MADISON, Ill. – Oliver Askew continued his winning ways in the Indy Lights series with his seventh victory of the season Saturday at World Wide Technology Raceway.
Askew put together a dominant performance, with the 22-year-old finishing 6.7 seconds ahead of his closest competition. Askew added an exclamation point by posting the fastest lap of the race on lap 73 of the 75-lap contest.
Title rival Rinus VeeKa had to settle for second after holding off a charging David Malukas, who started fourth, in the closing stages and claim his second podium of the year for the newly reformed HMD Motorsports team.
Askew started on pole – his seventh of the year – but it was all VeeKay at the drop of the green flag, who managed to pass Askew and assume a comfortable margin with the pair seemingly content to run one-two around the 1.25-mile egg-shaped oval.
All eyes were focused mid-pack at that stage with battles between Sowery, Dalton Kellett and Robert Megennis. Lap 10 saw the only caution of the 75-lap Cooper Tires Oval Challenge of St. Louis with Toby Sowery in the second HMD Motorsports entry spinning on his own in turn two. With no contact, the race quickly resumed five laps later with the attention shifting back to the frontrunners.
With Askew in hot pursuit, VeeKay had a slight wall brush on Lap 29 but continued to maintain his lead. The pair were on their own out front with a six-second span over Malukas in third and Ryan Norman (Andretti Autosport) – last year’s race winner – in fourth. Askew, it seemed, was biding his time and made the move to pass VeeKay on the outside of turn two on lap 51. He never looked back.
“I’ve said it a lot, but I’ve just been so calm this year,” Askew said. “It’s the least anxious I’ve ever been, because I know we’ll be quick every weekend. 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 one. 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.”
Askew now leads VeeKay by 52 points, 349-304, as all Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires competitors head to Portland Int’l Raceway on Aug. 31-Sept. 1.