Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

MRTI Barber Notebook: Friday

Leave a comment

The Mazda Road to Indy is only slightly less busy at Barber Motorsports Park than it was at St. Petersburg back in March. With the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires not competing this weekend, that leaves two of the three rungs on the ladder in competition this weekend.

Of course, this is in no way an indication of a lack of action. Friday featured practice for the Indy Lights presented by Cooper tires, while the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda featured qualifying and race action. And the young guns of open wheel racing continued to shine.

Askew Makes it Two-in-a-Row

Oliver Askew made it back-to-back wins in the early portion of the 2017 season (he won Race 2 at St. Petersburg) with a commanding drive on Friday at Barber Motorsports Park. The 20-year-old native of Florida started from pole, bolted away at the start, and led all 19 laps on his way to victory. On the surface, it was a dominant performance, at least until one looks at the margin of victory. Askew beat second-place Kaylen Frederick by a scant .227 seconds, with the 14-year-old keeping Askew honest while on his way to his first career podium.

Oliver Askew leads the field to start Race 1 Barber Motorsports Park. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Still, Askew kept the youngster at bay to secure a well-earned victory. “I trick myself into thinking it’s just a practice session, because if you think too much, that’s when mistakes happen – and I couldn’t have that with Kaylen right behind me,” Askew said of his battle with Frederick.

The victory extends Askew’s points lead (he leads Rinus Veekay by 31 points after three rounds), but he was quick to deflect credit to his Cape Motorsports team for the early success. “The Cape Motorsports guys are doing a great job and I’m learning every time I’m at the track,” he detailed. “I really appreciate the opportunity from Mazda. This is everything I’ve ever hoped for. I’ve waited for this opportunity for several years so to be where I am right now is really special – hopefully we’ll just keep doing what we’re doing.”

USF2000 podium, Race 1 Barber Motorsports Park. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

For their part, Frederick and Veekay are enjoying strong starts to their own campaigns. Frederick has finishes of fourth, fifth, and second in the opening three races, while Veekay has not been off the podium, with finishes of third, second, and third.

As a result, both Frederick and Veekay are positioned nicely to challenge for the championship. “It’s a cliché but I hope this is the first of many more to come!” Frederick said of his first podium. “Hopefully we can get the pole tomorrow so I don’t have to work so hard to get around Oliver. I struggled at St. Pete since it was (my) first street course. I had to learn a lot and improve a lot but the team definitely gave me a good car there and here as well.”

Veekay was slightly frustrated, noting that a poor start left him playing catchup, but he expressed optimism going forward. “It’s good as a rookie to be in the top three in the championship after three races, so I’m happy with that,” he said of the result. “I didn’t have a great start but I think it was the best I could get out of my position. It is hard to pass here but I was one of the quickest cars so that bodes well for tomorrow.”

The USF2000 Championship continues tomorrow with qualifying for Race 2 at 10:25 a.m. ET (9:25 local time) while the race rolls off at 5:45 ET (4:45 local time).

Blackstock tops practice for Indy Lights

Belardi Auto Racing’s Shelby Blackstock led the opening Indy Lights practice, bettering Carlin’s Garth Rickards by five hundredths of a second to do so. Zachary Claman De Melo, Kyle Kaiser, and Colton Herta rounded out the top five. Aaron Telitz, who won Race 1 at St. Petersburg, was mired down in 11th, just behind Santi Urrutia. The entire Indy Lights field was covered by 1.1 seconds, and the close grid will put a premium on qualifying well for both races.

Indy Lights leads things off on Saturday with Race 1 qualifying at 9:40 a.m. ET (8:40 local time), with the race seeing the green flag at 3:00 p.m. ET (2:00 local time).

Follow Kyle Lavigne.

Scott Dixon fastest on the second day of Indianapolis 500 practice

Leave a comment

Scott Dixon was fastest on the second day of Indy 500 practice Thursday, turning a lap at 226.102 mph in his No. 9 Dallara-Honda at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Takuma Sato was second, followed by Marco Andretti, Conor Daly and rookie Alex Palou.

The rest of the top 10 were: Colton Herta, Charlie Kimball, James Hinchcliffe, Fernando Alonso and James Davison.

THURSDAY PRACTICE: Click here for Day 2 speeds at Indianapolis

COMBINED SPEEDS: Click here for the overall speeds from the first two days

The session had one incident as Alonso crashed with just less than an hour left in the session. The Arrow McLaren SP driver was optimistic that the car could be repaired without a backup.

Among the other notables on the speed chart Thursday: Ryan Hunter-Reay (11th); Tony Kanaan (14th); Helio Castroneves (16th); Josef Newgarden (18th); Graham Rahal (19th); Will Power (23rd); Alexander Rossi (26th) and defending race winner Simon Pagenaud (27th).

Felix Rosenqvist (24th) and rookie Dalton Kellett turned the most laps (141) around the 2.5-mile oval.

Teams mostly focused on race setup Thursday as they will receive 80 extra horsepower in the “Fast Friday” practice that will feature speeds above 230 mph for qualifying Saturday and Sunday.

The Indy 500 will take place Aug. 23; coverage begins at 1 p.m. ET on NBC with the green flag at 2:30 p.m.

HOW TO WATCH THE INDY 500 ON NBCDetails for the Aug. 23 race

DAILY INDY 500 SCHEDULEClick here for all on-track activity in August at Indy