Parker Thompson sweeps USF2000 doubleheader in Toronto

Parker Thompson (middle) celebrates his second win in as many days during the Grand Prix of Toronto in the USF2000 series. (Jonathan Brazeau)

TORONTO — When Parker Thompson drove into victory lane for the second day in a row, deadmau5’s “I Remember” fittingly greeted him on the speakers upon arrival.

Thompson will definitely remember this one for a while as the 19-year-old from Red Deer, Alta., completed a sweep of the top spot on the podium in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda doubleheader.

If Thompson was on cloud nine after Saturday’s victory in Race 1, he was over the moon after Race 2 Sunday.

“There’s not even a cloud, I’m like in space,” Thompson said while draped in a Canadian flag. “It’s an amazing feeling. What’s most rewarding is I could have got these two wins anywhere on the calendar and it wouldn’t have even come close to getting them in front of the Canadian fans here in Toronto. Unbelievable.”

The double win was emotional for Thompson, whose promising future in motorsports looked to be in doubt at the start of the year. Despite finishing runner-up in the IndyCar feeder series last year, Thompson didn’t have another USF2000 ride lined up for 2017. Thompson started considering his options outside of motorsports when Saskatoon-based Exclusive Autosport offered him a nearly last-minute spot on their team.

To say Thompson is grateful for the opportunity would be an understatement.

“Just like in any athlete’s career, there have been some dark times, especially in the last 12 months,” he said. “I didn’t have a ride until about February when I signed my deal with Exclusive Autosport whereas with most race car drivers their deals are done well before even the fall, possibly after the race season is done they already have deals done for next year. So there was a lot of waiting around and I pretty well took the year off.”

Thompson had planned to put on a show for the Canadian crowd and admitted he was pretty nervous and nearly threw up prior to Race 1. He managed to keep his nerves in check though and dominated the race, starting on pole position and leading all 25 laps to victory.

Qualifying fourth for Race 2 meant Thompson didn’t have the luxury of an empty track in front of him and he knew there was going to be a battle ahead. That battle was literally ahead of him as the front three of Alex Baron, David Malukas and pole-sitter Oliver Askew collided on lap nine. Thompson steered clear avoiding the pile-up to assume the lead and never looked back.

“[Starting fourth] was the best place. I didn’t really have anyone attacking me behind me in fifth and the top three were kind of attacking each other, so I was just sitting back,” Thompson said. “It was nice those opening laps. I wasn’t cutting anything too close, I wasn’t taking any unnecessary risks, and then things played out. At a track like here you can call it luck, but you make your own luck here, you really do. You’ve got to smart and if you’re not smart you’ll end up in the wall. To say I got through the entire weekend without breaking anything and we come out with two wins and a pole, I’m ecstatic.”

Rinus VeeKay put the pressure on late but had to settle for second place just 0.6379 seconds behind Thompson. Fifteen-year-old Kaylen Frederick rounded out the podium in third place after charging from 13th on the starting grid.

“Today was one of the most rewarding wins because I made a call on the car to not attack the top three until things played out and it worked out,” Thompson said. “The car came back with all four wheels on it and it came back in victory lane, which is unbelievable. The Exclusive Autosport team gave me just as good of a car as they did yesterday. The car was on rails, super fast, and it’s tough to set up a car around here in Toronto, so they’ve done an amazing job this week.”

While the double win cut into Askew’s championship lead and put Thompson into the title conversation in third, he’s more focused on taking it one race at a time right now.

“I’m not worried about the championship, honestly,” he said. “My head is down in Mid-Ohio and Watkins Glen to try and win out from here on out. That’s my whole goal is to just get as many wins as we can for Exclusive Autosport to end the season and when the dust settles in the championship we’ll see where he sit.”