Extra Points on Offer as Indy Lights, Pro Mazda Take on Gateway Oval
 August 22, 2018| 
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Pro Mazda Gateway 2018 Advance Web

Mazda Road to Indy Title-Chases – and Lucrative Scholarship Prizes – Still at Stake

PALMETTO, Fla. – The two highest rungs on the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires open-wheel development ladder will return to action this weekend at Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Ill. The unique, egg-shaped 1.25-mile oval situated just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, Mo., will host one race apiece on Saturday for Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires.

The events will take on a little more significance with additional points on offer for the final oval race of the season and several drivers still chasing potentially career-changing scholarship prizes that could take them one step closer to their ultimate dream of a career in the Verizon IndyCar Series.

VeeKay Inches Closer to Pro Mazda Crown
A streak of four consecutive victories for Juncos Racing has taken teenaged Dutchman Rinus VeeKay to the brink of winning the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and a Mazda Scholarship worth $790,300 to move on to the next rung of the Mazda Road to Indy open-wheel development ladder, Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, in 2019.

The point permutations are complicated with three races remaining on the schedule – especially since Saturday’s Mazda St. Louis Pro Mazda Oval Challenge Presented by Cooper Tires will offer points-and-a-half (so 45 points for a win, rather than the usual 30), plus the fact that every driver will be required to drop his worst score at the conclusion of the 16-race season. Nevertheless, with VeeKay now holding a 25-point advantage over Canadian Parker Thompson, victory at Gateway for the 17-year-old from Hoofddorp, Netherlands, will require Thompson to finish on the podium in order to keep his own title hopes alive when the series visits Portland International Raceway next weekend for the final two races.

Thompson, from Red Deer, Alb., will need to bounce back from disappointing outings at Toronto and Mid-Ohio, which produced a best finish of fifth from the four races, but he will be buoyed by the fact he guided Exclusive Autosport’s Tatuus-Mazda PM-18 to an impressive victory in the only other oval race this year – at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis in May.

Brazilian Carlos Cunha (Juncos Racing) currently is placed third in the standings, 68 points adrift of VeeKay, and will need something akin to a miracle to wrest the title from either of the top two protagonists. Instead, his main priority will be to claim a long overdue maiden victory after snagging 11 podium finishes over the course of the past two years.

David Malukas and Oliver Askew are tied for fourth in the championship. Malukas, from Chicago, Ill., already has won twice for BN Racing (at Road America), while fellow rookie Askew, from Jupiter, Fla., has finished on the podium in two of the most recent three races for Cape Motorsports. Askew, who beat VeeKay and Thompson to last year’s Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, has three poles to his credit this year as well.

Teenager Robert Megennis, from New York, N.Y., also is on a hot streak with three consecutive podium finishes aboard a third Juncos Racing Tatuus PM-18.

Others to watch will include Englishman Harrison Scott, who won twice for the Italian-based RP Motorsport Racing team earlier this year and is set to make a welcome return after missing the two most recent races at Mid-Ohio following a monster accident in Toronto; and Idaho teenager Sting Ray Robb, who has displayed a promising turn of speed for Team Pelfrey.

The Pro Mazda field will take to the 1.25-mile oval for the first time at 11:30 a.m. CDT on Friday, August 24, for a 30-minute practice session, followed by qualifying at 6:15 p.m. The 55-lap race will kick off proceedings on Saturday at 3:45 p.m.

Coverage 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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