INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Oliver Askew is fast making the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda his own personal playground. The 20-year-old winner of last fall’s inaugural Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 $200k Scholarship Shootout today claimed two pole positions (including for tomorrow morning’s race) and another beautifully controlled victory for the Cape Motorsports team. Askew, from Jupiter, Fla., led from flag-to-flag this afternoon at a warm and breezy Indianapolis Motor Speedway Grand Prix circuit in the Mazda Road to Indy Grand Prix Presented by Royal Purple Supporting Lupus Foundation of America.
Kaylen Frederick, 14, from Potomac, Md., claimed his third successive second-place finish for Team Pelfrey, while Guyana’s Calvin Ming completed the podium for Pabst Racing.
The opening stages of today’s fifth round of the 14-race championship were interrupted by full-course cautions following a succession of incidents around the 2.439-mile road course. Once the race was under way in earnest, however, there was no touching Askew, who made an exemplary restart and controlled the race from the front with a series of consistently fast laps. How consistent and how fast? Well, he stretched his lead to Frederick to almost two seconds with a trio of laps all within a few thousandths of a second of each other, then rammed home his superiority by securing the additional bonus point for the fastest lap of the race at a new record-breaking time of 1:25.4916 for an average speed of 102.705 mph.
Askew’s mark in the new Tatuus USF-17 eclipsed the previous standard, set by Nico Jamin during his championship-winning 2015 campaign, by almost a full second.
In Askew’s wake, Frederick saw off an early challenge from Ming to take the checkered flag 3.3461 seconds adrift of the winner and almost two seconds clear of Ming, who thoroughly deserved his first podium finish of the season.
Askew’s Cape Motorsports teammate, Ricky Donison, from Bangalore, India, made a huge leap forward by qualifying third and finishing a strong fourth (his previous best was a lowly 13th). Dakota Dickerson, from San Diego, Calif., rounded out the top five for Newman Wachs Racing.
UK-based South African Callan O’Keeffe also impressed on his debut with Team Benik by finishing sixth among a quality field of 23 cars, fractionally ahead of Dutchman Rinus VeeKay (Pabst Racing) and New Yorker Robert Megennis (Team Pelfrey).
Norway’s Ayla Agren (Team Pelfrey) and Mexican Moises de la Vara (DEForce Racing), who earned the Tilton Hard Charger Award after starting 17th, completed the top 10 ahead of another debutant, David Malukas, of Lithuanian descent but based in Chicago, with the new BN Racing team.
The PFC Award was secured by the winning team, Cape Motorsports. Ming took home the Staubli Award.
Askew’s fourth straight win extended his championship lead to 43 points, 156-113, over Frederick heading into tomorrow’s sixth round.
Oliver Askew (#3 Mazda Motorsports/MC Racing-Cape Motorsports): “I tried not to think about winning here, because I didn’t want to jinx myself. The place has so much history and it’s what INDYCAR is. That’s where I want to be in the future so to win here is really cool. But this whole year hasn’t sunk in yet; I don’t feel as though it’s real. Seven months ago I didn’t think I’d be able to keep racing, so to be here is pretty crazy. I knew I had the pace to pull away. I just had to make sure I got a good jump at the start. Having a yellow start throws everyone off, but you have to regroup and figure out how to restart the race. I had the plan of where to accelerate, how to warm up the tires and where to get the jump by the time the green came out. It was hard work during the yellow, keeping the tires warm – it may look like we’re just cruising but the reality is that it’s really hard work.”