Oliver Askew extended his Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires points lead this afternoon with a commanding victory for Andretti Autosport at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The 22-year-old’s fifth win of the season from 12 races stretched his advantage to 35 points over Dutchman Rinus VeeKay (Juncos Racing), who finished third today behind Askew’s teammate, Ryan Norman, from nearby Aurora, Ohio. Six races remain this season.
After claiming the pole position in qualifying yesterday afternoon, Askew, from Jupiter, Fla., held off outside front row qualifier and teammate Robert Megennis at the first corner and was never seriously threatened throughout the 30-lap race held in warm conditions on the undulating and picturesque 2.258-mile road circuit.
“I feel as though I’m in a mode right now. I was super-happy to win but the job is not done,” said Askew. “We have a lot of races to go and we have to keep our heads down. Rinus and I are always going to be on the podium together so it’s important to win every race. We were quick in the test last week so it’s down to me and the team to execute in qualifying, which we did this weekend.
“I’m so proud of everyone at Andretti Autosport for giving me such a quick car. We’ve been fast here (at Mid-Ohio) the past few years, especially last year with Pato (O’Ward) and Colton (Herta) and Ryan (Norman) sweeping the podium. Maybe we can sweep tomorrow, but for me and my camp, the goal is to execute and win as many races as possible. We’re the only car starting on new tires tomorrow so we should be good.”
A preceding Stadium Super Truck Series race made for a slippery track surface, especially during the opening stages of the race. Toronto race winner Aaron Telitz (Belardi Auto Racing) was the first to be caught out, spinning at the exit of Turn 5 on the opening lap. Next time around, third-place runner Toby Sowery looped his BN Racing/Team Pelfrey Dallara-AER in Turn 9, and then Dalton Kellett ran off the road on the exit of the final corner, Turn 14. All three resumed at the back of the pack.
Megennis remained in contention, only 1.5 seconds in arrears of Askew with 10 laps completed, with Norman, having inherited third place from Sowery, also chasing gamely in third. VeeKay, meanwhile, after problems in qualifying caused him to line up only sixth on the grid, was up into fourth at this stage, albeit with a deficit of more than three seconds to the leading trio.
Sowery, who started third, had worked his way back up to fifth following his early gyration, only to lose control again as he crested the rise at Turn 11 on Lap 10, spinning off into the tire barriers. Sowery was unhurt but the full-course caution waved while his stricken car was retrieved.
Askew made an exemplary restart and soon began to pull away from Megennis, who was unable to shake off the attentions of Norman. On Lap 19, Norman took advantage of his AER turbo engine’s push-to-pass feature to power past Megennis on the main straightaway. Five laps later VeeKay attempted to follow suit, only for Megennis to hold his line through Turn 4, forcing VeeKay to the outside and, ultimately, to tuck back into line. Next time around, Megennis bowed to the inevitable as VeeKay completed his pass a little earlier on the straightaway and moved through neatly into third.
The Dutchman’s charge from sixth on the grid earned him his third Tilton Hard Charger Award of the season.
Megennis slipped back to a distant and lonely fourth at the finish, well clear of David Malukas (BN Racing) and Lucas Kohl (Belardi Auto Racing), who kept his nose clean to secure his best finish of the season thus far.
Askew’s perfect day also included posting a new lap record of 1m10.8079s (114.801 mph) during a second qualifying session to secure the pole position for tomorrow’s 13th round of the championship, for which the green flag will fly at 12:50 p.m. EDT.