By Road to Indy
MADISON, Ill. – The second and final oval race of the 2019 Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires season saw Oliver Askew of Andretti Autosport extend his winning streak to seven – and fourth in a row – this afternoon at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway after a dominant run which saw the 22-year-old from Jupiter, Fla., cross the finish line 6.7 seconds over the field.
Askew added an exclamation point by posting the fastest lap of the race on Lap 73 of the 75-lap contest.
Title rival Rinus VeeKay of Juncos Racing 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 (Juncos Racing) and Robert Megennis (Andretti Autosport). 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 2. 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 2 on Lap 51. He never looked back.
He now leads VeeKay by 52 points, 349-304, as all Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires competitors head next to Portland International Raceway on August 31/September 1.
Megennis, who finished fifth, earned the Tilton Hard Charger Award, with Kellett, Kohl and Sowery rounding out the field.
Provisional championship points after 14 of 18 races:
1. Oliver Askew, 395
2. Rinus VeeKay, 343
3. Ryan Norman, 295
4. Robert Megennis, 275
5. Toby Sowery, 270
6. David Malukas, 242
7. Dalton Kellett, 213
8. Lucas Kohl, 200
Oliver Askew (#28 Index Invest Dallara-Andretti Autosport Dallara-AER IL-15): “I’ve said it a lot, but I’ve just been so calm this year. 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 1. 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.”
Rinus VeeKay (#21 Mazda/Jumbo Supermarkets/La Place Restaurants/KNAF Talent First-Juncos Racing Dallara-AER IL-15): “We didn’t have much to lose so we tried to trim out the car – we used a setup that we had about five laps on, so we weren’t sure how it would go on a longer stint. I had a great start and was able to get by Oliver, but we were surprised by the balance on every lap. We had such low downforce. I picked up a lot of understeer but I kept my foot in it and at one point, I brushed the wall. It was quite a hit; I’m glad the car wasn’t damaged. Oliver got a run on me and from that moment, I backed off a bit to bring the car home. To get P2 and most laps led is a good thing.
“But I’ll try to do everything I can to catch Oliver: it will be tough, but the team and I will give it all we have, and that’s all we can do. I’ve raced against him for three years – he’s always quick and we’re always together. We’re really good rivals.”
David Malukas (#79 HMD Trucking-HMD Motorsports Dallara-AER IL-15): “The car was more set up for the end of the race, so I was struggling early on with oversteer and was kind of on the limit. I was trying to stay with Oliver and Rinus but they were pulling away. Then, about mid-race, the car just kicked in and I started going. The track was greasier than it had been in the test and at any point this weekend, but we made it work.
“It’s been little bits since Indianapolis, putting the Freedom 100 crash behind me. It has stayed with me, but I gained confidence through the test given how quick the car was. It was still with me today, but once I got through the first three laps, it was gone and I was focused.”