By Christopher DeHarde, IndyCar & Road to Indy Writer
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — Pabst Racing’s Rinus VeeKay needed to win the final race of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda in order to win the championship. Win he did, but Cape Motorsports’s Oliver Askew was able to finish second to secure the championship and with it the scholarship that allows him to move up to the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires.
VeeKay got around Askew at the start and would pull away to an early lead. Askew would maintain second place over VeeKay’s Pabst Racing teammate Calvin Ming while Team Pelfrey’s Kaylen Frederick and DEForce Racing’s Andres Gutierrez was fifth.
The majority of the action would take place between Gutierrez’s teammate Kory Enders, BN Racing’s David Malukas, Pabst Racing’s Lucas Kohl and Newman Wachs Racing’s Darren Keane for sixth through ninth. Malukas would be the big winner of that group finishing fifth ahead of Gutierrez, Enders, Keane and Kohl.
The hard charger of the race finished 10th as Team Pelfrey’s Robert Megennis started 20th thanks to an incident in qualifying but was able to charge his way through for another top 10 finish.
However, VeeKay was unchallenged as he won his third race of the season ahead of Askew, Ming and Frederick.
For VeeKay, he knew what he had to do to win the championship but knew the road to get first would be tough.
“I saw the gap getting bigger but also behind Oliver and Calvin the gap became bigger so I knew that I was second in the championship,” VeeKay said. “When I came to this weekend I was just thinking about that it wasn’t going to happen so if it happens it’s very nice and if it doesn’t happen, I’m second so it’s still a great feeling and I want to congratulate Oliver for a very good season with a lot of wins and hopefully we’ll race against each other in the future again.”
Askew knew he didn’t have to challenge VeeKay but he couldn’t fall back too far or he would risk losing the championship.
“It was one of the scenarios we went over before the race started,” Askew said. “The priority was to finish on the podium so if Rinus won the race and got maximum points I had to finish fourth. We did what exactly we needed to do and I’m so happy, this isn’t going to sink in for a while. I’m really looking forward to next year now.
“I’d like to thank my team Cape Motorsports, they gave me a great car when it counts. We started off the weekend on the off foot I think a little bit and when it counted once again we qualified on pole. That was fantastic and throughout the season they’ve given me a fantastic car to win this championship. This is their seventh consecutive championship so hands down they’re the best team in the paddock.”
This is Askew’s third scholarship victory in 12 months. He won the Team USA Scholarship to compete at the Formula Ford Festival and the Walter Hayes Trophy Race and a few weeks later in December 2016 the Floridian won the Mazda Road to Indy shootout at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for $200,000. With this scholarship today, Askew has won nearly $400,000 to use for a budget for the 2018 Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires.