IndyCar rookie Oliver Askew’s rapid ascent suddenly is on pause

Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Oliver Askew’s ascent to the NTT IndyCar Series has been swift and impressive.

Unfortunately, the 23-year-old from Jupiter, Florida, will have to wait before he finally can turn laps against real competition on a racetrack in IndyCar.

Askew was ready to go at St. Petersburg, Florida, before the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg was called off on March 13 because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. That contest is expected to be scheduled in October as the season finale.

For now, however, Askew prepares for his rookie season with Arrow McLaren SP by working on sim rigs and competing in eSports. McLaren actively has been involved in virtual racing and uses it as a tool to prepare its drivers.

That will have to suffice for the time being before real Indy cars come to life, hopefully in June.

Prior to the shutdown, the 2019 Indy Lights Series champion was ready for the final rung of the “Road to Indy” ladder. That top step, of course, is the NTT IndyCar Series.

“I’ve been thrown in the deep end for real this time,” Askew said about IndyCar. “But the team has a lot of experience in IndyCar. To have Pato O’Ward as a teammate, we can really push each other, and I think we can bring the best out of each other as well. That is really important to have a teammate relationship.

“I’m looking forward to getting started and finally seeing where we’re at and where we can improve. It’s a steep learning curve for me. I have a lot of really smart people around Pato and I to make sure we’re ready for St. Pete and doesn’t feel like my first race weekend when I get there.”

Askew was the driver to beat in Indy Lights last year for Andretti Autosport. In 18 Indy Lights starts, he won seven races, collected seven poles and finished on the podium in 15 contests.

He led 141 of a possible 561 laps.

With statistics like that, the expectations naturally are high for Askew.

“Honestly I don’t have any expectations at the moment,” Askew said. “A realistic goal is to win IndyCar Rookie of the Year. That’s really important to both myself and the team. That’s what we’re pushing toward and working so hard.

“Obviously, we want to win races. We’re not here to run outside the top five or the top 10. We need to be up close to the front right away. As long as we work hard and check each box, I’m sure the results are going to come.”

Askew’s dream is to win the Indianapolis 500. He’s already driven to victory at Indy, however, with a win in the Freedom 100 Indy Lights race last May. He started eighth and won the thrilling race in the final laps.

Askew celebrates Freedom 100 win — INDYCAR Photo

“That was the best day of my life by far in motorsports,” Askew said of that Freedom 100 win. “I just can’t wait to go back there and experience that again. That day, I really felt like the magic of the Speedway. I hope that I can experience that again on Sunday (in the Indy 500) in the future.

“Just the weekend and the month in general is a really special feeling around Indianapolis and motorsport.”

Meantime, Askew has to learn the top level of the series. He has to absorb the endless reams of engineering data and listen to the feedback of those at Arrow McLaren SP.

“We have to look toward the people around us in the garage and engineering room,” Askew said. “Also, we’re going to have Robert Wickens (who continues to recover from injuries suffered from a crash at Pocono in 2018) as well. He is going to be a great resource for us.

“Robert has driven a car recently and has recent experience with the car and is willing to share as much of that as possible. I think we’ve seen it recently in Formula One and IndyCar — drivers who are good and have good equipment will eventually rise to the top and eventually become successful. So, there are a lot of variables that go into it. But I think our base is where it needs to be.”

One of the key members at Arrow McLaren SP is engineer Craig Hampson, who has moved over to the team after three seasons with Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser and Sullivan and driver Sebastien Bourdais.

Hampson was Bourdais’ race engineer during his four-straight Champ Car Series championships with Newman Haas Lanigan Racing from 2004-2007.

“Craig is playing the role of overseeing both sides of the team,” Askew said. “He is not on one side or the other. It’s a very open room between the two cars anyway. I think he is going to definitely fill some of the gaps where we might have been weak in the past.

“Craig has had very quick cars at the speedway and on road courses as well. It’s just a great resource for the team in general to have Craig on board, so we’re really excited about that.”

Oliver Askew — Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Askew will also have the change to renew his racing rivalry with Rinus VeeKay of The Netherlands. VeeKay is a rookie with Ed Carpenter Racing in the No. 21 Chevrolet.

“I’ve been racing Rinus since 2014,” Askew admitted. “I think every time I show up to the track, he’s always there. He is always that guy I’m fighting for the win.

“It’s kind of cool to have someone like that, looking back at it. In the moment, it’s not cool at all. But looking back, he has made me better, and I think I’ve made him better. We’re always competing against each other and using each other as a benchmark because we’re at the same level.

“We have the same experience. Our driving styles are completely different, but we’re taking the good from each other. He’s been a great rival to have over the years.

“Thankfully, we’ve only had one or two collisions, which is pretty small for how many races we’ve had together.”

While he was climbing the ladder, Askew could focus on several drivers of VeeKay’s quality to help him determine the competition. In IndyCar, however, that competition level is very deep.

“It’s like having 20 other Rinus VeeKay’s now,” Askew said. “I’m not worried about him at all anymore. There are now way more drivers to worry about other than Rinus.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500 

Final 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona results, stats


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona overall results were all streaks: two consecutive victories in the endurance classic for Meyer Shank Racing and three in a row for Acura.

And Helio Castroneves became the second driver to win three consecutive Rolex 24s and the first to win in three straight years (Peter Gregg won in 1973, ’75 and ’76; the race wasn’t held in ’74 because of a global oil crisis).

Starting from the pole position, Tom Blomqvist took the checkered flag in the No. 60 ARX-06 that led a race-high 365 of 783 laps with co-drivers Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud and Colin Braun.

RESULTS: Click here for the finishing order in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona l By class

Meyer Shank Racing now has two Rolex 24 victories and the 2022 championship since entering the premier prototype category of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2021.

“I think what’s so special about this team is we are a small team compared to some of our opponents, but the atmosphere, the way we work, enables people to get the best out of themselves, and I think that’s why we’re such high achievers,” Blomqvist said. “I think there’s no egos. It’s a very open book, and that just enables each and every one of us to reach our potential. I think that’s why we’ve achieved so much success in really a short time at this level of competition.”

It’s the 16th IMSA victory for MSR.

The 61st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona marked the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category that brought hybrid engine technology to IMSA’s top level.

In other categories:

LMP2: James Allen passed Ben Hanley on the final lap and delivered a victory in the No. 55 ORECA by 0.016 seconds. It’s the second IMSA victory for Proton Competition, which last won at Sebring in 2012. It was the first Rolex 24 victory for Allen and co-drivers Gianmaria Bruni, Fred Poordad and Francesco Pizzi.

GTD Pro: Cooper MacNeil won in the last start of his IMSA career as the No. 79 Mercedes-AMG GT3 scored the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for WeatherTech Racing and the team’s fourth career victory.

MacNeil, who co-drove with Maro Engel, Jules Gounon and Daniel Juncadella, earned his 12th career victory and first at the Rolex 24.

“Winning by last IMSA race is tremendous,” MacNeil said.

GTD: The No. 27 Heart of Racing Team delivered the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for Aston Martin, which has been competing in endurance races at Daytona International Speedway since 1964. Drivers Marco Sorensen, Roman De Angelis, Darren Turner and Ian James (also the team principal) earned the victory in the English brand’s 13th attempt.

It’s also the first Rolex 24 at Daytona win for Heart of Racing, which has seven IMSA wins.

LMP3: Anthony Mantella, Wayne Boyd, Nico Varrone and Thomas Merrill drove the No. 17 AWA Duqueine D08 to victory by 12 laps for the team’s first class win in IMSA.


Fastest laps by driver

Fastest laps by driver after race (over the weekend)

Fastest laps by driver and class after race

Fastest lap sequence

Lap chart

Leader sequence

Race analysis by lap

Stint analysis

Time cards

Pit stop time cards

Best sector times

Race distance and speed average

Flag analysis

Weather report

NEXT: The 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season will resume with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring March 18 with coverage across NBC, USA and Peacock.