By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer
INDIANAPOLIS— It all came down to a last second slingshot for the crown jewel event of Indy Lights, but Oliver Askew beat fellow Andretti Autosport driver Ryan Norman to the win for the Freedom 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The race got off to a bit of a rocky start as Jarett Andretti spun his car under the yellow before the race started and Aaron Telitz pulled into the pits with a broken axle that took five laps to fix for the 2016 Indy Pro 2000 champion.
After one lap under caution, the field went green with Robert Megennis leading from Norman. Norman picked up the lead heading to Turn 3 and soon after, chaos ensued.
David Malukas lost control of his No. 79 BN Racing entry and USAC racer Chris Windom had nowhere to go. Both cars went to the wall with Windom climbing the SAFER barrier before coming to a rest on the track.
“I’m feeling okay not sure what happened there,” said Windom. “The 79 lost it in front of me, I had nowhere to go. Pretty disappointing end to what we were looking forward to. He lost it obviously and I’m just devastated.”
It was Windom’s second big incident in 18 hours after a series of flips at the Hoosier Hundred.
The race was red flagged for SAFER barrier repair and when the green flag came out there was slicing and dicing among the top six cars.
The lead changed multiple times amongst Askew, Norman, Megennis and Rinus VeeKay but Megennis would soon be out of contention after an incident between he and Toby Sowery that both will remember for a long time.
Megennis was going around Sowery on the outside in Turn 1 and Sowery’s car pushed a bit on the exit of the corner. Both cars lightly touched, sending Megennis into a half spin but both cars continued.
“It was just a normal maneuver, really,” said Sowery. “He went around the outside and I was on the inside, lifted, downshifted as you normally would and I got a little bit of understeer and I think he kept it quite tight on the exit as well. I’m sorry it ended up that way, I got penalized during the race.
Sowery sought out Megennis but didn’t get far with the New York native.
“I said sorry to [Megennis] but he’s not happy,” Sowery said. “If he wants to be grown up about it and put it in the past and actually see it from my side then happy days, if not then it doesn’t bother me. Luckily we both ended the race, I don’t think he had the ultimate pace anyway so it didn’t affect him or me.”
When asked for comment, Megennis declined.
Coming to the last lap it was a two car battle between Askew and Norman. Askew led but Norman took the lead on the backstretch. Try as he might, Norman could not stop Askew as the 2017 USF2000 champion won by just .0067 seconds, the fourth closest Freedom 100 finish in history.
Askew was pretty pleased after scoring his third win of the Indy Lights season and retaking the points lead ahead of Road America but was thankful Norman left him some room to race.
“I just so happened to find myself in the top two, that’s really all it came down to,” said Askew. “I’ve been saving my tires the whole race to make sure I could take Turn 4 flat and I did, he left me the bottom. Honestly if he was on the bottom of the race track I would’ve been in dirty air and probably would’ve had to lift and he might’ve won the race. That’s such small details that it takes to win this race and just luckily had clean air and kept the thing pinned and went by him on the straight.”
After winning a pole position at Circuit of the Americas, Askew was asked if he kept any of the victory hats he won from USF2000 or Indy Pro 2000. He said then that he gave them away but there would always be doubt about the Freedom 100 1st place hat.
“I will keep this one, yes,” said Askew. “It’ll be hanging out in my locker so I can look at it every time I go in.”