Eriksson (center). Photo: Red Bull Content Pool

Red Bull GRC: Oliver Eriksson building off GRC Lites title defense

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JACKSONVILLE, N.C. – The plan was never for Oliver Eriksson, the talented 17-year-old Swede in the No. 16 Olsbergs MSE X Forces GRC Lites entry, to win the GRC Lites championship in his first attempt at it.

But since he did, and since he’s still only 17, he’s become an even more well-rounded driver in his second season in the second division of Red Bull Global Rallycross.

Eriksson, who was on par with fellow teenaged talented teammate Austin Cindric last year, has now somewhat stepped up into a team leader role at OMSE’s GRC Lites program with rookie teammates Miki Weckstrom and Cole Keatts developing every week.

As Eriksson explained, the development has come naturally into his second season.

“The key this year was to be more consistent and make less mistakes. And keep my car in one piece,” the youngest son of OMSE team principal Andreas Eriksson told NBC Sports.

“I had some problems in Phoenix. But I’ve now learned to be directly fast in first practice. Now I’m faster to start. So that forces me to keep going and be more consistent.

“They try to learn a lot from me but I have a bit to learn from them, too. It’s a big responsibility, but I don’t feel any pressure.”

Eriksson said this second season in GRC Lites will serve as better preparation for any potential Supercars bow.

There aren’t any true rookies in Supercars this year, as there were last year when Sebastian Eriksson – not related – stepped up to OMSE’s Supercars program. Last year it was a Ford program but now it’s the new Honda Civic Coupe effort.

“It was the plan actually. Last year was more of a tryout year. I did some trial races in 2014 and I was always ready for a full season. But it was a learning season,” Oliver Eriksson explained.

“We ended up with the season win, which was over our expectations. Supercars would still be a big step. They thought I could still learn, so I am.”

As noted, the GRC Lites field has changed a bit this year.

Conner Martell, Alex Keyes, Tanner Whitten, Alejandro Fernandez and Collete Davis are among the returnees while rookies like Cabot Bigham, Travis PeCoy, Christian Brooks and the aforementioned Weckstrom and Keatts have made initial impressions in the early stages of this year.

Eriksson said it’s been an evolution for the class, since Cindric and Miles Maroney aren’t also back.

“It’s hard to tell. Last year was really competitive,” he said. “This year, some guys are still here, but the newcomers have come on quick. It’s harder to win this year. It’s a very tight field.”

That being said, Eriksson heads into this weekend’s GRC Lites doubleheader 16 points clear of Martell and Bigham.

He’s won twice in the first five races, and has three podiums.

Provisional Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew ready for IndyCar ride

Road to Indy
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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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