Mazda Road to Indy Heads to Portland for Season Finale
 August 28, 2018| 
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Indy Lights, Pro Mazda Titles to be Decided

PALMETTO, Fla. – The Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires season will conclude this weekend in the Pacific Northwest when all three feeder categories for the Verizon IndyCar Series – Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda – return to Portland International Raceway after a lengthy hiatus. Two races for each series will be held on the 1.967-mile, 12-turn road course situated just a few miles from downtown Portland, Ore.

A total of more than $2.5M in scholarships and awards will be presented at the Mazda Road to Indy Championship Celebration in Portland on Monday evening, when drivers and teams of the world-renowned open-wheel development ladder, representing at least a dozen nations and 14 different States, will be honored.

Kyle Kirkwood, from Jupiter, Fla., has already clinched the USF2000 title following a stellar rookie season with Cape Motorsports. He will claim a $325,000 scholarship to advance to Pro Mazda in 2019. The outcome of the other two series is still to be determined, although Dutch teenager Rinus VeeKay (Juncos Racing) has a substantial lead over Canadian Parker Thompson (Exclusive Autosport) in the quest for a Mazda Scholarship worth almost $800,000 to step up to Indy Lights in 2019, and Mexico’s Patricio O’Ward (Andretti Autosport) holds a 25-point edge over California’s Colton Herta (Andretti-Steinbrenner) in Indy Lights. At stake is a scholarship valued at $1M to guarantee entry into at least three Verizon IndyCar Series races in 2019, including the 103rd Indianapolis 500.

VeeKay on the Brink in Pro Mazda
A recent sequence of misfortunes for midseason championship leader Parker Thompson has left Rinus VeeKay needing merely to take the green flag for one of the two races which will comprise this weekend’s Pro Mazda Grand Prix of Portland Presented by Cooper Tires in order to clinch his maiden Mazda Road to Indy crown.

VeeKay, who is still a couple of weeks shy of his 18th birthday, finished a strong second to Oliver Askew in last year’s USF2000 title-chase. He stepped up to Pro Mazda this season and began with a flourish, sweeping both of the opening two races on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. VeeKay’s momentum was broken by a disappointing sequence of results, but he has rebounded in style by winning each of the five most recent races – on the streets of Toronto, at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and, last weekend, at the Gateway Motorsports Park oval – to take a virtually unassailable lead into the Oregon finale.

But spare a thought for the popular Thompson, 20, from Red Deer, Alb., Canada, who has enjoyed an impressive rookie season with the Canadian-owned Exclusive Autosport team. Three wins represents an excellent haul, but he will forever rue an obscure electrical failure which prevented him from qualifying at Gateway last Saturday. Thompson started at the back of the field, then mounted a spirited comeback to finish sixth and keep his championship hopes flickering. Thompson also posted the fastest lap of the race and took home the Tilton Hard Charger Award. He will be pressing for much more this weekend.

The battle for third place in the final championship standings also is up for grabs, with young Americans Askew, David Malukas and Robert Megennis all separated by just 15 points after 14 races. Brazilian Carlos Cunha also is in the mix but is not on the entry list for Portland.

After winning the 2017 USF2000 championship, former karting star Askew, 21, from Jupiter, Fla., has unsurprisingly encountered some struggles during just his second full season of car racing but already has three pole positions and three podium finishes to his name for Cape Motorsports. He is the only driver to have completed every one of the 432 laps of competition this year.

Malukas, 16, from Chicago, Ill., also is taking part in just his second season of car racing for BN Racing. His speed isn’t in question – witness two wins and three poles – but he is still seeking some consistency. Fellow Pro Mazda rookie Megennis, meanwhile, has rebounded from a challenging middle portion of the season to strike a rich vein of form which has included podium finishes in each of his last four starts for Juncos Racing.

Mexico’s Moises de la Vara will be looking to build on a strong fourth-place finish at Gateway for DEForce Racing, while another teenager, Sting Ray Robb, also has high expectations for Team Pelfrey, especially since he is the only driver to have raced previously at PIR. Robb has four top-five finishes to his name and is hoping to benefit from a strong contingent of family and supporters numbering close to 200 who will make the journey to Portland from his home town of Payette, on the western edge of Idaho.

The remainder of the Pro Mazda contingent will have an opportunity to learn the track during two test sessions totaling 100 minutes on Thursday, August 30, followed by 25 minutes of official practice at 9:10 a.m. PDT on Friday. Two 20-minute qualifying sessions (at 1:15 p.m. on Friday and 10:35 a.m. on Saturday will set the grids for the pair of races which will start at 4:50 p.m. on Saturday and 2:15 p.m. on Sunday, immediately after the Verizon IndyCar Series headline event.

Coverage of all races can be found on a series of platforms including Road to Indy TV, the Road to Indy TV App and dedicated broadcast channels on demand via Apple TV, Amazon Fire and Roku and, most recently, the Xbox One Official App as well as live streaming and live timing on the series’ respective websites and indycar.com.

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