07.21.2016 – From the second I first viewed photos of the new complex of corners at the Toronto Indy layout at Exhibition Place, I knew the young drivers of the Mazda Road to Indy would be challenged during the opening on-track sessions. The new segment of the track from the exit of Turn 8 through to the start of the frontstretch (Turn 11) was narrow and the asphalt was anything but smooth and level. Understanding what the corners required would take some time, and while I hoped that they’d approach this slowly, many didn’t, and we had huge wrecks at the start of both of the initial practice sessions for USF2000 and Pro Mazda. To the credit of the drivers, this was certainly a wake-up call and by the time the main events rolled around, they had all figured out how to power through 9-10-11 unscathed.
My ‘Star’ of the opening USF2000 race in Toronto was, undoubtedly, Robert Megennis. The Team Pelfrey pilot had an issue on the opening lap of qualifying, tagging the wall on the outside of Turn 8. This put the young 16-year-old on the ninth row of the grid (18th), but he attacked with a surgeon’s precision, advancing aggressively on the opening lap. Megennis took full advantage of the race’s two cautions, which bunched the field together, allowing him to grab positions on both restarts. In the end, he would power forward to finish an incredible fifth.
Honorable Mention needs to be given to Victor Franzoni for his huge win, giving ArmsUp Motorsports their first USF200 victory. They also ended the streak of Cape Motorsports wins.
For the second race, I want to tab Michai Stephens as my ‘Star of the Race’. Michai started in the 15th position and drove his way into the top-10, giving RJB Motorsports their second top-10 finish. The team has worked hard in their first year in the USF2000 program and posting a top-10 is huge considering the quality of the drivers and crews in the paddock.
The Honorable Mention tab goes to Afterburner Autosport’s Dakota Dickerson, who ran a flawless weekend and was fourth on Sunday. It was the rookie’s first top-five finish in his Mazdaspeed scholarship entry.