By Christopher DeHarde, IndyCar & Road to Indy Writer
LEXINGTON, Ohio — Oliver Askew bounced back from a less than ideal weekend at Toronto by winning the first of two races for the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
The Floridian led from the start, building a gap over fellow front row starter Lucas Kohl. Kohl would fall back behind his Pabst Racing Teammate Rinus VeeKay and Exclusive Autosport driver Parker Thompson. Thompson would get into second place early with VeeKay following and turned the wick up on Askew midway through the race.
As the race went on, one of the more impressive drives was turned in by David Malukas. The BN Racing driver was fighting up front at Road America and Toronto and started 17th. Halfway through the race, Malukas was eighth and would climb up to fifth before a full course yellow changed the race.
Moises de la Vara spun off course late in the race and could not get his car recovered without leaving it, causing a full course yellow with under ten minutes to go. The race restarted with Askew ahead of Thompson, VeeKay, Kohl and Malukas.
The top four would remain unchanged as Calvin Ming would get around Malukas for fifth to give Pabst Racing a 3-4-5 finish.
For Askew, this was his fourth perfect race including scoring every bonus point available on offer.
“It’s massive, it’s exactly what we needed to do to stay out of trouble and maximize the points,” said Askew. “If I do well again tomorrow then we can wrap up the championship but I’m not thinking about that too much, I’m just making sure that I go back to the engineering room tonight and make sure that we have a good car again and we can definitely improve on it,” Askew added.
After Toronto, Askew wasn’t at ease with how his championship run had gone and how many points he had given up to VeeKay.
“This is probably the most anxious I’ve been all year, that’s for sure. There’s just so much on the line, I mean there’s what, $300,000-$350,000 on the line. That’s a lot of money, it’s like we’re going to war out there. It’s as simple as that,” Askew said.
For Thompson, his third podium finish in a row after two victories at Toronto added to his points total but losing points to Askew has pretty put this championship out of reach.
“Going into the race I knew it was going to be tough because we were pretty well the only car that went out onto the field that actually went out on qualifying tires,” Thompson said. “So we’ve got new tires for tomorrow which is nice, our strategy will be a little bit different than everyone else’s which I think will really pay off for tomorrow for the race win,” Thompson added.
VeeKay was satisfied with his run but felt that he was quicker than his result indicated.
“It was pretty good, the speed was there,” VeeKay said. “The first part of the race I was I think the quickest on the track and then the tires got older and I was behind Parker (Thompson) so I had understeer because of the aero. That destroyed my front tires and I lost a bit of speed with that and I kept that pace for the rest of the race but it’s just not enough to also attack after the safety car procedure, I had to defend against Lucas Kohl,” VeeKay added.
UPDATE: After further review, it has been determined that Askew did not follow proper restart protocol after the late safety car period. Already on probation for another restart issue earlier this year at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Askew was docked ten championship points, reducing his lead to 19 points with two races to go in the championship.