Relentless. Persistent. Scrappy.
That’s the probably the best way to define Parker Thompson.
A near dream season last year in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda, Thompson scored four wins, 12 podiums and three poles in 16 races. It turned bittersweet when he narrowly missed out on the championship and Mazda scholarship award to then-teammate Anthony Martin – the current points leader in the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires, the second step on the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires ladder.
What followed was an offseason of doubt and uncertainty whether his Mazda Road to Indy racing career would continue. Despite losing out on retaining his seat at Cape Motorsports, winners of the last six consecutive USF2000 titles, hope came in the form of a 2017 upstart, Exclusive Autosport. Driving the No. 90 entry, Thompson qualified 11th this morning for the first of two weekend races on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
Backed by a wealth of sponsors from his native Canada, it made sense for Thompson to join the Saskatchewan-based Exclusive Autosport. The potential has been shown, with Thompson fourth in the point standings heading into this weekend’s races.
“They are a new team on the Mazda Road to Indy and they’ve done a fantastic job getting a car prepared that is challenging for podiums and race wins,” said Thompson, who hails from Red Deer, Alberta. “My hat is off to them. All the boys in the black and red are doing an awesome job and putting in the hours. You look around and there are such a championship-caliber number of teams in USF2000. It’s tough to compete here.”
Thompson has spent the first four races chasing his former team, Cape Motorsports, and its new driver, Oliver Askew, winner of the Mazda Shootout in the offseason to earn a USF2000 ride and winner already of three races.
“It’s interesting how this championship plays out, though, because it’s a long season,” said the 19-year-old Thompson. “You look at how I came out of the gate last season … it’s kind of how Oliver is coming out. Comes out swinging, lots of race wins, lots of poles, but it’s amazing how the season momentum moves and I think Exclusive Autosport and the No. 90 car are going to be set up pretty well on the home stretch.”
Thompson visited victory lane last season on the IMS road course. He’s aiming for an encore performance.
“Last year when I won Race 2, it was one of the most special wins I’ve ever had,” said the third-year driver. “Standing on a podium, where some of the greatest drivers in the world have stood up on, is just such a special feeling. So this year it’s going to be no different – we want to hunt down that win.
A win this weekend would go a long way in helping Thompson chase down Askew. He knows knocking off the six-time defending champ team Cape will be difficult, but not impossible.
“We need to go on our own route, on our own championship battle,” Thompson said. “I think if we just stick to the game plan and maximize our own strengths, I think we’re going to be in the hunt for the championship this season. I have no doubt.”
Today’s USF2000 race begins at 2:30 p.m. ET. It will be followed by the Pro Mazda race at 3:25 p.m. and the first Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires race of the weekend at 5:50 p.m. Everything will stream live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com. The second race for each of the three series will take place Saturday.