MRTI Toronto notes: Thompson defends home track with USF2000 pole

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TORONTO – Needing to turn his season around quickly, Exclusive Autosport’s Parker Thompson delivered by leading Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda practice and putting his No. 90 Mazda/Tatuus USF-17 on pole position in qualifying today for the first race of the series’ doubleheader race weekend on the streets of Toronto.

Last season’s USF2000 championship runner-up paced the field in qualifying with a fast lap of 1 minute, 12.8164 seconds (88.299 mph) on the 11-turn, 1.786-mile temporary street course. It scored the native of Red Deer, Alberta, his second pole of the 2017 season.

"It's an unbelievable feeling," said Thompson. "To get on pole in front of the home crowd is an awesome feeling. Apart from being biased as a Canadian, I think Toronto is one of the No. 1 locations INDYCAR visits. The fans, the atmosphere are just awesome, and being from Canada, to start on pole here is fantastic."

The third-year USF2000 pilot had an excellent weekend in Toronto in 2016, finishing third in Race 1 before winning Race 2. He's looking to replicate that success this weekend.

"I had the opportunity to win here last year, which I have to say was the most special win of my career thus far," Thompson said. "Moving on to tomorrow, we're starting in the A-1 position, so more than anything we'll need a clean, tight race to come out on top. We should be in clean air, so if we can just keep our nose clean and stay ahead down Lake Shore Drive, it should hopefully be smooth sailing."

Thompson will be joined on the front row in Saturday’s race (noon ET, streaming live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com) by points leader Oliver Askew of Cape Motorsports (1:12.8853). Askew’s main championship rival, Rinus VeeKay, was close behind in his No. 21 Pabst Racing entry, third at 1:12.9366. Askew leads VeeKay by 32 points heading into the weekend doubleheader.

Qualifying for Sunday’s race takes place at 8 a.m. ET Saturday.

Kaiser paces Indy Lights practice

Kyle Kaiser, the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires points leader, led the opening practice of the Toronto doubleheader weekend with a fast lap of 1:06.3993 (96.832 mph).

The driver of the No. 18 Juncos Racing Mazda/Dallara IL-15 posted podium finishes in both ends of last year’s Toronto doubleheader. Kaiser leads the championship by 13 points over Carlin’s Matheus Leist, who was sixth in today’s session at 1:06.9244.

All three Belardi Auto Racing entries finished the session in the top five, with Santi Urrutia second (1:06.5130), Aaron Telitz third (1:06.8067) and Shelby Blackstock fifth (1:06.8709).

Indy Lights qualifying for Race 1 is set for 8:35 a.m. ET Saturday, with the race starting at 1 p.m. and streaming live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com.

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