Indy Lights championship leader Oliver Askew has dominated the season with Andretti Autosport, following in the footsteps of Patricio O’Ward, who earned the 2018 Indy Lights title with the same team. Looking at how far O’Ward’s traveled since his achievement with Andretti Autosport, Askew’s preparing to reach similar heights in the NTT IndyCar Series.
With seven wins to his credit, and having stood on the podium at every race barring one since March 23, the Floridian has authored an epic year where seven poles have underscored his preparedness for all phases of the job he’s seeking in IndyCar.
On the heels of his rookie Indy Lights performances, the 22-year-old needs to do nothing more than take the start at the final two rounds in Monterey later this month to be crowned and earn the advancement prize of three NTT IndyCar Series races in 2020, including the Indy 500.
His hope is for team owners and sponsors to take notice and create the opportunity to complete the rest of the calendar behind the wheel of a Chevy- or Honda-powered Dallara DW12.
“First of all, it’s a privilege to race with a championship-winning team,” he told RACER. “Now to provisionally win two championships in a row, and then win a championship for the reigning champions in Indy Lights and Andretti Autosport is a privilege, and I’m very proud of the people around me to give me the car that I had this year.
“Winning championships means you need to be consistent at every single race, and I feel like that’s what we did this year. We stayed out of trouble and did the best we can with what we had every single day. I’m very proud of myself and the people around me working tirelessly. Honestly, I feel like we put a stranglehold on this championship a couple of races ago, so it’s kind of sunk in slowly.”
Askew and Indy Lights title rival Rinus VeeKay are expected to be featured players in IndyCar’s next rookie class. The two have battled for a few years on the Mazda Road To Indy, and also completed their first IndyCar tests on the same day at Portland International Raceway, with Askew invited to drive Scott Dixon’s Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.
In assessing how far he’s come since being selected to represent Jeremy Shaw’s Team USA program in 2016, and the major role Mazda Motorsports boss John Doonan has played in fast-tracking his open-wheel career since winning a shootout in Monterey that brought him out of karts, Askew credited a deep group of individuals for his rapid success.
“I’m so very proud of Andretti Autosport and my sponsors and everyone that’s gotten me to this point,” he said. “I’ve got to thank John Doonan as well, because John Doonan and Jeremy Shaw really kick started my Road To Indy and car racing career from karts, and Cape Motorsports as well, who I spent the past couple of years with. And I think it’s important to point out that that I’m going to be beginning and ending my Road to Indy career in WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, and that’s pretty emotional for sure.”
Standing behind Victory Lane on Sunday in Portland after earning his 14th podium visit of 2019, Askew wore a measured smile as he contemplated the months ahead. He’s bound for IndyCar, and has the look of his Andretti Indy Lights predecessors who hit the big series and made immediate waves with Carlin Racing and Harding Steinbrenner Racing.
Askew isn’t bubbly like O’Ward, or irreverent like Herta. He’s on a singular mission to become an IndyCar champion which, if we’re looking for parallels, feels more like his team owner, Michael Andretti, than any young American in recent memory.
“I’m confident that I have the right people around me working for me and working for my best interests that we’re going to be racing with a top team next year, whether it’s for a partial or full season in IndyCar,” he said.
“So that’s all we’ve been working for all year and if people are wondering why I haven’t been too ‘over the moon’ or looking super emotional about this championship, it’s because I believed this could happen from the start, and I think that’s why I believe that this is happening. There’s no surprises.”