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Askew wraps USF2000 title as VeeKay wins Watkins Glen finale

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WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Oliver Askew has clinched the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda title and his third scholarship in the last 12 months, while his closest title rival this year, Rinus VeeKay, ended the season with his third win of the year at Watkins Glen International.

Askew has secured Cape Motorsports its seventh consecutive USF2000 driver’s championship, while VeeKay’s season-long consistency – today was his 12th podium finish in 14 races this season – along with his two teammates netted Augie Pabst’s Pabst Racing the team’s first team championship.

With the title, Askew adds the USF2000 title to the $200,000 MRTI Mazda shootout and Team USA Scholarship wins achieved last fall. He won seven races this year and today marked his 11th podium finish of the year. This title nets Askew a nearly $400,000 scholarship to move into the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires series next year.

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Unofficially it’s a seven-point margin with Askew on 351 points, second place plus a bonus point for pole, with VeeKay second on 344 points with two bonus points for leading the most laps and setting the fastest race lap.

“I’ve dreamed about this moment for so long. It’s such a huge weight off my shoulders, to be champion,” said Askew. “My learning curve has been really steep this year but I’ve had so many great people around me who have helped me progress. I learned something every day at the racetrack.

“The priority was to finish on the podium in case Rinus won and got maximum points, and we did that. I just did the best I could to keep Calvin behind me. I can’t thank the Cape team enough. We started on the wrong foot this weekend but once again when it counted we got pole and I had a great car. I’m so happy to be able to continue my relationship with Mazda and Cooper Tires, they’ve helped me so much. Thanks also to Team USA Scholarship for giving me the opportunity, and Rising Star Racing. This is not going to sink in for a while – I can’t wait for next year!”

The 20-year-old Floridian scored a crucial pole position this morning, which netted him an additional bonus point after entering the weekend with a 13-point lead over VeeKay.

Needing only a fourth-place finish to wrap the title, Askew finished second behind VeeKay, the Dutchman having completed an outside pass around Askew from Turn 1 through to the end of Turn 2 to get by for the lead.

VeeKay won the race by 9.6053 seconds over Askew with Calvin Ming, one of VeeKay’s two teammates at Pabst Racing, shadowing Askew home all race. The 30-minute race ran to its conclusion without a caution flag.

“I’m happy but I could be happier,” VeeKay admitted. “I hadn’t really planned to pass Oliver at the start but I saw him brake for the inside and I went for the outside and all of the sudden I passed him. We had a good race down the back straight but I didn’t want to give the position back. I think he backed off to be sure of the position for the championship, but I put my head down and got away from the field.

“I will take some time in the off-season and figure out what I want to do next year. I definitely want to stay in the Mazda Road to Indy. I don’t know where on the ladder but I think we will move up. It was a great season, with 12 podiums out of 14 races with three wins, so I cannot thank the Pabst team enough for giving me a great car and getting better every weekend.”

Kaylen Frederick completed a solid first full season with Team Pelfrey in fourth, while David Malukas of BN Racing made a late-race pass on Andres Gutierrez of DE Force Racing for the final top-five position.

F1: Max Verstappen provides late-lap thrills at U.S. Grand Prix

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AUSTIN, Texas — Leave it to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to provide some late-race thrills at the U.S. Grand Prix.

Verstappen’s key block on Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton late in Sunday’s race denied Hamilton a chance to maybe chase down Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen to win. And it helped deny Hamilton’s bid for the season championship.

Verstappen’s defensive skills allowed the Red Bull driver to finish second, his best result yet at the U.S Grand Prix, his fourth podium in six races. By keeping Hamilton third, it kept the season championship alive, even if just another week to the Mexican Grand Prix.

Last season, Verstappen had surged past Raikkonen on a final-lap pass to finish third. It was the kind of aggressive move that earned him the “Mad Max” nickname. Before he could even reach the podium, race officials declared Verstappen’s move illegal and bumped an angry Verstappen down to fifth.

The Circuit of the Americas this week installed a new curb on the same corner, dubbed “Verstoppen,” to punish drivers who tried anything similar this year. It worked when Verstappen hit it hard enough in qualifying to knock his car out of the session with a damaged suspension and gear box. He started Sunday’s race 18th.

The Dutch driver launched a furious attack through the field and found himself in the thick of things late Sunday. His move to block Hamilton wasn’t on the same corner with the curbs, and it came with him playing defense instead of being the aggressor.

Verstappen had to make multiple moves to keep Hamilton behind him and finally drove the Mercedes wide, forcing Hamilton to finally concede the position and the race.

“I was trying to get close to Kimi but at the same time keeping an eye on Lewis in my mirror. It was close, but we managed to hang on,” Verstappen said. “It is safe to say today went a lot better than expected.”

Knowing Verstappen’s aggressive nature, Hamilton said there was too much at stake to risk a collision.

“The key to me was to make sure I finished ahead of Seb. I don’t care when you win a championship, just that you win,” Hamilton said. “”For Max, to come back from so far, he did a great job.”

Verstappen has been just as aggressive at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City.

In 2016, race officials ruled he improperly left the track to gain an advantage on Vettel to finish third and he was bumped from the podium. Last season, Verstappen’s strong start sent him into the lead out of the first turn, while Hamilton and Vettel bumped each other. The collision ruptured one of Hamilton’s tires.

Verstappen won the race while Hamilton limped home in ninth place, but still won the season championship.