Thompson eyes move up to Pro Mazda after USF2000 runner-up finish

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Parker Thompson enjoyed a banner season in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda.

In the end, the 18-year-old Canadian wasn’t the one awarded the champion’s Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires scholarship that supplies an automatic entry at the next stepladder level – the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires. That doesn’t mean Martin is content to stay in USF2000 for a third consecutive season.

Martin collected four wins, a series-high 12 podiums and three poles en route to finishing behind Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing teammate Anthony Martin for the 2016 title. Although he would’ve liked to trade places with his teammate after the season finale last month at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Thompson was still able to take several positives from his breakout year, while also citing the costly issues that plagued his chances for the championship.

“It was a fantastic season,” Thompson said, whose best USF2000 race finish in 2015 was fourth place. “I mean, four wins, multiple poles. We were always quick. I would have to say we were the most consistent car or one of the most consistent cars, between me and Anthony. We were always in the hunt for race wins and podiums as well.”

Thompson finished 21 points behind his teammate in the final standings. He was still lamenting a 17th-place finish in the first of the Mid-Ohio tripleheader weekend in July, when a cut tire dropped him a lap back early and he couldn’t recover. Martin won all three races that weekend with Thompson finishing second in the other two.

“It all really comes down to that flat tire at Mid-Ohio,” Thompson said. “That one event just put us back 20 points and then Anthony and me traded seconds and thirds at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. We were so tight all season long and you can’t have those flat tires or those mistakes.”

The standout year focused attention on the 2012 Rotax World Championships karting third-place finisher. He said talks are ongoing with Pro Mazda teams, but in the end it comes down to the almighty dollar.

“We’re in talks with a few teams, but we’re not sure at this point,” Thompson said. “It’s all basically about finding the funding and find some sponsors to get on board. We do have a group of really good partners right now, but Pro Mazda is another price tag up so we will see what I can make happen over the offseason.”

Although Thompson doesn’t know the likelihood of moving up, he did leave the door open to a return to USF2000. His current objective is to represent Canada this month in the Formula Ford Festival in England.

“It all comes down to if a Pro Mazda team can help us out to maybe get there or you could see me back in USF2000,” the Red Deer, Alberta, native said. “We have some other options to for next year, so it’s just sorting stuff out for the offseason. My main focus right now is representing Canada at the Team Canada Scholarship at Brands Hatch (for the Formula Ford Festival on Oct. 22-23).”

With the possibility of returning to Cape Motorsports, which has won the last six USF2000 championships, Thompson wasn’t ready to rule out anything.

“I have no clue, honestly,” Thompson said. “They’ve treated me super well (and) there are no hard feelings. They gave me a car to win pretty much every race, so I definitely would consider that, for sure. The Cape brothers (Dominic and Nicholas) are awesome. I love the guys. … We’ll see how it turns out.”

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