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Pastor Maldonado makes surprise IndyCar appearance in Iowa

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NEWTON, Iowa – The driver who was rumored to be in the frame for a Verizon IndyCar Series race seat at the start of the year is present at a Verizon IndyCar Series weekend now.

Pastor Maldonado, the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix winner who was left sidelined when Renault Sport took over what was the Lotus F1 team at the start of the year, is on site at this weekend’s Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway.

He was spotted in the KVSH Racing pits during first practice and was invited by the team co-owned by Kevin Kalkhoven, Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan for this weekend.

While there was a significant Venezuelan presence in the sport when E.J. Viso raced – and did so with KV for several years – the Venezuelan presence has been absent in recent years.

Maldonado says he is “taking in the race weekend” and was somewhat coy in terms of noting his interest in racing in IndyCar, but didn’t rule it out.

“I was very interested to see how the Indy works,” Maldonado told NBC Sports. “I got the invitation from the team and it’s very interesting. I have so many friends here from Europe, starting with Juan Pablo (Montoya), then so many other drivers. It’s quite interesting to see how the series is organized. And then maybe I didn’t choose the best track to come, but it’s nice even to see this old-fashioned American style.”

Asked whether he was close to racing here this year, Maldonado didn’t deny it, but didn’t admit it either.

“At the moment we are not looking to race here, but for sure I’m looking around to solve my situation,” he said. “First option is of course Formula 1, because I’ve been very involved in the past few years there. This year I’m fully involved in the tire development.”

Maldonado also confirmed he has been undertaking Pirelli tire testing this year, as outlined above.

We pondered whether Alexander Rossi’s success in North America this year was anything Maldonado took note of.

“I’ve been racing even two years ago, Rossi when he did a few races in Formula 1 I think,” he said. “He’s a good driver. He showed his consistency in GP2 as well which is a very tough category in Europe. He’s showing very good potential. It’s not easy. It’s kind of different concept of racing. But I think any good driver from Europe can adapt easily to a decent style. The same in the other way around, any good driver from here can adapt themselves to Europe style.”

Anyway, since Maldonado’s now been at an IndyCar race, watch this space to see what happens for him in the future.

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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