Mazda scholarship drivers Martin, Askew confirmed with Cape

Photos: Mazda Motorsports
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After Aaron Telitz’s confirmation at Belardi Auto Racing yesterday, the two further Mazda Motorsports Advancement Scholarship recipients, Anthony Martin and Oliver Askew, have now been formally confirmed at Cape Motorsports for 2017.

Martin steps up to Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires after winning the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda title while Askew makes his USF2000 debut after winning the USF2000 shootout at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, and after also getting on the board in a big way with his Team USA Scholarship win in the fall.

Both drivers tested well this week at the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires Spring Training at Homestead-Miami Speedway, with Askew pacing most USF2000 sessions while Martin emerged at the head of a neck-and-neck battle with Team Pelfrey’s trio in Pro Mazda.

Anthony Martin“Going with Cape Motorsports again was a quite easy decision,” said Martin, the 22-year-old Australian. “I’m a loyal person and I really do love sticking with the boys. They’re a great team, and everything they have is second to none. I witnessed it all of last year, and I could not leave the team because the way they run the show is impeccable. I’ve never been a part of a team or a family environment like this one.

“Winning the Mazda scholarship meant everything to me. while describing the overwhelming response in his home country. “It was an immense reaction. There was so much hype in Australia about me winning this championship.”

oliver-askewAskew, whose whirlwind winter has now ceded to a relative period of calm in preseason, looks forward to his USF2000 race debut.

“The team at Cape Motorsports have helped me a lot with this next step,” said Askew, a 20-year-old from Jupiter, Fla. “I’ve learned so much in the last month of testing with them preparing for this year. It’s a big opportunity for me and I want to maximize that. With Cape Motorsports, everything is possible, as they’re one of the best teams in the paddock and I’m very happy to be with them.

“As soon as I won the Shootout, I was thinking about the championship and winning races. This is my opportunity, so I want to make it easier on myself going into next year to win the USF2000 title and earn another season scholarship from Mazda. I’m very fortunate right now to have this opportunity from Mazda.”

Team co-owner Nicholas Cape, who had Martin in one of his USF2000 cars last year, thinks Askew can deliver this year and rates him rather highly.

“We are delighted to have Oliver on our team,” he said. “He is an exceptional young man and has an extremely bright future ahead of him. He has everything we look for in a driver. It’s been a year in the making getting Oliver in our car and he has impressed us during the initial tests and we’re really looking forward to seeing him race. We are also very proud to be representing the first Mazda Road to Indy Shootout winner, and would like to thank Mazda for all their support. It’s really quite remarkable what they do to support young drivers.”

Mazda Motorsports director John Doonan can’t wait to see what these two drivers will do in Soul Red cars.

“Anthony is a perfect example of a driver from across the globe who saw the Mazda Road to Indy as the best opportunity to climb the motorsports ladder,” he said. “Anthony is in a great position to help tell the Mazda story on multiple continents. Our colleagues at Mazda Australia have been able to tell his success story there, where Mazda has had great success in the marketplace.

“The success of the $200,000 Mazda Road to Indy Shoot-out was way beyond our expectations,” he added. “We knew we were breaking new ground by bringing drivers from all over the world and that it would be good… but it turned out to be fantastic. Everyone at Mazda was blown away by it, and especially Oliver.”

The season begins next week at St. Petersburg.

Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”