By Christopher DeHarde, IndyCar & Road to Indy Writer
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama- After a chaotic start to the second race for the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda at Barber Motorsports Park, Oliver Askew was able to sweep the doubleheader weekend in USF2000 after surviving constant pressure from Kaylen Frederick.
The Cape Motorsports entry led from pole but the first half of the race was run under the safety car after three separate incidents knocked four cars out of the race and another car out of contention.
On the restart, Frederick went to the outside of Askew in Turn 5 but Askew was able to hold off the Team Pelfrey driver.
Meanwhile, Exclusive Autosport’s Parker Thompson kept himself in third ahead of race one podium finisher Rinus VeeKay in fourth and a newcomer to the championship Toby Sowery for Benik Kart in fifth.
For Askew, this was his third win out of four races this season and he currently lead the points 122-88 over Frederick and VeeKay and winning never gets boring to him, especially when trying to hold off a massive challenge from behind.
“It was tough, it’s hard to pass around here so I knew if I just pulled a little bit of a gap and pace then I could win the race again just like yesterday,” Askew said.
“So yeah, [Frederick]’s definitely kept me honest this weekend, we had a huge advantage in qualifying, I think we had a better setup for qualifying obviously so that’s the most important thing around this track is that we were able to qualify for pole for both races and win them both.”
Askew wasn’t worried about not getting the bonus point for fastest lap.
“The trophy is the most important thing. I was pacing him a little bit there at the end just saving my tires just in case he did pick up some more pace that I would have some more tires to keep him honest again,” Askew said.
Frederick had a small mistake that cost him a couple of seconds to Askew but the silver lining for Frederick was that he was able to secure fastest lap by .001 seconds over Askew and by doing that earned the bonus point with it.
“The only reason why I got it was because I fell so far behind and then started charging forward again so, I mean, I guess that mistake did give me a single benefit out of it but I definitely would have liked to have stayed behind him and maybe kept challenging him,” Frederick said.
Frederick leads his Team Pelfrey teammates in points with Robert Megennis in fifth and Ayla Agren in tenth. The 14-year-old learns a lot from his teammates and it shows.
“It’s definitely great because they know a lot about these new tracks that I sometimes know nothing about but I’ve been here testing so I did know a little bit but when I get to a new track they both really help me out to get up to speed and they give me some good references and stuff like that.”
Thompson’s finish has him fourth in points but he’s adamant that he’s still in this championship fight despite a 45 point deficit to Askew.
“I think we’re in a great position for the championship. Oliver had the start I had last year where you come in, you’re getting wins, you’re getting podiums you’re getting poles, the momentum is there but you know what, I watched first hand how that momentum can disappear and how the championship can turn,” Thompson said.
“We’re two race [weekends] in out of eight, we’ve got momentum now with Exclusive Autosport, we’re going to some tracks we know and to come out with four out of four top fives and this is their first year on the Mazda Road to Indy, I can guarantee you in the later half of this season we’re going to be a big threat,” Thompson added.
The 2016 series runner-up was upbeat about how the team came back from having no test time at Barber.
“We haven’t tested on a big, swoopy, long duration road course yet, we did all of our preseason testing at Sebring and Homestead so we came here, we didn’t really know how to roll off the trailer or what setup to take so we battled through adversity, you know in practice we were ninth place overall, and in qualifying we qualified sixth, we kind of just chipped away at it and then we came out with a qualifying of third and a third place finish in race two which I think is fantastic.”