want to run at Talladega, but I don’t think that’s an option,” Arrow McLaren SP driver rookie Oliver Askew told NBCSports.com in a Friday interview about his simulation work for the second round of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge. “IndyCar drivers have a group chat with iRacing, and someone had the idea of running at Talladega, and I thought it was brilliant.”

It actually would be a throwback of sorts as a USAC-sanctioned race with Indy cars at Talladega nearly happened 40 years ago.

The IndyCar iRacing Challenge will be running its second consecutive road course Saturday at Barber Motorsports Park (2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN or streaming here).

Of the four remaining races in the six-race series, there’s a chance that three of them could be ovals: A Drivers’ Choice track April 11; a “Random Draw” April 18 and a non-IndyCar “Dream” track May 2 (the April 25 race will be at Circuit of the Americas).

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IndyCar drivers are voting on next week’s track, and the options include high-speed ovals such as Texas Motor Speedway and Michigan Speedway.

A multicar crash at Talladega last October. (Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Talladega apparently isn’t on the list for next week, but surely it could be considered for a future race if it meant having Earnhardt in the field. The 15-time NASCAR Most Popular Driver is a six-time winner at Talladega, and the NASCAR on NBC analyst’s family is synonymous with the 2.66-mile oval where his late seven-time champion father won a record 10 times.

“I hope he can make that happen,” Askew said of racing against Earnhardt. “I hope IndyCar can grant his wish on that.”

The addition of Earnhardt would fit well with an IndyCar iRacing Challenge that already features champions from NASCAR (Jimmie Johnson) and Supercars (Scott McLaughlin).

Will Power would like to see more of that.

“I think that would be great if we can get big-name drivers from other series,” Power said. “Getting a couple guys from Europe would be cool.”