By Steve Wttich
An inaugural Indy Lights win for Robert Megennis continues with the momentum that started building at the last event at the Circuit of The Americas. The New Yorker led his first laps in Austin, Texas, but was not able to hold off Oliver Askew, his fellow rookie Andretti Autosport teammate.
That changed in the first of two Indy Lights Grand Prix of Indianapolis Presented By Cooper Tires races on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. Megennis snagged his first Indy Lights pole in the morning and after trading the lead with Askew, led 28 of the 30 laps to score the trip to the top step of the podium.
“I can’t believe we did it,” exclaimed an ecstatic Megennis. “It’s amazing. It’s our first Indy Lights win – my first win in a few years. We had a great car from start to finish and it feels great to kick off the month of May this way. The Andretti guys really listened to my feedback and we were able to score some valuable points in the championship and now we’re up to third in the standings. I can’t thank CyberArk, Palo Alto Networks and SailPoint for everything that they have done for me.”
The win moved Megennis to within 17 points of championship leader and Andretti Autosport teammate Askew.
Askew’s second place finish is his fourth podium of the year and 20th in his Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires career.
Rinus van Kalmthout (VeeKay) had a rough start to the race but was able to rebound to grab his 25th career Road To Indy podium. The 18-year-old who now has a podium percentage of over 70% is in second place in the chase for an NTT IndyCar Series ride is now nine points behind his rival Askew.
Andretti Autosport has now won three straight Indy Lights on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course and seven overall (including five of the last six). The pair of podiums by Megennis and Askew bump the Andretti Autosport total on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course to 11, tying them with Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports for the highest team total.
The first of two Indy Lights Grand Prix of Indianapolis Presented By Cooper Tires Races rolled off under overcast skies. The ambient temperature was 52F and the track temperature 69F.
Outside front row starter VeeKay spun his tires when the green flag came out to start the 30-lap race, allowing the Andretti Autosport duo of Askew and Ryan Norman to move past the Dutchman.
“Given how cold it was today, I knew there was a chance for wheelspin, and sure enough I had wheelspin getting on the power and going through the first few gears at the start,” explained VeeKay. “I went all the way back to fourth, without having the pace to get to Oliver or Robert. Disappointing, but we’ll move forward from this. We’ll analyze what happened today and have the car even better for tomorrow.”
Megennis had 0.4 second lead after the first lap, and the rest of the running order was Askew, Norman, VeeKay, David Malukas, Zachary Claman, Toby Sowery, Lucas Kohl and Dalton Kellett.
On Lap 2, Askew looked to the outside of Megennis in Turn 1 and Turn 7, but couldn’t get the pass completed.
Askew was able to make the pass in Turn 1 on the next lap with Norman almost getting past the pole sitter as well.
Askew led the third and fourth lap before Megennis was able to around his fellow rookie with a late braking maneuver in Turn 1. Askew told TSO Ladder after the race that he was surprised that Rob dove to the inside of him and thought that maybe he didn’t push hard enough when he took the lead in an attempt to save his Cooper Tires.
VeeKay gained back one of the positions he lost on the start when he got by Norman after a side-by-side battle in Turn 7 and Turn 8. The struggle cost Norman momentum, and he lost another position to David Malukas.
As the first pair crossed the yard-of-bricks, Megennis had pulled out a 1.6-second lead, putting Askew outside of the push-to-pass range.
On Lap 10 the running order was Megennis, Askew, VeeKay, Malukas, Norman, Claman, Sowery, Kellett and Kohl.
Over the next five laps, Megennis was able to set fastest race lap after race lap to pull a comfortable 2.5-second lead.
Norman was able to get around Malukas at just past the half-way point of the race. Unfortunately for the BN Racing rookie, he was out of push-to-pass and was unable to get the spot back and with eight laps remaining lost the fifth spot to Claman.
Up front, Megennis continued to manage the gap and ended up winning his first Indy Lights races by 1.9 seconds.
Askew was able to grab the quickest circuit of the race on the 29th of 30 laps. His lap of 75.6953 seconds broke Felix Rosenqvist’s race lap record from 2016.