By Joey Barnes | Published: Oct 2, 2019
Oliver Askew was an unrelenting force in 2019.
The 22-year-old Florida native put in a remarkable season with seven wins, 15 podiums and seven poles in 18 races en route to capturing the championship in Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires. By virtue of the title, he was awarded a $1.1 million scholarship that guarantees at least three races for the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season, including the 104th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.
While the magnitude of the accomplishment is something that is admittedly still “numb and surreal,” Askew is looking forward to returning to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the site of his signature Indy Lights victory (0.0067 of a second in this year’s Freedom 100).
“I can't wait to go back to IMS and experience what I experienced going through the Freedom 100 and even more,” Askew said. “That was an unbelievable day. I'll remember that weekend for the rest of my life. I can't wait to see the crowd again and all the emotion that the city of Indianapolis, and the world really, puts into that event.
“My racing goal is to still win (the 500); that's the next step. We won the Indy Lights championship. Now, the next step is to win IndyCar races and the Indianapolis 500. Just saying that now is pretty surreal.”
The opportunity to perform at such a high level despite being a rookie in the Road to Indy’s top rung was aided by being with Andretti Autosport, which also captured the title last season with Patricio O’Ward.
“The cars are good,” Askew said of what Andretti Autosport delivers. “I think we have the best and most consistent cars speed-wise, where most of the tracks we go to we have a shot at winning and being on the podium. So that helps. We have very knowledgeable individuals on the team. That's a pretty big deal. I mean, Joe D'Agostino, Ryan Norman's engineer, he's an ex-driver and I think that that's really helped him along. And we have a driver coach as well, so it helps.
“We have the IndyCar team to look up to as well. Andretti Autosport definitely has the whole package and are not missing much. Reigning champions; and I think we brought that experience last year into this year to make it happen.”
Additionally, Askew found something new within himself this year.
“I've found like a new sense of calm, and I found it to be both a positive and a negative,” Askew said. “I've been working on the negative side of it. Sometimes, in qualifying, for example, I feel so much more relaxed in the car for some reason this year and sometimes my mind is wandering a bit and I'm not fully focused because I'm so relaxed in the car.
“This is the first year that I've ever felt that, but I've learned to treat it more as a positive than a negative thing. Even before the biggest race of the year at the Freedom 100, I would normally have butterflies, but I didn't really feel much. I was just calm and ready to go. So that was something new.”
With his IndyCar career on the horizon, Askew closes the chapter on a storied Road to Indy career that will undoubtedly go down as one of best in the history of the three-tier ladder system. Askew built a profound legacy that includes two titles – 2019 Indy Lights (top rung) and the 2017 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship (bottom rung). He also won on all three levels, amassing 15 victories, 31 podiums, 38 top fives, 18 poles and 335 laps led in 48 races.
It is staggering to witness the drastic leap Askew has made from karting to IndyCar in less than four years, which is the pure embodiment of potential presented to those that pursue the Road to Indy.
“That's the only way that we could do it,” Askew said. “I don't have the luxury to spend a couple of years in one of the steps just to learn the ins and outs of open wheel racing. I had a very steep learning curve early on and I felt like I made the most out of my time in the Road to Indy to make sure I was ready to go.”