After a month off, the Indy Lights Series and Pro Mazda drivers return to action this weekend at the Gateway Motorsports Park. The Saturday races for each will be the third to last race of both of their seasons. Both series’ have a doubleheader weekend next week at Portland to conclude the year off. So, with that being said, both of their championships could also bet set on Saturday as well.
The USF2000 won’t be racing this week but Kyle Kirkwood has already clinched that championship. In Indy Lights competition, Patricio O’Ward is nearing his first title in his first full season at the helm.
O’Ward, 19, currently leads his Andretti Autosport teammate of Colton Herta by 32 points entering Saturday evening’s 75 Lap race. If O’Ward wins the race or outscores Herta by at least seven points, then the 2018 Indy Lights championship is provisionally his. See, the ovals in the MRTI are points in-a-half. So, instead of 30 points for a win, it’s 45.
If O’Ward wins, Herta can’t do anything about it.
In the other two ovals of 2018, Herta beat O’Ward in the Freedom 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway while O’Ward returned the favor at the Iowa Speedway in July in topping Herta.
O’Ward has scored four wins in his last five starts on the season and a second place run in the other. Herta, has four second place finishes in his last six races which a seventh and sixth place respectively effort in Toronto took his 17 point advantage to the deficit he’s in now.
Prior to Toronto, Herta had six straight top two finishes including four straight wins.
Now, the duo are hoping to have a clean fight on Saturday but Herta hoping to finish ahead of O’Ward at all costs.
Those are the only two with realistic chances of the championship.
Rinus VeeKay enters Gateway on the heels of four straight wins and now holds a 25 point advantage over Parker Thompson. VeeKay, has seven consecutive top five finishes as a whole while Thompson has just one top five (5th in Mid-Ohio) in his last four starts. In order for Thompson to keep his championship afloat, he has to finish on the podium in Saturday’s 55 Lap race.
VeeKay’s Juncos Racing teammate of Carlos Cunha has scored just two top five finishes over the last six races and trails VeeKay by 68 points.
David Malukas and Oliver Askew are tied for fourth in the championship. Malukas, has won twice for BN Racing this year, both at Road America, while fellow rookie Askew has finished on the podium in two of the last 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.
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