IndyCar: Miles wants 20 races; seeks further shift forward

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INDIANAPOLIS – INDYCAR’s top executive, Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles, took the opportunity Tuesday to better describe the schedule strategy for the Verizon IndyCar Series.

Miles took responsibility for what he perceived as a “misunderstanding” of the schedule strategy, as INDYCAR attempts to move the schedule forward.

“I want to say a word to save somebody the trouble of asking our strategy about the schedule,” Miles said.

“It is misunderstood. That’s on me. It’s my opportunity today to talk a little bit about what we are trying to do.

“We’re not trying to shorten the season.  We are actually planning to lengthen the season.  What we’re trying to do is slide the season earlier.

“We’ve shared with the drivers, with the team owners, with the promoters, the vision, the plan, which we’ll get closer to in 2016, where we hope we begin the weekend after the Super Bowl, early February, and go through Labor Day for the championship.  That gets us into eight months, a little over seven months of racing.

“Our objective is about 20 races.

“So, yes, we started by ending earlier.  You haven’t yet seen us start earlier.  But I want you to understand that’s where we’re going.  We want to race in a very full schedule, about 20 races, from the weekend after the Super Bowl in early February through Labor Day.  That will feel very different than it did last year and this year.  You will see the expansion.”

To get there, Miles said there will need to be warm weather climates explored. He also reiterated that international races wouldn’t trump North American opportunities, should they come together.

“We still continue to believe that we’re not going to become Formula One,” he said. “We’re not going to be chasing ourselves around the globe week after week after. That is not the strategy. But we can imagine a limited number of international races at the beginning of the calendar in February, then get to the States, North America, stay in North America.

“I would emphasis this is not about shortening the season, and we’re not shunning North American opportunities for international ones. This is about lengthening the season, racing a full seven-month schedule, and perhaps having international races on a limited basis at the beginning of that schedule.

“In that regard, because it will be asked, we continue to believe there’s a real opportunity there. There are important international capitals that value IndyCar racing, that provide a great value proposition for IndyCar, not only economically, but also in terms of beginning to expose us to race fans around the world in a way we’re not fully exposed to today that I think over time can pay benefits to our series, our teams, our sponsors.”

Provisional Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew ready for IndyCar ride

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Provisional Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew has done nothing but dominate the 2019 season, winning seven of the 16 races run so far and finishing on the podium in all but two of those events.

Now all the 22-year-old Floridian needs to do to formally clinch the 2019 title is simply start the final two races of the season, both of which will be held this weekend at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

For Askew, his maiden Indy Lights season will likely be one he’ll never forget. 

“It’s been a dream come true,” Askew told NBC Sports. “Being with the championship-winning team from last year, we had a really good shot at winning it again for Andretti Autosport. It’s very rare that we show up to a track and struggle to find speed. 

“That’s a fantastic feeling, especially as a driver. That gave me a lot of confidence and hopes of holding the million dollar check at the end of the year. That was the goal going into it.”

This weekend, Askew will accomplish said goal. The championship will not only bring him a sense of pride, but also the opportunity of a lifetime. 

As an award for being crowned the Indy Lights champion, Askew will be awarded a scholarship that guarantees him entry into a minimum of three NTT IndyCar Series events next year – including the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500. 

Time will only tell which team Askew will race for in IndyCar next season, and whether or not Askew’s rookie campaign will be a full-time or part-time affair, but Askew’s performance during the last few seasons in the Road to Indy system has certainly drawn attention of IndyCar’s top team owners.

In August, Askew had the chance to drive an Indy car for the first time in his career during a test session at Portland International Raceway, driving the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda usually piloted by Scott Dixon.

“It was an opportunity with Chip Ganassi Racing that I was very fortunate to have,” Askew said. “I think with my experience in the past couple of years with Cape Motorsports and this year with Andretti Autosport, going into that test was very helpful.

“Going into the test, it was more of trying to treat it as just another day at the racetrack, when it really wasn’t. It was a fantastic opportunity for me – a great experience – and I hope I can take that into my rookie season next year in IndyCar.” 

The final two races of the 2019 Indy Lights season will take place this weekend on Saturday, September 21 at 6 p.m. ET and Sunday, September 22 at 12:05 p.m. ET. Both races will air live on NBC Sports Gold.

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