Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

MRTI: Oliver Askew dominating USF2000 four races in

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Dominance is defined as “power and influence over others.” In essence, one who exerts dominance displays a level of superiority; he or she is simply better than everyone else, at least for a given time period.

In every sense of the word, Oliver Askew has been dominant in the 2017 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda. In fact, it’s been nearly perfect. Askew has led 47 of the 81 total laps, taking three wins and one second-place finish through four races. And that high level of performance was on full display at his last outing at Barber Motorsports Park.

Askew and his Cape Motorsports team qualified on pole for both races, led every lap in both races, and won both races to complete a clean sweep of the weekend. As Askew told NBC Sports, such a feat is never easy.

“It’s definitely hard to finish a sweep over the weekend, especially because I think, in most cases, the competitors end up catching you at the end of the weekend, or the gap is closer,” he explained. “It’s so hard to keep progressing when you already feel like you’re at the limit.”

Oliver Askew swept the weekend at Barber Motorsports Park. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

On the surface, everything looked routine, smooth, and even easy for Askew. However, particularly during Race 1, setup issues resulting from the different tire rubber made for an interesting challenge.

“We were actually struggling a little bit on (Friday) with the balance of the car. The IndyCar rubber went down, and that caught us off guard a bit,” he said. “But, we made it a lot better for the race on (Saturday). I think if we didn’t have such a long safety car period, we’d have actually driven away from the car in second, not like how the race was on Friday.”

The early-season strength does not come as much of a surprise given the form he and the team displayed during pre-season testing at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where Askew was also quickest. As he asserted, the performance was a sign that he and the team could do great things this year.

“We were up at least three tenths on the field in every session except the last one, when we didn’t put new tires on. I think that kind of set the tone and set our expectations for the season, especially the season openers. After that test, we kind of knew what our expectations were and what the potential for us was.”

Of course, a look at Cape Motorsports’ history also indicates a potential for dominance. The Florida-based team has won five consecutive USF2000 championships and, as Askew explained, works in a seamless, machine-like manner that would rival even the biggest of racing operations in its attention to details. “The way they work is amazing. They can just get so much done. At this level, with the cars being exactly the same and the engines being spec, all the details matter massively. I think the guys at Cape Motorsports definitely nailed down those details and provided a fantastic race car.”

However, being a rookie in any series poses a set of unique obstacles, mostly due to inexperience, that cannot be ignored. Askew admitted that his learning curve has been steep, but the team around him has helped the transition from karts to cars go relatively smoothly.

“My learning curve has been very steep, since about the start of the Team USA Scholarship, and also at the Mazda shootout in (Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca). I learned so much in testing there. I feel like I have so many good people around me now, and that’s really shown in my performance.“

Further, his time in karting (he spent 11 years racing karts) helped him develop a strong race craft, a skill set he was able to carry into USF2000.

“I expected to be competitive. I don’t think this competitive, this fast! I’ve been racing karts for 11 years, prior to this season. I think the race craft and speed has also come from all those years of racing go karts,” he explained.

Currently, Askew leads Kaylen Frederick by 34 points going into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, where all the ladders of the Mazda Road to Indy will compete on May 12-13.

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Dakar Stage 8 Highlights: Ricky Brabec blows engine, retires

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The motorcycle class of the Dakar Rally has been a seesaw affair through seven stages, but Ricky Brabec seemed poised to win the class for the USA. Until he blew an engine in Stage 8 that is – and gave up a more-than seven second lead. He was the second rider to retire after starting the stage as the leader. Joan Barreda retired in Stage 3.

Brabec was looking to become the first American rider to win in 27 years, but his fate was eerily similar to last year. Three days from the end of the stage, he retired about 50 kilometers into the stage, which is precisely when and where he retired in 2018.

With Brabec’s trouble, Toby Price leapfrogged from third to second in class despite riding with a metal pin in his wrist. In the world’s most grueling endurance event, it has never been more obvious that it isn’t over till it’s over.

Meanwhile, Nasser Al-Attiyah continues to run a consistent rally. With a 46 minute advantage over Nani Roma and Sebastien Loeb, all he needs to do is stay error free for the final two stages to win his third Dakar.

Here are some of the other highlights:

In the cars class, Sebastien Loeb scored his fifth stage win of the Rally by seven minutes over Nasser Al-Attiyah, but problems in Stage 3 have kept him from being competitive for the overall lead. … Jakub Przygonski earned his third podium of the Rally. All of these have been third-place finishes.

Class Leaders: Al-Attiyah holds an advantage of 46:29 over Roma and 46:45 over Loeb.

In motorcycles, Ricky Brabec’s blown engine opened up the class once more. … Matthias Walkner narrowly edged Pablo Quintanilla by 45 seconds. … But it was Toby Price’s third-place finish that helped elevate him to the class lead. … Sam Sunderland was supposed to blaze the path for the riders, but a malfunctioning navigation system kept him from rolling off first. Blazing the trail is a disadvantage and officials adjudged him to have tampered with his system to avoid that fate. Sunderland was penalized an hour to finish 35th on the stage. He dropped to ninth in class.

Class Leaders: Price inherited the lead over Quintanilla by 1:03 and 6:35 over Walkner

In side by sides, Francisco Lopez Contardo scored the victory over Cristian Baumgart by 4:47. … Gerard Farres Guell rounded out the top three.

Class Leaders: Contardo holds an advantage 0f 54:10 over Rodrigo Piazolli and one hour, 08:09 over Guell

In quads, there was no surprise in Nicolas Cavigliasso winning his seventh stage of the season. … He padded his overall advantage over Gustavo Gallego by more than nine minutes. … Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli finished third.

Class Leaders: Cavigliasso holds and advantage of one hour, 24:52 over Ferioli and one hour, 44:04 over Gallego

In trucks, Dmitry Sotnikov won the stage to take over the class lead. He beat Ton Van Genugten by 22:01. … Siarhei Viazovich rounded out the top three. … Eduard Nikolaev lost the class lead by finishing eighth – nearly one hour behind Sotnikov.

Class Leaders: Sotnikov holds an advantage of 26:49 over and one hour, 7:43 over Gerard de Rooy

Stage Wins

Motorcycles
Sam Sunderland [2] (Stage 5 and 7), Matthias Walkner [2] (Stage 2 and 8), Joan Barreda [1] (Stage 1), Xavier de Soultrait [1] (Stage 3), Ricky Brabec [1] (Stage 4) and Pablo Quintanilla [1] (Stage 6)

Quads
Nicolas Cavigliasso [7] (Stage 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8) and Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli [1] (Stage 3)

Cars
Sebastien Loeb [4] (Stage 2, 5, 6 and 8), Nasser Al-Attiyah [2] (Stage 1 and 4) and Stephane Peterhansel [2] (Stage 3 and 7)

Side-by-sides
Francisco Lopez Contardo [4] (Stage 2, 6, 7 and 8), Reinaldo Varela [1] (Stage 1), Gerard Farres Guell [1] (Stage 3), Sergei Kariakin [1] (Stage 4) and Rodrigo Piazzoli [1] (Stage 5)

Trucks
Eduard Nikolaev [3] (Stage 1, 2 and 5), Andrey Karginov [2] (Stage 3 and 4), Dmitry Sotnikov [2] (Stage 6 and 8) and Gerard de Rooy [1] (Stage 7)

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