By Steve Wittich
A tense and important USF2000 qualifying session, the last of the season, ended with Oliver Askew scoring his eighth pole of 2017 with a quick lap of 1:46.223 on his second last lap of the session.
More importantly, Askew scored his 22nd bonus point of the season, ensuring that the driver of Soul Red No. 3 from the Cape Motorsports stable only has to finish this afternoon’s Mazda USF2000 Watkins Glen Grand Prix Presented by Cooper Tires race in fourth place or better to secure his second straight Mazda Motorsports Advancement Scholarship.
Starting beside Askew on the front row will be his closest championship rival Rinus VeeKay. This will be the ninth time this year that the Dutchman will start on the front row.
Starting on the second row will be the DE Force Racing duo of Kory Enders and Andres Gutierrez. The best qualifying effort of the year for Enders, Gutierrez and the Houston, Tex. based team.
The lone USF2000 qualifying session began right on time under sunny skies, but chilly temperatures. The ambient temperature was struggling to reach 40F, and the track temperature thanks to sunny skies was 53F.
The cold track time meant that it took at least four laps for the Cooper Tire rubber to come up to optimal operating temperature.
The red flag came out 10 minutes into the half-hour session for an incident at pit out involving Team Pelfrey sophomore Robert Megennis. The Team Pelfrey driver from New York, N.Y., who is doing double duty in USF2000, and Pro Mazda this weekend, will start last in the lone USF2000 race.
The session restarted with 15 minutes left, and at that point VeeKay held the provisional pole with a lap time of 107.854 seconds. He was followed in the top ten by Andres Gutierrez, Askew, Niall Murray, Kory Enders, Calvin Ming, Lucas Kohl, Zach Holden, Kaylen Frederick, and Phillipe Denes.
The majority of the field took to the track with the exception of the Pabst Racing threesome of VeeKay, Ming, and Kohl sitting.
It only took one flying lap for Askew to take provisional pole from VeeKay, sending the Pabst Racing drivers to hit the track.
Askew was able to go even quicker on the next three consecutive laps. Meanwhile as VeeKay was building heat into his Cooper Tire rubber he was also going quicker each lap.
When the checkered flag came out at the timing line between Turn 9 and Turn 10, it was the championship leader Askew who ended up with a lap at a tenth of a second quicker then Askew.
Mazda USF2000 Watkins Glen Grand Prix Presented by Cooper Tires qualifying results
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The championship deciding USF2000 race of 2017 gets the green flag at 1:15pm this afternoon.
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