The second and final oval race of the 2019 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires season saw Andretti Autosport’s Oliver Askew extend his consecutive win streak to four, the 22-year-old Floridian claiming his seventh win of the season at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway.
Askew crossed the finish line 6.7 seconds over the field after a dominant run, adding an exclamation point by posting the fastest lap of the race on Lap 73 of the 75-lap contest.
Title rival Rinus VeeKay (Juncos Racing) had to settle for second, holding off a charging David Malukas in the closing stages who claim his second podium of the year for the newly reformed HMD Motorsports team.
Askew started on pole — also his seventh of the year — but it was all VeeKay at the drop of the green flag, passing Askew and pulling out a comfortable margin with the leqd pair seemingly content to run 1-2 around the 1.25-mile egg-shaped oval.
All eyes were focused mid-pack at that stage with battles raging between Toby Sowery (HMD Motorsports), Dalton Kellett (Juncos Racing) and Robert Megennis (Andretti Autosport). Lap 10 saw the only caution of the 75-lap Cooper Tires Oval Challenge of St. Louis with Sowery spinning on his own in Turn 2.
With no contact, the race quickly resumed five laps later, attention shifting to the front runners.
With Askew in hot pursuit, VeeKay had a slight wall brush on Lap 29, but kept his lead, the pair six seconds ahead of Malukas in third and last year’s winner Ryan Norman (Andretti Autosport).
Askew, it seemed, was biding his time, suddenly making a move to pass VeeKay on the outside of Turn 2 on Lap 51…and never looking back.
“I’ve just been so calm this year. It’s the least anxious I’ve ever been, because I know we’ll be quick every weekend,” said Askew. “We take every opportunity as they come. From the start, I could see he was lighter on downforce, because he was so quick on the straights. That’s what gave him the run on me in Turn 1. But I knew that would drop off sooner or later. I tried to stay close – we saw last year that Ryan Norman made the pass late in the race and that’s what I was thinking. His car got freer, he made a mistake, and I was set up for the end of the race.
“It was one of the most enjoyable races I’ve had – Rinus and I have raced hard against each other for three years, but we haven’t gone head-to-head like that very much. That made it really cool. It’s very different when one of us drives away, compared to having to fight for it, and this is much more satisfying. This is our third full season in cars and the more experienced we get, the more methodical we get and that shows for all three of us.”
Megennis, who finished fifth, earned the Tilton Hard Charger Award, with Kellett, Kohl and Sowery rounding out the field.
Askew now leads VeeKay by 52 points, 349-304, as all Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires competitors head next to Portland International Raceway on Aug. 31-Sept. 1.