MRTI Road America notes: VeeKay wins ‘home’ race for Pabst

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ELKHART LAKE, Wisconsin – Dutch teenager Rinus VeeKay scored the highlight of his racing career to date on Friday, winning the first Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda race of the Road America weekend for Wisconsin-based Pabst Racing.

It was VeeKay’s first win in his rookie season the team’s first win with the Tatuus USF-17 chassis, which is in its debut season in the category.

Pabst Racing is based in Oconomowoc, about a half-hour’s drive west of Milwaukee. Driving the No. 21 Jumbo Supermarkets The Netherlands/Total Pabst Racing Mazda, VeeKay won by 5.9845 seconds over fellow USF2000 rookie David Malukas.

“I was screaming on the radio,” exclaimed VeeKay. “I didn’t say a word; I was just screaming on the radio. I was just so happy. Finally, for the team, finally a win, in their home race, it was great.”

VeeKay has finished in the top six in every race in 2017, planting him second in the championship coming into the weekend, albeit some 60 points aback of leader Oliver Askew. Askew suffered a broken right-front camera shim mid-race and finished 17th, allowing VeeKay to nearly halve the deficit to 34 points.

“It’s really good,” said Augie Pabst III, team president and manager. “We’ve been working really hard to try and reel in some points here in the championship because it’s kind of been slipping from us a bit. Getting that first win with the new car, and especially to do it at our home track is great. We all have a lot of family and friends here. Really proud of the whole team.”

VeeKay added to Friday’s success by earning pole for today’s USF2000 race, which starts at 2:10 p.m. ET and will stream live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com.

Franzoni wins Pro Mazda thriller over Martin

Victor FranzoniJuncos Racing’s Victor Franzoni (No. 23 Juncos Racing Mazda) scored a key win in Friday’s Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires race, beating Anthony Martin (No. 8 Mazda/Burgess BLA Cape Motorsports Mazda) for his third win of the season. The championship leaders swapped the lead in the opening laps before Franzoni pulled a gap, winning by 11.7427 seconds.

“Juncos Racing, they gave me an amazing car again,” said Franzoni. “The start of the race was fun, was a big fight. But then after I passed Anthony, I could go away. The car was really good, (it) was easy to keep the car good during the whole race.”

Franzoni, from Sao Paulo, Brazil, now holds a 14-point advantage over the Australian Martin through five races on the season, but has his work cut out for him Saturday’s second race. Franzoni’s pole lap in Race 2 qualifying Friday was disallowed when a red flag came out during his flying lap. He will start last in the 15-car field, but still likes his chances.

“(It’s) going to be fun,” Franzoni said, “but I’m really confident. I think we have a really good car, so I think we can also fight for the win.”

The second Pro Mazda race starts at 3:05 p.m. ET today and will be streamed live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com.

Leist, Herta wins poles for Indy Lights races

Freedom 100 winner Matheus Leist (No. 26 Carlin Racing Mazda) won pole position Friday for the first Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires race of the weekend with a fast lap of 1 minute, 53.1760 seconds. Teammate Neil Alberico (No. 22 Mazda) will join Leist on the front row for today’s race that takes off at 1 p.m. ET (live stream on RaceControl.IndyCar.com). Points leader Kyle Kaiser of Juncos Racing will start fourth.

In Race 2 qualifying early this morning, Colton Herta (No. 98 Deltro Energy Mazda) annihilated the track record by nearly a full second to win the pole position for Sunday’s race. The Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing phenom circled the 4.014-mile track in 1:52.0034. Twelve of the 14 drivers in the session bettered the previous lap record of 1:52.9410 set last year by Zach Veach.

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