At The Line Askew Wins Freedom 100

Oliver Askew celebrates in Victory Circle after winning the Freedom 100 in a photo finish. [Photo by: Chris Owens]

by Paul Gohde

Oliver Askew held off a gaggle of challengers to win Friday’s Freedom 100 Indy Lights by Cooper Tires race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, in a run to the finish with Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Norman.

Askew, who started eighth in the 11-car field, led only three laps of the 40-lap affair, but plans went out the window near the end, resulting in Askew’s third series’ win of the young season.

“There are no words to describe this win. I just wanted to be in the top two or three and stay in clean air, saving tires until the end. This could have been anyone’s race, really,” explained the Florida native. “I could have been stuck in fourth, but coming off of Turn 4 I didn’t lift and went low and found some grip and clean air,” which was all he needed to beat Norman to the checkered flag by 0.007 seconds; the fourth closest finish in Freedom 100 history.

His teammate Norman led for 29 laps and looked as good as any in the first six with a chance to win on the final run to the flag. “After the final lap 32 restart the car was ok and I could concentrate on the finish. Unfortunately, the timing on the last lap didn’t work out. We had talked in the truck about staying in the first two or three spots and had no real plan for the last ten,” the New York native admitted. “This was the most disappointing podium finish I’ve ever had.”

Rinus VeeKay finished third for the Juncos team, but the Dutch driver almost didn’t get past the first lap as a serious incident unfolded in front of his machine just three turns after the green flag.

Chris Windom’s car spun entering the third turn and had contact with David Malukas’ machine, sending both grinding into the barrier. Windom’s car rode along the wall, tearing off the rear portion of his car before both came to a halt in the middle of the track. Rescue crews were there immediately as both drivers emerged from the wreckage unhurt.

“It was really close in front of me going into the turn,” explained VeeKay, who started seventh, next to Oliver. “I had no time to react until the cloud of tire smoke lifted. It was good that I started on the inside and could avoid it.” The wreck and ensuing damage caused a brief red flag for barrier repairs.

Windom was also involved in another serious crash Thursday night during the Hoosier Hundred USAC Silver Crown event at the one-mile dirt oval at the Indiana State Fair grounds.

Askew’s win moved him into the series’ points lead, with VeeKay six points behind.

Lights Notes:
• The 40-lap race featured 13 lead changes among four drivers, as the field was slowed twice for seven laps.
• The first three finishers each expressed hope that winning the Indy Lights crown, and the scholarship money that goes with it, could lead to an IndyCar series ride next season. Andretti Autosport drivers Askew and Norman especially have a good chance to move up as AA fields a large group of cars each season.
• Just four teams, (AA, Juncos, Belardi and BN Racing), supply the entire field of cars for the Lights series.

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