By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Arrow McLaren SP confirmed Thursday afternoon that NTT IndyCar Series rookie Oliver Askew won’t be competing in next weekend’s Harvest Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway GP Circuit.
The announcement comes after INDYCAR Medical Team deemed Askew unfit to drive after reporting of having balance and coordination issues at Mid-Ohio. With him sitting out, he’ll now have to go through the sanctioning body’s Return to Racing Protocol as he had two significant crashes in a span of a week last month.
“This was an incredibly tough call but I have to follow the advice of the INDYCAR Medical Team and my doctors. My priority right now is focusing on my health,” said last year’s Indy Lights champion in a press release. “Despite not being in the car, I will be at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Harvest GP, giving whatever insight and support to Arrow McLaren SP that I can.”
With Askew out, the No. 7 team went with Helio Castroneves to take over in the final doubleheader of the season. It’ll be the three-time Indy 500 champion’s first Indy car event he’ll compete in a non-Team Penske car since the ill-fated 1999 Marlboro 500 when he drove for Carl Hogan at Fontana.
“First and foremost, we wish Oliver the best and that he is able to take time to recover,” said Castroneves. “I look forward to getting back on track and helping to build on the great progress that Arrow McLaren SP has made this year.”
Instant Reaction on Askew Being Sidelined
I had that feeling for a good while that something wasn’t right with Askew’s performance since that brutal crash in the Indianapolis 500 where he violently slammed in the inside wall. That was a massive shunt and took a good while to get out of his car and was heavily assisted by the medical crew.
A massive crash for Oliver Askew in the #Indy500.@IMS added SAFER Barriers designed for safety, and we're so glad they exist as he and Conor Daly are OK. Watch the race on @NBC: https://t.co/B6M3MXYpFe pic.twitter.com/2T6m3Y8ZYL
— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) August 23, 2020
Despite those visuals, Askew was able to run the Gateway doubleheader but that too had ramifications. Before the opening lap of the first Gateway race, a clog of cars checked up and Askew plowed into the back of Simon Pagenaud.
On a scale of 1-10, Alexander Rossi is probably a 50 on the pissed off and frustrated scale.
Out of today’s race at Gateway before it even really started. Zach Veach, Simon Pagenaud also caught up in the mess.
— Taylor Tannebaum (@TaylorTannebaum) August 29, 2020
Following two crashes, Askew still competed but it wouldn’t be until the conclusion of the Mid-Ohio doubleheader weekend where he finally was dealing with concussion-like symptoms.
Concussions is a sore subject in racing because in the past, there have been drivers who competed months after a bad wreck without saying anything. That doesn’t bode well with many folks as seen with NASCAR’s Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in 2002, so I applaud Askew for opening up what’s happened despite how long it took to reach such unfortunate point where he’ll miss at least two races.
No Indy Redemption
What’s an absolute bummer about Askew sitting out is the fact he won’t get to redeem himself from two disappointing outings at Indianapolis. Let’s not forget that Askew had a car capable of winning the pole in the GMR Grand Prix before settling for the fifth starting spot.
Even sadder is that Askew hasn’t had the opportunity to capitalize on strong starting spots, including that grand prix race where he had a crash on Lap 35. So far, Indy hasn’t been kind to the Floridian racer and it’s kind of defined his underwhelming rookie season.
Excluding a superb doubleheader at Iowa where he finished third and sixth, Askew hasn’t scored a single top-10 since that crash in June and sits 18th in the standings. Talk about a bummer deal and in a sport where performance is vital, a driver can’t slip because no matter how talented a driver is, they can be replaced.
I hope Askew doesn’t get replaced due to those accidents because those results doesn’t reflect his driving abilities at all.
Open Door for Castroneves
It’s no secret that Castroneves wants to be back in IndyCar on a regular basis again. In fact, you can sense that since he became a full-time IMSA driver for Penske’s Acura program that’ll close after this season.
The No.7 Chevrolet is the perfect shot for Castroneves to prove he’s still a valuable driver in the sport that can have great runs because it’s evident that last month’s Indy 500 may have been his last for Penske.
When you look at the rumors, desires and the market next season, there are some seats that can be open up. In fact, we already have one as Andretti Autosport sacked the under performing Zach Veach Wednesday. Thus, the No. 26 Honda is available, but all signs could say it’s James Hinchcliffe or Road to Indy star Kyle Kirkwood’s seat.
Would Michael Andretti only focus on those two guys or be keen of having Castroneves aboard?
I firmly believe it’ll boil down if Meyer Shank Racing has the budget to run a second car on their stable and Arrow McLaren SP’s interest of expanding to three cars coming into fruition.
Along with Veach’s departure, Shank was also in the news for being set to run DPi Acuras and close its GT program. If I were Michael Shank, I’d keep an eye on Castroneves’ performance in the McLaren next weekend and if the backing is there, I’d get a well established veteran driver to work with Jack Harvey because as solid the British racer is, it never hurts to have a teammate. Imagine how much Harvey can learn from the Brazilian and in this day in age, full-time single-car teams isn’t viable like it used to be. Teamwork is paramount.
Not only that, Acura (Honda’s sister car make) are fully behind the highly likely soon-to-be former Penske driver where he’s even been featured in commercials. Kind of like how Honda Canada’s relationship with Hinchcliffe when you really think about it.
As for McLaren, a third car won’t hurt at all and with guys like Fernando Alonso going to Formula 1 the next two seasons and losing out on Jimmie Johnson, who’ll be going to Chip Ganassi Racing, Castroneves is their next great option. As great as the two rookies (Askew and Pato O’Ward) have held their own, they need a veteran to balance things out.
While it’s at the expense of Askew, Castroneves may have a shot of proving how great he can be in different equipment. Something he’s no stranger of going through considering he got the nod from Roger Penske in 2000 to be in one of his cars following Greg Moore’s tragic death at Fontana the year before.
Time will tell how next weekend’s doubleheader will shape up the future of Castroneves and Arrow McLaren SP because it’s a make it or break it situation that’ll shake things up for next season’s grid.