This summer, Indy Pro 2000 championship contender Parker Thompson completed his 100th auto race, a huge milestone the young Canadian celebrated during this year’s Honda Indy Toronto weekend. To mark the occasion, the Red Deer native took time out of his busy schedule – we’re not kidding, it’s ridiculous! – to walk us through the 10 best and/or favourite of his first 100 auto races, some of which might surprise you.
- Check out the original post on racecanada.ca HERE
10) Toronto, 2019 – Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada, Race 2
Where better to start than Race 100 itself? And boy oh boy, did Parker Thompson earn his keep during this year’s Honda Indy Toronto weekend.
On Saturday morning, having already completed two qualifying sessions a day earlier (one more successfully than the other), Parker endured a hard-charging race to claim 3rd in the opening Indy Pro 2000 race of the weekend. Later that afternoon, a now black race-suited and booted Parker jumped behind the wheel of the #3 SCB Racing-entered Porsche 991 GT3 Cup car to qualify 7th, finish 3rd, and collect the Yokohama Tire Hard Charger Award for most places gained. The following morning, the Abel Motorsports driver collected 2nd place in the second Indy Pro 2000 race. It was his sixth podium, including two wins, from nine races of a season he hadn’t expected to be involved with at all.
Ironically, 5th in his 100th race and the second Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada race to close out Sunday afternoon marked the only non-podium finish of Parker’s weekend and one of the few non-wins on this list.
Still, how could we bump it from this list?
“There were so many ways that weekend could have gone wrong, and about 90 per cent of it went right, so that’s awesome!
“Regardless of driving two separate categories, there was a lot going into that weekend. I have a lot of media obligations, plus all my sponsors and supporters are at this race, so there’s a lot of pressure. And you can very easily end your season in Toronto, with just one mistake. A crash in either category is incredibly expensive, so when you qualify 7th – which I did, twice! – you put yourself right in the danger zone. But you just have to get on with it. Adjusting from a single seater and jumping straight into a 3000lb sports car? You just have to make it work.
“This is what I want to do for the rest of my life, and the Honda Indy Toronto weekend is a big part of moving my career forward by showing teams, sponsors and supporters that I can bite off more than I can chew and still get it down! This was probably one of my greatest performances that wasn’t a win, and it was just such an awesome weekend!”
9) Montreal, 2017 – Formula 1600 Super Series, Race 1
A win on his F1600 debut in front of the Formula 1 paddock.
Much like 2019, in which Parker Thompson has partnered his Indy Pro 2000 commitments with a full season in Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada, in 2017, the then-19 year old twinned his third and final season in US F2000 with a campaign in the Formula 1600 Super Series, both for Exclusive Autosport. And just as a rear-engined, 1,200kg German sports car has been a leap from US F2000’s 175hp Cosworth-powered, 500kg Tatuus USF-17 this season, so too was there a gulf with the wing-less Honda-powered ‘Spectrum’ F1600 single seater in 2017.
Parker Thompson is rarely afraid of the deep end though. On his first Formula 1600 race weekend, the young Albertan fell just two-tenths short of pole position, making up for it with his first series win later that afternoon. He’d clean sweep the weekend with another win in race two, five further victories and three more podiums cementing the Formula 1600 crown with ease that year.
But that first race in Montreal, and the F1 circus surrounding it, remains a highlight.
“That was really special. [Exclusive Autosport’s] Michael Duncalfe had an open seat for F1 Montreal, which is his biggest race in the F1600 division and is one of the most decorated events a junior driver can win. So when the opportunity came up to run that race, I accepted the challenge, even though I’d been running slicks and wing cars rather than treaded tyres and no wings to that point.
“It was a lot of fun, but it was a big step. If you look at Danial Frost this year – he’s a good friend of mine so I don’t think he’ll mind me saying this! – he’s had a big shock this year, because he went from winning multiple Indy Pro 2000 races to not even getting on the podium at F1 Montreal in Formula 1600. So it’s not easy, and it’s definitely not a step back in terms of competition.
“It was pretty cool to be racing in front of all the Formula 1 teams that weekend too. And it’s easily the biggest crowd I’ve ever won in front of. It was huge!”
8) Toronto, 2016 – US F2000, Race 2
First auto race win in Canada, and the fourth of a strong season.
With a podium already under his belt around the streets of Exhibition Place in race one, Parker Thompson went two better the next day when the #2 Cape Motorsports-entered single seater crossed the stripe to record a fourth win of the season, and his first in Canada.
Though perhaps not as dominant as his earlier races at Barber Motorsport (both pole positions went to teammate Anthony Martin), Parker, buoyed by strong ‘home crowd’ support, was nevertheless on a mission, drafting past early leader Martin out of turn one and sweeping around the outside of turn three in commanding fashion.
Sure, the Australian was crawling all over his ‘relived’ teammate as they crossed the stripe, but Toronto remains a hallmark moment. On top of the crowd support, Parker had extended his lead in the championship and claimed his spot on the US F2000 podium for the eighth time in 11 races, more than any other driver up to that point.
There would be bumps to encounter on the Road to Indy that year, but for now, Parker Thompson was flying high.
“This one really got the ball rolling in Toronto. I’m not going to say in 2016 I was a well-known name, but after a few wins at the track and lots of good results, it was pretty cool to hear my name over the intercom this year and have people recognise me around the track. And 2016 was what started it all.
“I knew we were going to be quick at Exhibition Place. We were really quick on the streets of St Petersburg, and it seems like street courses are a speciality of mine. It’s where I seem to have some of my best results, so I knew I had to maximise that.
“There’s also an extra added benefit when you’re in front of…I’m not going to say the ‘home crowd’, but definitely my fellow countrymen. The atmosphere is really cool!”
7) Barber Motorsports Park, 2019 – Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA Race 2
Podium finish on his debut sports car outing, despite breaking his front splitter early on.
Unusually, race two of the 2019 Porsche GT3 Challenge Cup USA is one of the few entries on this list that didn’t end with Parker Thompson holding the Maple Leaf aloft. Indeed, compared with his other accomplishments at Barber Motorsport Park – and, trust us, you’ll be hearing that name a lot – Parker’s 42s gap to the race winner could be considered… well, disappointing at face value.
That would ignore the man’s herculean efforts behind the wheel though. Having lined up 3rd on the grid for only his second ever sports car race (he’d finished his first one day earlier on the podium), Parker made life difficult for himself in the very early stages by running wide at turn one, destroying the Porsche’s front splitter in the process.
The remaining 40 minutes of that 45 minutes race would be spent making the #3 JDX Racing-entered GT3 as wide as possible. Somehow, an exhausted Parker managed to keep a train of three cars at bay during the opening 20 minutes before holding off a defiant Jeff Kingsley to the chequered flag. A second podium of the weekend was just reward for a killer drive.
“I had literally never driven a Porsche Cup car going into this event, and I had two practice sessions to learn the car at arguably one of the hardest tracks in North America. Every corner is blind. In the first race, I held 2nd for a while until we hit lapped traffic, then I fell back to 3rd. But that was my first race, so it was still a great debut.
“Then in the second race on lap five, I lost my splitter at turn one. I went off the track and barely touched the grass, but that was enough to tear my splitter off. I didn’t really know the power of a splitter on a sports car. It is huge! I mean, it literally keeps all the weight and the air on the nose of the car. You really need that in a rear-engind Porsche!
“I have to say that was probably some of my best ever-defensive race craft. I was losing a good eight-tenths to a second per lap, so the fact I was able to hold off the guys behind me, I think, is pretty impressive. It ended up getting me my second podium of the weekend too, so that’s definitely a highlight!”
6) Lucas Oil Raceway, 2018 – Pro Mazda
First win on an oval to reclaim the Pro Mazda championship lead.
A second win at Indianapolis during the month of May could be justification in itself for the 2018 Carb Night Classic appearing on this list, to say nothing of Parker’s second sweep – pole, fastest lap, most laps led and the race win – of the season for Exclusive Autosport.
Turns out there’s more to it than that though.
Parker’s third win of his debut Pro Mazda / Indy Pro 2000 season was also his first on an oval, and with the race doling out double points, the result also moved the young Canadian 40 points clear of Carlos Cunha in the championship chase. Ignore that 0.2213s winning margin too. Though fellow front row man Cunha harried Parker for much of the opening half of the race at Lucas Oil Raceway, the #90 Exclusive Autosport Tatuus had managed to pull a two second gap until lapped cars brought the Brazilian right back onto its gearbox.
Unlike 2016 though, traffic wouldn’t be Parker Thompson’s downfall…
“There’s multiple reasons why the Freedom 90 was so special. In 2017, the series didn’t go to Lucas Oil Raceway. We raced at Iowa instead, which was my most embarrassing race ever.” – See point number two – “So Exclusive Autosport and I definitely had a chip on our shoulder about going to another oval. We wanted to prove we could deliver. So having been dead last on the ovals in 2017 with Exclusive Autosport, and then coming back the next year and dominating at Lucas Oil Raceway felt pretty special!
“It was particularly special for me because I’d qualified on pole for Cape Motorsports in 2016, and with five or six laps to go, I couldn’t get past a lapped car, and my teammate [Anthony Martin] got by me and went on to win the race. At Lucas Oil, it’s incredibly tough to get by lapped cars because there’s only one line, which is the high line. You could be five-tenths faster than the car in front of you and could still be held up for four laps, just because of the nature of the course.
“It can be really painful: even if you have the fastest car, you still need to go out and get the job done. I didn’t in 2016, but I did in 2018. It was the first race win on an oval too, so that got a monkey off my back.”
5) Barber Motorsports Park, 2016 – US F2000, Race 1
First race win on the Road to Indy.
After an impressive, albeit occasionally gruelling, rookie campaign one year earlier, 2016 was truly the year that Parker Thompson arrived on the Road to Indy, and few performances raised more eyebrows than the Indy Grand Prix of Alabama weekend.
Having claimed his first series pole position by the narrowest of margins – 0.0501s, to be precise – Parker maintained his lead at the green flag. Though fellow front row starter, and Cape Motorsports teammate, Anthony Martin kept the Canadian on his toes for the first few laps, the #2 Van Diemen soon started to pull away, the winning margin an impressive 4.273s come the chequered flag. His first win in US F2000 was quickly followed by his second the next day.
Coming into the event, the memories of a potential lost win at the season opener in St Petersburg still stung. Two days later, Parker Thompson was a two-time US F2000 race winner, and, crucially, the championship points leader. A position he would hold for the next nine races.
“This one is very special to my heart. What was really gratifying about that one was that, in St Petersburg that year, I qualified 2nd then got crashed out, lap one, race one of the season. Then in the second race, I was leading until it went yellow, and at the restart I lost the lead and fell to 4th. So coming into Barber Motorsports Park, I was really hungry for the win after dropping the ball at St Petersburg.
“I know it might sound overconfident, but I knew I could win. I’d finished top five the year before and knew I was strong at that track. It just flows with me really well. So coming in, I knew I just needed to keep the car on the black stuff and we’d come away with a few wins.
“I just remember the weight off my shoulders of finally getting that first race win and then backing it up with the second one.”
4) Barber Motorsports Park, 2018 – Pro Mazda, Race 1
First win in Indy Pro 2000 (formerly Pro Mazda).
If there are a couple of common themes to this list, it’s that Parker Thompson likes to win and he particularly likes to win at Barber Motorsports Park. Of the 10 auto races he’s entered at the venue, he’s finished all but three on the podium and never finished lower than 5th.
The 2018 win though easily surpasses his other accomplishments at the Alabama circuit. Parker’s 1m 16.896s lap during qualifying was not only enough for race one pole position, it slashed a gaping 3.5 seconds off the previous Pro Mazda lap record set four years earlier (incredibly, the pole man would find another half-second around the 3.83km circuit to claim pole for race two as well). Unchallenged at the green flag, Parker led unopposed in race one, securing his first Indy Pro 2000 win a full five seconds clear of 2nd place, nailing his colours firmly to the championship flagpole and drawing to within three points of Rinus VeeKay in the top spot.
After a costly mistake robbed him of a maiden win first time out in St Petersburg, nobody could touch Parker Thompson in Alabama.
“There’s only a few races where I’d say I dominated, and this is definitely one of them. And Barber wasn’t just another win, it was an obliteration!
“There are very few times I’ve qualified half a second ahead of 2nd place, and if there hadn’t been a caution flag, I probably would have won by over 20 seconds. And even then, at the end of the race, the margin was still around 13-14 seconds. When I was on the back straight, I could see the rest of the field on the front straight! The car was amazing, the team was amazing, and… the whole weekend was just an unbelievable performance.
“Barber Motorsports Park has been very good to me! I got a podium there in 2017 with Exclusive Autosport. We won in 2018. I won in 2016. It’s sad we’re not going back this year with Indy Pro 2000, because you could have counted me in for being competitive!”
3) Mid-Ohio, 2019 – Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA, Race 1
First sports car win in only his third Porsche Challenge race.
Heading into the second round of the 2019 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA Parker Thompson had just two sports car starts to his name, both at the season opener at Barber Motorsports Park one month earlier. Both of which, incidentally, he’d finished on the podium
Mid-Ohio though was another story. Yes, two years earlier, the Red Deer native had taken, what turned out to be, his final US F2000 win, but this was the first time Parker had driven a Porsche 991 GT3 Cup car in the wet. Turns out he’s a quick learner.
Almost three seconds faster than any other driver in a rain-hit practice session, Parker leapt into the lead from the second row of the grid after an early restart, a deft touch in the tricky conditions allowing his lead to balloon to almost 15 seconds before a late-race clash saw the race finish under yellows. The official 0.806s winning margin doesn’t come close to telling the story of a seriously impressive weekend for the Porsche rookie.
He’s also the only driver to have beaten champion-elect Roman deAngelis so far this season too.
“It’s kind of a funny story. I’d never been in a sports car in the wet before Mid-Ohio, so when I went out for Free Practice, I was a little scared. I didn’t know the limits of the [Porsche Cup] car in the wet. But the guys at JDX Racing had done a great job, and ironically, it’s the most stable car I’ve ever driven in the rain! During practice, we only got five or six laps in before a red flag came out, and that was our session done just like that. So I came in and apologised to the crew – ‘oh, I’m sorry, I definitely didn’t get the most out of the car, there’s stuff I can work on’, etc – and the crew chief just smiled and said, ‘you’re three seconds faster than the next guy!’
“Then we get to qualifying, it’s still wet, and I really wanted to stick it to everyone. But we had another red flag, we’re lined up based on championship points, and I start 3rd. We rolled up to the grid, and the rain started coming down again. By lap three, I was in the lead of the race, and then it was game over for everyone else.
“Whenever a driver goes to a new discipline, there’s a humbling process. So when the opportunity came for me to drive a dagger through their heart, I leapt on it! I wanted them to know that the next time it rained, they were in deep trouble.”
2) Toronto, 2017 – US F2000, Race 1
Securing Exclusive Autosport’s first win in US F2000.
Coming into round 10 of the 2017 US F2000 Championship, the 2016 series runner-up had taken just two podium finishes in the opening nine rounds, his worst finish ever on the Road to Indy – 19th at Indianapolis – and found himself a whopping 105 points adrift in the driver’s standings. It had been a tough campaign for not only Parker Thompson but also his new team, series debutant Exclusive Autosport.
Come race one in Toronto though, something had clicked. Parker duly took his first pole position of the season, and one day later, cantered away from the field to secure a flag-to-flag victory, aptly, ahead of the young American that had taken ‘his seat’ at Cape Motorsport, Oliver Askew.
Though too late to mount a serious championship assault (Askew had already won six races by this point), Parker’s win in Toronto was the first of three from the final five races that season, got the ball rolling for a clean sweep that weekend, and, more importantly, marked the first victory in US F2000 for Exclusive Autosport and team owner, Michael Duncalfe.
“Before Toronto, that season wasn’t going our way, y’know. I didn’t have a ride at the start of the year – that’s kind of the story of my career! – and I got picked up late in the off-season by Michael [Duncalfe] to kick-start his Road to Indy program. We’d had some moments of glory, but nothing too spectacular up until that point.
“But finally, we found some stuff, and went into Toronto quietly confident that we could compete at the front. And we won. It was unbelievable!
Everything just clicked in Toronto. And it’s ironic because, the race two weeks earlier at Iowa was easily our worst race that year. The absolute lowest of lows, and I’ve never been more off in a race car, time-wise and pace-wise, than I was at Iowa” – Parker finished 12th after qualifying 9th. – “So, to go from one of our toughest weekends ever to one of the strongest was a glorious moment.
“All the work that went in to that season, not just from myself but Michael and his family, and the whole team at Exclusive Autosport, it really couldn’t get more special. There’s very few ‘Cinderella’ moments in my career, and that is definitely one of them!”
1) St. Petersburg, 2019 – Indy Pro 2000, Race 1
The miracle race!
What else could it have been?
Having lost his ride with Exclusive Autosport over the winter, and with no offers on the table two weeks before the 2019 Indy Pro 2000 curtain raiser, it seemed all but certain that the 2018 championship runner-up would not be on the grid at St Petersburg. Fate had something else up its sleeve though.
Having finalized an 11th hour deal with series newboy Abel Motorsport (seriously, pen didn’t touch paper until the Monday of race week), the Red Deer native stunned the paddock in St Pete by putting the #8 Tatuus on pole for race one. Though a conservative start meant fellow front row starter Rasmus Lindh briefly took the lead for Juncos Racing, Parker soon regrouped to leapfrog his Swedish rival and quickly disappear down the road, setting the fastest lap of the race en-route to the top of the rostrum.
A second race win from an event he’d expected to miss altogether completed another ‘Cinderella’ weekend, and comfortably put Parker Thompson both back on the Road to Indy and the Indy Pro 2000 championship hunt.
“This is ‘the miracle race’.
“It’s painful to say, but 2016, 2017 and 2018, I should have been standing on the top step in St Petersburg, or at least closer to it than I was. So it’s nice to right these wrongs.” – After finishing outside the points in 2015 and 2016, a small mistake while leading the US F2000 race in 2017 saw Parker slip to 3rd in race two. In 2018, the Albertan had to settle for 2nd, despite leading most of race one.
“And very few races I go in thinking ‘win it or bin it’, and I couldn’t afford to bin it, so the only option I had was to win it! If I’d ‘just’ gone and got a couple of podiums, I probably wouldn’t be talking to you about my races this year. So it’s pretty wild to think, in that one race, with all that pressure, I came out on top.
“I had nothing going into this year, and this race is the reason why all these doors opened up. It’s kind of funny how life works but I got four full-time rides after one race in my career. The phone rang off the hook! I wouldn’t have anything I have right now, if it weren’t for that race.”
*A big thanks to Parker Thompson for helping to pull this feature together. On to the next 100!