There’s no stopping Oliver Askew just now. Askew, 22, from Jupiter, Fla., celebrated the news he will soon test an Indy car for the first time by dominating the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires field this weekend at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Askew not only won both 30-lap races from the pole position for Andretti Autosport, he was never headed on the race track and capped an impressive performance by posting the fastest lap of the race – without the benefit of the AER turbo engine’s push-to-pass feature, which is available only to pursuing cars – on his final trip around the undulating and challenging 2.258-mile circuit.
The focus of this afternoon’s race, once again held in perfect summer weather in front of a bumper crowd in advance of the Honda Indy 200 NTT IndyCar Series headline event, instead was on the battle for second.
Englishman Toby Sowery (BN Racing/Team Pelfrey) couldn’t match Askew’s pace, especially in the second half of the race, but he just managed to fend off the attentions of Askew’s primary title rival, Rinus VeeKay (Juncos Racing), after a race-long battle.
Askew laid down a marker to the field yesterday, winning the opening race of the weekend and ensuring himself of pole position for Race 2 by posting a new record qualifying lap of 1m10.8079s, an average speed of 114.801 mph. He duly led the field into Turn 1 at the start, although behind him there was drama as fourth and fifth-place qualifiers Robert Megennis (Andretti Autosport) and Dalton Kellett (Juncos Racing) barely touched wheels at the apex of the corner. The impact was nevertheless enough to pitch Kellett into a spin and cause both Megennis and a following Aaron Telitz (Belardi Auto Racing) to run wide through the grass and gravel.
After a brief full-course caution, Askew took off into the lead and then took advantage of a tight scrap behind him between VeeKay, who started second, and Sowery to complete the first lap of green-flag racing a commanding 2.6 seconds clear.
Next time around, as Sowery made use of his push-to-pass feature to power past VeeKay on the main straight, Askew’s lead was extended to more than three seconds. He settled into a comfortable pace for a while, but as soon as he realized Sowery had closed almost to within range of the push-to-pass activation gap, 1.5 seconds, Askew put his head down once again and began to edge away. Askew’s string of impressively fast and consistent laps – plus his final flourish to reclaim fastest lap from VeeKay on the final tour – ensured he crossed the finish line a comfortable 5.2s clear.
“I think that was one of the best drives I’ve ever had,” said Askew. “It was a matter of me putting everything together, and I did. Some tracks I just click with and this is one of them.
“I got a good jump at the start and was able to extend before the yellow. I wasn’t that concerned about the yellow — it was just like yesterday. I try to do something different each restart so the other drivers don’t catch on and I catch them off guard. That seems to work. Also we had new Cooper tires so we had more grip than some of the other cars in the beginning and that helped with traction coming back to green.
“Once I got away from push-to-pass range, it was smooth sailing. The team let me know Toby was getting close so I put the hammer down late. I was happy with my performance at the end of the race and my consistency, and happy to come away with maximum points. The guys at Andretti Autosport and I will just keep on pushing.”
VeeKay was unable to displace Sowery, despite an intense effort, but still finished well ahead of Ryan Norman (Andretti Autosport). David Malukas (BN Racing) recorded his second top-five finish of the weekend and collected the Tilton Hard Charger Award. Next up was Telitz, who recovered from a second incident with Megennis immediately after the early restart to catch and pass teammate Lucas Kohl in the closing stages.
Askew’s commanding weekend was the first time any single driver had swept both poles, race wins, fastest laps and led every lap since the introduction of the Dallara-AER IL-15 in 2015. Jack Harvey was the last man to accomplish the feat, also at Mid-Ohio, in 2014. Askew now leads VeeKay by 45 points, 349-304, as the contenders head next to Worldwide Technology Raceway at Gateway in Madison, Ill., for Round 14 out of 18 on August 24.