Every driver wants to start their season on a good note. While some do, others, like Parker Thompson, find themselves on the wrong end of the scoring pylon.
After showing speed in practice and qualifying, Thompson was left with a 15th-place finish at St. Petersburg.
“We had a lot of good speed, and there were some positives, but at the end of the day in turn one, race one, unfortunately, another driver collected us up in an accident, and it really hurt our weekend,” Thompson told POPULAR SPEED. “Obviously, we finished 15th in race one which wasn’t the game plan. We wanted a top three or top five. Obviously, we always come out to win, but [we] at least want a solid points finish.”
Fortunately, his team was able to get the No. 2 Weyburn Energy Mazda fixed for race two, where Thompson battled his way to finish fourth.
“It was a tough weekend but (there were) lots of positives,” he said. “We were really quick, one of the top three and one of the cars to beat.”
The finish hasn’t deterred Thompson’s confidence at all as he still believes he will run up front at Barber Motorsports Park later this month. The only thing that has changed is his game plan.
“We’re not looking to build on the season, but rather we have to go in attack mode,” he said. “It’s not so much conserve and get top three, but now we’re going for wins. We’re in a fairly big hole — sixth in points, 30 points back — so we’re really going to have to push in Barber. I mean we’re always going to push going in, but now there’s that extra pressure to get ourselves out of that hole.”
The Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing driver is in his second year in USF2000. His rookie campaign brought success in the form of seven top five-finishes and fifth in the standings.
The move to USF2000 wasn’t easy for Thompson, though, as he had no experience in cars before last year. All of his previous racing from the age of eight had been behind the wheel of go-karts. In comparison, many of his competitors spend two or three years racing cars in some division internationally before USF2000. For that reason, he says it was a bigger jump than he expected.
Thompson added another big learning curve from his rookie season was learning car setup and how to communicate effectively with the engineers.
“When you’re in karting, obviously there’s still a big effort in setup, but you can manipulate a go-kart with your body language a lot more than you can in cars,” he said. “In cars, the setup you have is what you run with. You can manipulate it with your driving style, but not so much your body. It’s extremely important to work with your engineers and get the car setup.”
Now in his sophomore year, the Canadian says the goal is simple – to win the championship. He knows how tough it could be given the ladder of drivers entered into the series this year.
“This year is probably the most competitive year in USF2000 that we’ve had in the last five to 10 years,” Thompson said. “The field is extremely deep. You have drivers from all over the world and very talented drivers. Even if you just look at my teammates. They’re both very talented guys.”
When he’s not behind the wheel, Thompson is spreading a message that he hopes will save lives. Known as “Drive to Stay Alive,” Thompson travels to high school schools across North America, speaking to students about the dangers of distracted driving.
It was something he started after seeing the danger firsthand in his hometown of Red Deer, Alberta.
“It was just one of those things where I was scared of my friends who were getting into accidents, and I know what a split decision on track can mean life or death,” he said. “So that’s how I started my initiative. I know what it can do on the track, so why can’t I relay that to the rest of the world?”
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