Oliver Askew, who won seven times during his 2017 USF2000 Championship season, won his first Pro Mazda Presented By Cooper Tire race, lifting a significant weight off his back after 16 winless races.

“It’s a really good feeling,” said a relieved Askew to TSO Ladder. “I can’t quite describe it. It was one of the hardest races I’ve ever done. I was under pressure the whole time! I just tried not to make any mistakes. I know it’s very hard to pass here and my priority was to not make any mistakes. Our pace wasn’t an issue, but I didn’t want to give Rinus any opportunities to get around me. It’s a huge monkey off our backs especially going into the offseason. It’s a big help.”

Askew’s win, combined with a fourth-place finish by Malukas extends his lead for third in the championship, and the Indy Lights test and $20,000 check, that goes along with it.

Rinus van Kalmthout (Rinus VeeKay), who clinched the $790,000+ Mazda Motorsports Advancement Scholarship when he took the green flag for practice yesterday, had his five-race winning streak come to an end after losing the lead in the “Festival Curves” on Lap 1. The 17-year-old Dutchman did come home in second, his ninth podium of 2018 and 21st of his Mazda Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires career.

Exclusive Autosport rookie Parker Thompson ended up on the final step of the podium, his sixth of the year, but the first since a Lucas Oil Raceway win in May.

Oliver Askew leads Rinus VeeKay, Parker Thompson, and David Malukas through the “Festival Curves” on the way to a Saturday win at Portland International Raceway (Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography)

The final race of a busy Saturday at the Grand Prix of Portland was the first of two Pro Mazda Grand Prix of Portland Presented by Cooper Tires scheduled for the final Mazda Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires weekend of 2018.

Askew, who was still looking for his first win in 2018, got a great jump and arrived at the right-hand Turn 1 first. VeeKay swept past Askew for a brief moment, but by the time the duo exited Turn 2, the No. 3 Soul Red Mazda from the Cape Motorsports was in the lead.

“Well I had a terrible start actually,” explained VeeKay to TSO after the race. “I went… I was a bit confused. There were signs, so I went too early on the throttle. I then backed off and went on again. Oliver stayed flat out. So it was a bit unfortunate, although could have been a lot worse. Getting a podium in my championship-winning race is great. I cannot wait to go to Indy Lights next year!

Moisés de la Vara was forced to head through the Turn 1 run-off.

The running order at the end of the first lap was: Askew, VeeKay, Thompson, David Malukas, Sting Ray Robb, Robert Megennis, de la Vara and Nikia Lastochkin.

Moisés de la Vara was the first driver to retire from the race with damage to his rear wing.

With ten laps remaining, Askew had a slim 0.7668 lead over VeeKay. On the very next lap, both drivers turned their quickest laps of the race with the Juncos Racing’s rookie being the fastest of the race to that point.

With eight laps remaining, the gap had shrunk to 0.6026 seconds, but that was as close as things got with Askew stretching the lead to 1.3482 seconds when the checkered flag was shown after 30 laps.

Pro Mazda Grand Prix of Portland Presented by Cooper Tires race #1 – unofficial results

P No Name Laps Diff
1 3 Oliver Askew 30
2 2 Rinus VeeKay 30 1.3482
3 90 Parker Thompson 30 2.5135
4 79 David Malukas 30 3.7177
5 9 Robert Megennis 30 12.7176
6 82 Sting Ray Robb 30 14.8565
7 8 Nikita Lastochkin 30 24.7640
8 12 Moises de la Vara 3 Contact

The final Pro Mazda race of the season gets the green flag at 2:15 PM on Sunday after the Grand Prix of Portland.