By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Nothing but smiles for rookie Oliver Askew as his three-race skid over the past two weeks ended with his maiden NTT IndyCar Series podium following a third-place finish during Friday’s Iowa INDYCAR 250 at Iowa Speedway.
At a track he’s only previously driven in USF2000 and where the team has had plenty of success, Askew was thrilled to accomplish this feat at the 7/8 mile oval.
“I think this is the third podium in a row for Arrow McLaren SP here, so traditionally we’ve had really good cars and we knew that going in, but I kind of waited for the race to come to us,” Askew on the podium result.
“We made some good calls in the beginning of the race to jump a lot of traffic and ended up running one-two with Pato (O’Ward), which was awesome. I think without that yellow, we would have been in better shape, but that second yellow we would have been in better shape. To be on the podium here, it’s fantastic. My first podium on INDYCAR. Good to get that off my back and under my belt.”
From the 14th starting position, Askew kept his No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet out of trouble throughout the 250-lap event. The road towards a podium result began to unfold when the caution came out on Lap 144 for Will Power’s left front wheel coming off that led to him crashing in Turn 4.
Due to the pit strategy, Askew saw himself second behind his teammate Pato O’Ward and while the reigning Indy Lights champion didn’t lead a lap, it was the final stop where he shined.
On a night that was plagued with tire changing issues that hurt several competitors, Askew’s stop was clean compared to O’Ward, whose right front tire wasn’t fully installed, slowing down his final stop. O’Ward ended up finishing a spot behind Askew for his second straight top-five result of 2020.
With pit stops completed, it came down to Askew’s driving abilities to determine his night. The rookie was quickly cutting the gap on race leader Simon Pagenaud and second place Scott Dixon, who were trying to make it on fuel.
Over the radio, Askew kept asking where he was in the last few laps, but the team told him to stay focused on the race at hands. In that stretch, he was clocking in a second faster than leader Pagenaud and with 10 laps remaining, Askew passed Alexander Rossi for the final podium spot.
“I kept asking where third place was, and they just kept telling me to keep my head down. They knew that I would catch him eventually,” said Askew. “They were just trying to keep me focused on the task at hand. Yeah, awesome day for the team for sure. I feel great. Now we just need to focus on tomorrow and try to get another couple places better.”
Despite Askew cutting down the gap on Pagenaud, the amount of laps remaining was against him as Pagenaud went on to go from worst (23rd on the grid) to first at Iowa.
Following the race, Askew felt had the lengthy caution period for a scary crash involving Colton Herta and Rinus VeeKay didn’t come out, he would’ve been in a much better position of perhaps getting his first career INDYCAR victory and/or scoring a 1-2 effort for the two-car stable.
“Without that second yellow I thought that we would have been in really good shape for finishing one-two with Pato and I, and we’ll try to do it tomorrow,” Askew commented.
During the post-race video conference, Askew wasn’t aware why the Lap 157 restart was waved off because he had yet to see the accident.
“It didn’t seem like he went early. I don’t know why it was waved off. I thought it was waved off because there was contact,” Askew’s perspective on the restart. “But yeah, I haven’t seen the incident, so I can’t really comment on it. I was told in my ear that it was waved off right away.”
Nonetheless, Askew describes his outing at Iowa as the most fun he’s ever had driving a race car. Even though he felt very dirty due to the new air flow implemented on top of the Aeroscreen to prevent the extreme hot temperatures on the cockpit.
“(My) Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet absolutely came to life since the track started to get a bit cooler and once the sun completely went down, and yeah, I just had so much fun out there,” said Askew. “We were able to run the second lane about halfway through the race and I felt really good up there, as well.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been so dirty getting out of the car in my life, which means that it’s been moving some air into the cockpit. I haven’t done a back-to-back, so I can’t really say if it’s an improvement, but props to INDYCAR car for making the effort for sure,” Askew on the scoop.
Going into Saturday’s second race at Iowa, Askew trails rookie points leader Alex Palou by 12 points as he now sits 16th in points after five rounds.
“The goal is for every weekend that we come across is just to do our best and execute, and that’s what we did today,” Askew on his goals which hasn’t changed since the start of the year. “As long as we keep our heads down and keep executing, we should be in good shape in the future.”
Askew will roll off 13th for Race No. 2 of the Iowa INDYCAR 250. Live coverage beings at 8:30 p.m. on NBCSN. Josef Newgarden is the pole sitter for the 250-lap race.