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Oliver Askew: What a weekend!

April 19, 2019

JUPITER, Fla. – Ever since I was about 14 years old, becoming a professional racing driver has been the absolute dream. Back then I thought it was all about talent and driver ability, and that if I could win every regional and national kart race I entered, the car manufacturers and IndyCar scouts would come knocking on my door. If you know racing, then you’re probably laughing right now because you know how far that is from reality. A McLaren or Red Bull contract at 14 years old would have been sweet, but after looking back at the path I’ve taken to get to the point I’m at today and the people I’ve met along the way, I wouldn’t change a single thing.

The vibe at Andretti Autosport is inspiring
(photo courtesy of Chris Bucher/Road to Indy Media).

A wise man once told me to leave myself no other option but to achieve my ultimate goal. Risky, I know, but I think this mindset has taken my attitude and determination to another level. I am still very far away from achieving my racing goals but I think we have made a huge step forward over the opening months of 2019 – signing with Andretti Autosport to compete in Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires this year and now leading the points championship heading into the month of May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Both the Team USA and Mazda scholarships are what gave me the chance to step foot into the Road to Indy at the beginning of 2017. Without them my name probably would have never made it this far, so despite Mazda having left the stage at the end of last year their impact will continue to be felt for some time. Moving forward without the scholarships was going to be hard, but like John Doonan, the director of Mazda Motorsports U.S., has always said, success in motorsport is all about the people and process. Fortunately, we have some great people helping this program move forward.

It was cool to have Michael Andretti offer his congratulations after I took the pole in St. Petersburg
(photo courtesy of Chris Bucher/Road to Indy Media).

The start of the 2019 season has been really positive. Pre-season testing was limited on my side so I feel like the more seat time I get the more comfortable I am driving the IL-15 on the edge. My engineer Doug Zister has won three Indy Lights championships and has worked with top drivers like Josef Newgarden and Colton Herta. He’s been extremely knowledgeable and helpful getting me up to speed in this new environment. My teammates Ryan Norman and Robert Megennis are always near the top of the speed charts, too. It is always nice to bounce questions off one another and move forward as a group, and we seem to have a healthy relationship so far between the three of us.

The Index Dallara-AER IL-15 was fast in Texas!
(Photo courtesy of Chris Bucher/Road to Indy Media)

We just concluded rounds three and four of the 18-round championship at Circuit of The Americas, an inaugural event for Indy Lights and IndyCar on the famed 3.41-mile purpose-built Formula One facility. My goal was to bounce back from a disappointing weekend at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg where despite showing good speed by finishing Race One in third and qualifying on pole for Race Two, I got tied up in an incident on the opening lap losing valuable points.

Moving forward, I wanted to put my stamp on this championship and show that we’re real contenders. We began practice one on Friday morning with a version of the car we tested there about a month prior, and after finishing practice one at the top of the time sheets, it seemed that all the homework both myself and the team did during our time away from COTA had paid off. We carried that same momentum into qualifying and topped both qualifying one and qualifying two by some margin. Starting from pole is usually a huge advantage in Indy Lights, particularly if you can make it through the opening lap uncontested. COTA proved to race very well with the long straights preceding slow-speed second gear corners. The 50 HP push-to-pass feature on the Dallara IL-15 offers even more opportunity to overtake.

I couldn’t have been happier after my first Indy Lights win (photo courtesy of Flying Lap Media).

There was plenty of action in both races. Luckily in Race One we pulled away from pole over the first five laps and eventually let the field fight for second place, with a lead of 24.68 seconds at the checkered flag. It was one of the greatest margins of victory in the history of Indy Lights, and as it was my first ever Indy Lights win it filled both myself and everyone involved in the Andretti Autosport Indy Lights program with confidence. With one race remaining, it was important for us to execute once again and complete the weekend sweep with a full 64 points, and we did. Though it wasn’t without a fight from my teammate starting off-pole in the 27 car, Robert Megennis. I was a bit too nice and left the door open for him to overtake me at the start going uphill to Turn One. Our #28 car still had some juice left over from Race One so I was able to get back by Robert after using push-to-pass heading down the long back straight-away into Turn 12 to complete the weekend sweep and take over the championship points lead.

If I were to tell my 14-year-old self what I would be doing in 2019, he would be in total disbelief. But I wouldn’t tell him to change a single thing, keep doing what you love and trust the process. It was hard for the emotions to sink in on the podium. I don’t think I’m fully satisfied and there is obviously a big job ahead; this is just the beginning and we must keep our heads down and leave no stone unturned.

Celebrating the weekend sweep at the Index Invest headquarters in Jupiter, Fla., with (l. to r.) Justin Bruns,
Bjarne Borg and Joacim Borg.

It was an unbelievable weekend to say the least. I have to give a massive shout-out to everyone on the Andretti Autosport Indy Lights team especially my mechanics Dave Mehan, Nate Steadman and Ryan Liddy. It was great to get a pair of wins for those guys after all the effort they put in to making the number 28 car an absolute bullet. I’d also like to send a special thanks to my sponsors and supporters, the Borg Family, Index Invest, Bob and Sharon Stellrecht, the Stellrecht Company, Justin Bruns, Joacim Borg, Wavelength Images, Chris Wheeler, Bell Racing USA, Billy Deakins, Sparco USA, Jeff Dickerson, Joey Dennewitz, Don Rohr, Spire Sports & Entertainment, Bommarito Automotive Group, SimMetric Labs,, the Team USA Scholarship, Studio 52, Young Adventurers, Coastal Performance, and last but not least my family and local support group.

I am really looking forward to the next few races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway GP circuit in May. I will be spending the next month in Indianapolis training at Pit Fit and spending time at the Andretti Autosport headquarters. I will also be at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach in a few weeks to attend the Road Racing Drivers Club dinner and cheer on my IndyCar teammates on a track where Andretti Autosport and Alexander Rossi had great success last year.