Askew (left) joins Pigot, Newgarden and Alberico. Photo: Rising Star Racing

Oliver Askew formally confirmed on Rising Star Racing program

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INDIANAPOLIS – With five wins from six races to kick off the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda season with Cape Motorsports, Oliver Askew has been next-level awesome to kick off his career on the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires.

The talented 20-year-old Floridian has been confirmed Thursday as the next member of the Rising Star Racing initiative, which supports young American drivers on their path to the Verizon IndyCar Series.

Askew joins current Rising Star Racing drivers Spencer Pigot, in his second season in IndyCar and Neil Alberico, in his second season in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires ranks. Josef Newgarden has been Rising Star Racing’s mentor in the framework.

Quick success last year occurred for Askew as he won the Team USA Scholarship, then embarked on a whirlwind winter where he starred at the Walter Hayes Trophy Grand Final – he finished second – then won Mazda’s USF2000 Scholarship shootout competition at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in December.

“We’re very excited to have Oliver (Askew) joining the RSR family,” said RSR founder Art Wilmes. “We haven’t added a driver since we first formed in 2013, which speaks to our assessment of Oliver and his potential in American open wheel racing.”

“Rising Star Racing is a very unique program that has been incredibly beneficial for guys like me as they pursue their dreams of becoming professional race car drivers,” Askew said. “I’ve always wanted to be part of this program, and I feel very privileged and fortunate to have been brought on. I look up to drivers like Josef Newgarden, and to have a chance to follow in his footsteps at RSR is something I can’t wait to do.”

Ferrari teammates Vettel and Raikkonen fastest in rainy final practice at Australian GP

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen went one-two in the final practice session ahead of qualifying at the water-logged Australian Grand Prix on Saturday.

Vettel set a best-lap time of 1 minute, 26.067 seconds, more than 2.4 seconds faster than his teammate in second.

Both Ferrari drivers switched from their intermediate tires to the super-fast, ultra-soft tires for the final few laps of the session, testing conditions on the track after a day-long downpour left it slick and filled with small puddles.

Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton did not opt to try out their soft tires, sticking to the intermediates for the entire session. They had the seventh- and eighth-fastest times, after topping the leaderboard in practice in dry conditions on Friday.

The heavy rains subsided by early afternoon, allowing the track to rapidly dry during the third practice session and making conditions safe for drivers to test their soft tires.

Still, only a few drivers completed a timed lap with the softer compounds, with Mercedes, Red Bull and most of the others staying with their intermediates.

Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson had the third-fastest time of the session on ultrasoft tires, followed by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen on intermediates.

Hamilton remains the favorite to capture his fifth straight pole position at the Australian Grand Prix in qualifying later Saturday. He had the fastest laps on ultrasoft tires in the two practice sessions on Friday, though Verstappen was right behind him.

Verstappen and Vettel both slid on the slick track early in the third practice session, but maintained control and completed their runs without incident.

Verstappen’s teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, had the sixth-fastest time of the session. The Australian’s chances of winning his fifth career Grand Prix on his home track in Melbourne took a hit late Friday when he was assessed a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

The Australian driver was penalized for driving too fast under red-flag conditions during Friday’s second practice session because of debris on the track.