Askew aims to break RTI grads’ part-time trend

Oliver Askew is determined to break the recent trend that has seen the last two Indy Lights champions struggle to establish themselves as full-time participants in the NTT IndyCar Series.

Ed Jones was the last Indy Lights champion to make a full-season debut the following year in IndyCar and, in between, champions Kyle Kaiser and Patricio O’Ward weren’t as fortunate. Although the prize for winning the Lights title includes three IndyCar races plus an entry for the Indianapolis 500, the 2017 and 2018 champs fell short with funding and contested a limited number of events. Both have a tenuous hold on futures in the series.

Since 2010, only Spencer Pigot, the 2015 Lights title winner, has been able to convert a partial IndyCar season into a full-time career, and based on those odds, the 22-year-old from Florida knows that landing a season-long seat is the best way to dodge pitfalls that have stifled so many of his predecessors.

“Definitely, that’s what we’re working towards,” he said. “Right now, we just have the scholarship to provide. But there’s a lot more promotion and exposure that we can provide, so it’s been a bit easier for my agency and myself to promote what we’re doing here. This is probably going to be one of the best off-seasons I’ve had in a while.”

Despite winning his Lights championship with Andretti Autosport, staying with the team and moving up to IndyCar is not an option due to the recent expansion to five cars with Colton Herta coming onboard. An ongoing relationship with Chip Ganassi Racing, which used Askew to test Scott Dixon’s No. 9 Honda in August at Portland, could develop into something beneficial for the lanky American.

“I’m quite confident that we have the right group around me to put myself in a good position, and to be affiliated with a top team next year,” he said. “And the goal is to run a full season. So, nothing short of that, and I feel like that’s the best way for me to get prepared.

“I mean, look at Colton Herta. He’s really put on some strides the last couple of races, and he’s just now getting a feel for the car and a feel for his surroundings in the Indy Car championship. It’s going to take more than three races to really show what I can do. So, that’s for real.”

 

Photo Gallery – 2019 Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey

The Open Wheel’s INDYCAR photo gallery of NTT IndyCar Series and Indy Lights action at the 2019 Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Original photography by Riley Bridges.

Click on a photo to open slide-show mode.

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Preview – 2019 Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey

By Dylan Reynolds, The Open Wheel

The 2019 INDYCAR season concludes this weekend with the NTT IndyCar Series Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey and the Cooper Tires Indy Lights Grand Prix Presented by Allied Building Products at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Salinas, California. The Open Wheel will be covering the action on site all weekend so stay tuned to this site and our Twitter page @openwh33l for all of the latest news.


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Photo by Riley Bridges/The Open Wheel

Weekend ScheduleEntry ListSpotter GuideCircuit MapTickets

Indy Lights Preview: Cooper Tires Indy Lights Grand Prix Presented by Allied Building Products (Entry List), Race 1 – Saturday, September 21, 2019 6:00PM (ET) & Race 2 – Sunday, September 22, 2019 12:05PM (ET) – The Indy Lights championship has been provisionally won by Andretti Autosport rookie Oliver Askew as all Askew needs to do is start the final two races at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca to clinch the title. It’s been an unbelievable season for Askew and he will be a deserving champion. It should be a fun weekend with plenty of drivers a threat to win but I expect Askew and Rinus VeeKay to continue to rise above the field as they have all year. My picks to win: Oliver Askew (Series Champion) – Oliver Askew & Rinus VeeKay (Races)

NTT IndyCar Series Preview: Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey – Sunday, September 22, 2019 2:30PM (ET) NBC – Previous driver experience at Laguna Seca shows just the four current drivers in the field have raced at the circuit in the NTT IndyCar Series in Sebastien Bourdais, Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Tony Kanaan. Bourdais has a pole but none of those four have won an NTT IndyCar Series race at Laguna Seca. Obviously, there isn’t much recent NTT IndyCar Series history to base predictions off of, but Colton Herta was fastest in testing on Thursday and most seem to believe Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course should be the closest comparison to what we may see this weekend. 2019 race and qualifying results from Mid-Ohio show some big items to watch. Will Power, Alexander Rossi, Josef Newgarden, and Simon Pagenaud took the first four spots in qualifying which would be incredible to see this weekend with all of the potential championship implications. Of course Dixon went on to win the race, but rookie Felix Rosenqvist appeared to be the fastest car on track so he could be one to watch. My pick to win: Josef Newgarden (Series Champion) & Alexander Rossi (Race) – My gut feeling is either Alexander Rossi or Simon Pagenaud will take the race win but it won’t be enough as Josef Newgarden will join them on the podium. I think Rossi will be that guy this weekend. Newgarden has found trouble a lot this year, but I think that’s a different story now that we’re at the final day and he’ll find a way to stay on track and use his typical Team Penske advantage at a new track to do all he’ll need to do to take home the title.

My fantasy.indycar.com picks: Alexander Rossi, Felix Rosenqvist, Jack Harvey, & Conor Daly – You know my thoughts on Rossi. I wouldn’t be surprised if Rosenqvist took victory this weekend with the expected parallels to Mid-Ohio and the increased speed he’s shown at the end of the year. Harvey could have found himself on the podium, or at least Top 5, at Portland even he wasn’t taken out by Hunter-Reay. Daly will be eager to show what he can do in Andretti Autosport equipment this weekend.

VIEW ALL THE OPEN WHEEL’S INDYCAR PREVIEWS HERE

Askew gunning for IndyCar opportunity

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 23rd, 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 the 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.”

VeeKay aims to lead ‘Dutch army’ to IndyCar

With four wins and 12 podiums in hand during his first Indy Lights season, Juncos Racing’s Rinus VeeKay isn’t looking to return to the top step of the Road to Indy ladder.

The 18-year-old would need a miracle to overcome Andretti Autosport’s Oliver Askew to earn the Indy Lights title, but for those who’ve seen the young Dutchman drive, there’s little doubt as to whether he’s ready for an NTT IndyCar Series graduation in 2020.

Two races remain on the Indy Lights calendar in Monterey; Askew simply needs to start both races to clinch the championship and earn the three-race IndyCar prize that comes with the achievement. For VeeKay, adding to his win tally is the goal, all while preparing for the next phase of his career by solidifying where he’ll drive in IndyCar next season.

“For now, I think the next week we’ll be talking to all those guys and then further in Laguna, it’s going to be a big focus, show A-class performance from myself, and show the IndyCar teams what I can do,” he told RACER.

VeeKay completed his first IndyCar test last month at Portland with the Ed Carpenter Racing team, where he was among the fastest drivers on a day that had Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and other front-running drivers in attendance.

While Askew has, rightfully, garnered most of the attention in Indy Lights this year, VeeKay’s successful IndyCar test at Portland helped raise his profile in the IndyCar paddock in powerful ways.

“I’ve got now quite a few teams that show a lot of interest in me,” he said. “After the IndyCar test I walked around the track in Gateway and a lot of people know me now. It’s a lot different. It takes longer to get somewhere!

“Also, fans and people that know a lot about IndyCar, they start to acknowledge me and I think they are hopefully looking forward to seeing me in IndyCar next season, like I do.”

As the 2018 Indy Pro 2000 champion, VeeKay has carried Mazda’s Soul Red livery all season with Juncos Racing. The car also wears branding from his sponsor Jumbo, Holland’s second-largest supermarket chain, and with its enthusiastic support of Dutch Formula 1 star Max Verstappen, the company is expected to play a key role in helping VeeKay reach IndyCar.

Although his destination in the big series has yet to be named, the links to ECR have only strengthened since the Portland test. Carpenter spent time during last weekend’s Portland Grand Prix on pit lane observing Indy Lights qualifying, and during Sunday’s IndyCar race, VeeKay’s tall frame was impossible to miss on the ECR timing stand as he listened to driver Ed Jones and his engineers throughout the 105-lap contest.

Whether it’s with ECR or another capable team, VeeKay is confident the grandstands will see plenty of orange on display as Dutch fans in America embrace his IndyCar journey.

“I think it will be a lot,” he added. “If you look at Max Verstappen, he has a whole orange army behind him and even in the Belgian GP, it’s all orange. So that’s something I would like to take over a bit here and I think it’s been such a long time since there’s been a Dutch driver in IndyCar, and especially a winning Dutch driver.

“I think if I can really put the Netherlands in the spotlight here, I think it will help. It’s a small country, but everything goes super quick. It’s way easier to get your whole army behind you in the Netherlands, and we will see IndyCar grow a lot there. I think it’s getting better and better too with media following IndyCar in the Netherlands. I’d like to be the guy that fans at home want to follow in IndyCar.”

 

Liveries – 2019 Indy Lights Portland International Raceway

The Open Wheel’s Indy Lights liveries feature with photos of all the Indy Lights cars and drivers at the 2019 Cooper Tires Indy Lights Grand Prix Presented by Allied Building Products at Portland International Raceway in Portland, Oregon. Original photography by Parker Hall.

#2 HMD MOTORSPORTS/TEAM PELFREY DALLARA – TOBY SOWERY

#5 BELARDI AUTO RACING DALLARA – LUCAS KOHL

#21 JUNCOS RACING DALLARA – RINUS VEEKAY

#27 ANDRETTI AUTOSPORT DALLARA – ROBERT MEGENNIS

#28 ANDRETTI AUTOSPORT DALLARA – OLIVER ASKEW

#48 ANDRETTI AUTOSPORT DALLARA – RYAN NORMAN

#67 JUNCOS RACING DALLARA – DALTON KELLETT

#79 HMD MOTORSPORTS DALLARA – DAVID MALUKAS

VIEW ALL THE OPEN WHEEL’S EVENT LIVERY PAGES HERE