By Steve Wittich
After 635.92 miles and 305 laps of competition, the margin between Oliver Askew and Rinus VeeKay in the chase for the $400,000 Mazda Motorsports Scholarship was a slim seven points.
It was VeeKay who won his third race of the year, but it was Askew who took home the big prize by holding off Carlos Cunha and finishing second.
Askew has now won his third scholarship in a short 11 month span. The 20 year-old kicked off his memorable year of winning by being named as a winner of the Team USA Scholarship in September. The second scholarship win for the Jupiter, Fla. based driver came when he took home the MRTI $200K Scholarship Shootout after besting a world class field at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in December.
“I’ve dreamed about this moment for so long,” exclaimed an clearly emotional Askew. “It’s such a huge weight off my shoulders, to be champion. 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!”
After just missing out on pole, VeeKay was able to sweep around the outside of Askew in Turn 1, and solidify his lead on the 60 foot run up The Esses to
“I’m happy but I could be happier. 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,” said the 16 year-old VeeKay. “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.”
By the time the 20 car field had completed their first lap, VeeKay had built up to a seven-tenths of a second lead. The biggest mover positively was Robert Megennis, who started last was able to move from 20th to 14th. The biggest mover going the other way was Kory Enders who dropped from his third starting spot, dropped down to eighth.
On Lap 4, VeeKay had built a 1.8 second lead, but behind him, his teammate Calvin Ming was able to move from his sixth starting spot to slot in just behind Askew. The driver from Guyana was able to keep up the pressure on the championship leader, running similar lap times, and staying within one second.
At the half-way point of the 30 minute timed race, VeeKay’s lead had grown to 3.9 seconds over Askew. Askew, who had no need to put pressure on the Dutchman, did have Ming on right on his tail only six-tenths of a second back. The remainder of the top 10 were: Frederick, Gutierrez, Enders, Kohl, Malukas, Keane and Baron.
While VeeKay was checking out up front, winning the final USF2000 race of the season by a beat down margin of 9.6 seconds over Askew, there were some interesting battles going on further back in the field.
Mazda USF2000 Watkins Glen Grand Prix Presented by Cooper Tires race results:
|19||37||Niall Murray||-11 LAPS|
|20||72||Zach Holden||-16 LAPS|