Rinus VeeKay isn’t going down without a fight.
Driving the No. 21 Juncos Racing Dallara IL-15, the 18-year-old Dutchman vaulted to the top of the timesheets with a flying lap of 1 minute, 03.995 seconds (110.483 mph) to claim pole in the opening race of the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires doubleheader weekend at Portland International Raceway.
The result marks his fourth pole on the year, which bettered championship rival Oliver Askew (No. 28 Andretti Autosport) by 0.1196 of a second.
“It’s amazing,” VeeKay said. “It’s been quite a tough second part of the season and being here and having pole. My third pole here in three races – that’s amazing! I just want to thank the team for giving me a great car for the second part of qualifying. We had an unbalanced car at the beginning of the session and made the perfect change. It all worked out.”
Askew, who paced the only practice session on the day, didn’t seem concerned with losing out on pole.
“I’m not too worried about the points this weekend,” Askew said, noting his sizeable lead of 51-point lead over VeeKay (395-344) with four races remaining. “I’m just worried about winning races. I think we have enough of a lead where we can focus on doing the best we can every single weekend.”
Robert Megennis (No. 27 Andretti Autosport) qualified third, with Dalton Kellett (No. 67 Juncos Racing) putting in an admirable performance to end the session fourth.
The first race for the top rung of the Road to Indy will stream live on NBC Sports Gold on Saturday at 1:50 p.m. PT, with qualifying for the second race starting earlier in the day at 9:40 a.m.
Robb grabs first career pole in Indy Pro 2000
Sting Ray Robb led opening practice and then delivered an encore performance by winning the pole in Indy Pro 2000 presented by Cooper Tires.
The pilot of the No. 2 Juncos Racing Tatuus PM-18 put down a best lap of 1:06.475 (106.362 mph) to nip Kyle Kirkwood (No. 28 RP Motorsport Racing) by a narrow 0.0671 of a second.
"I think the lap was really strong,” Robb said. “There's still a little bit of lap time out there in my driving. The car has been stellar all week here. Yesterday testing was good, we were first, second and first (throughout the three sessions), and then this morning in practice we were first. That's good that we held onto that for (first race qualifying), but now we're going to focus on (the second round of qualifying) and go do the same, hopefully.
Being an Idaho native, the stop at Oregon is one that Robb considers his home track.
“It's pretty special,” Robb continued. “It's nice to have a lot of friends and family here cheering me on. it makes me more comfortable I think and that's part of my performance I hope."
Despite making just his second career start, Artem Petrov (No. 5 RP Motorsport Racing) qualified a stout third, with Parker Thompson (No. 8 Abel Motorsports) and Daniel Frost (No. 68 Exclusive Autosport) rounding out the top five.
Championship leader Rasmus Lindh (No. 10 Juncos Racing) struggled to find pace and will have to start the first race from seventh.
The green flag for the middle step of the Road to Indy will drop at 5:25 p.m. on Saturday and will stream live at racecontrol.indycar.com. Qualifications for the second race take place that morning at 10:25 a.m.
McElrea edges Eves for USF2000 pole
Hunter McElrea captured the pole in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship after a frantic qualifying session.
After leading practice, the No. 22 Pabst Racing Tatuus USF-17 navigated the tricky 12-turn, 1.964-mile road course to pace at a session-best 1:11.594 (98.798 mph), beating championship leader Braden Eves (No. 8 Cape Motorsports) by 0.1402 of a second to score the opening race pole. Christian Rasmussen (No. 6 Jay Howard Driver Development) qualified third, ahead of Jak Crawford (No. 4 Cape Motorsports) and Colin Kaminsky (No. 23 Pabst Racing).
Unfortunately, a good chunk of qualifying was halted by a red flag after Yuven Sundaramoorthy (No. 21 Pabst Racing) was on a flying lap when he went off at the exit of Turn 12 and made heavy contact with the left rear of his car into the tire barrier. The incident happened with just over 15 minutes left in the session and held off any on-track activity for 12 additional minutes.
The bottom rung of the Road to Indy will have their first race stream live at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, with qualifying for the second race set for earlier at 9:05 a.m.