Story Credit: Road to Indy PR
Photo Credit: Road to Indy Photo
A recent string of three consecutive wins has taken Oliver Askew into a commanding 45-point lead in the quest for a champion’s scholarship which will guarantee entry into a minimum of three NTT IndyCar Series events in 2020, including the 104th Indianapolis 500. Saturday’s Cooper Tires Indy Lights Oval Challenge of St. Louis will represent the second and final oval race on the schedule, offering a 50 percent points bonus with 45 points available to the winner, plus additional points for pole position and leading the most laps during the race.
Askew, 22, from Jupiter, Fla., has won six of the 13 races held so far this season for Andretti Autosport, including a dramatic last-gasp victory at the Freedom 100 Presented by Cooper Tires at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May. Askew also set the pace during two of the three test sessions held at the track last week before sliding to fourth on the overall charts when he elected to concentrate on longer runs during the final period.
“The next five races will be the most important of my career, and Gateway will kick off this home stretch with one oval race worth 50 percent extra points,” noted Askew. “Andretti Autosport and myself will be putting all of our effort and time this week into making sure we leave nothing on the table.”
The man Askew edged to victory at Indianapolis, Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Norman, from Aurora, Ohio, will be out for revenge this week. Norman’s confidence will be high after claiming a brilliant first-ever victory last year at the Gateway oval following an intense battle with then-teammate and current NTT IndyCar series standout Colton Herta.
Robert Megennis, from New York, N.Y., also is expected to be a leading contender aboard a third Andretti Autosport Dallara-AER IL-15. Megennis won earlier this season on the Indianapolis Grand Prix road course and qualified fastest for the Freedom 100.
The team owned by former IndyCar star Michael Andretti currently holds a virtual stranglehold on the Team Championship, 430-282 over Juncos Racing, such that another one-two sweep – a potential sixth of the season – could be enough to clinch a second successive title with four races remaining.
One man anxious not to let that happen is teenaged Dutch sensation Rinus VeeKay, who has already won three times this season and is determined to find his way back to Victory Lane in order to bolster his own championship aspirations. VeeKay also will be seeking to maintain his record at World Wide Technology Raceway after scoring a clear win for Juncos Racing last year on his way to the Indy Pro 2000 Championship crown.
Belardi Auto Racing and HMD Motorsports also have high hopes of upsetting the Andretti applecart. After winning at Gateway two years ago, Belardi will field a single entry for Brazilian rookie Lucas Kohl, while the newly named and restructured HMD team (formerly BN Racing) displayed tremendous form in last week’s test with Englishman Toby Sowery (HMD/Team Pelfrey) and David Malukas, from Chicago, Ill., posting the fastest times.
“I’m quietly optimistic going into the race weekend,” said Sowery, who has scored two second-place finishes from his last three starts. “I don’t want to jinx it, because I really do want that first series win, but I think we’ve got the car under us, it’s just a matter of putting all the pieces together.”
HMD will carry fresh support on both cars from Variety the Children’s Charity of St. Louis, which aims to empower children with special needs and improve their quality of life.
A solitary 45-minute practice at 3:00 p.m. CDT on Friday, August 23, will allow the teams to prepare for single-car qualifying at 7:30 p.m. that same evening. The 75-lap race will take the green flag at 3:25 p.m. on Saturday, August 24.
In the U.S., the race will air live and on demand on NBC Sports Gold with practice and qualifying coverage carried via live streaming on the Road to Indy TV App, RoadToIndy.TV, indylights.com and indycar.com. Internationally, practice, qualifying and the race will be live streamed on the Road to Indy TV App, RoadToIndy.TV and at indylights.com. Additional coverage can also be found on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network broadcasts which airs live on network affiliates, Sirius 216, XM 209, indycar.com, indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile App powered by NTT Data.