By Steve Wittich
For the fifth time in 12 Indy Lights race this year, it will be Oliver Askew and his Index Invest Andretti Autosport No. 28 that will start on the pole. It’s the Jupiter, Fla. natives 16th career Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires pole win.
After getting out of the car, he told Katie Hargitt from NBC Gold that winning the pole at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course is “massively important,” especially at a track where overtaking can be a challenge. He also thanked his crew for a “car that is on rails.”
Andretti Autosport has now won four straight poles at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and six overall.
Askew’s pole-winning lap was 0.2074 seconds quicker than fellow Andretti Autosport rookie Robert Megennis, who will start on the front row for the fourth time this year.
Toby Sowery and his Gap Guard/Rich Energy sponsored No. 2 from the BN Racing/Team Pelfrey stable will start on the inside of the second row, the English driver’s best start since the season-opening race in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Starting beside Sowery, is Andretti Autosport veteran, Ohioan Ryan Norman.
The first of two Indy Lights qualifying session got underway at 2:30 pm. The ambient temperature was 80F, and the track temperature was 108F. A slight cloud cover began to roll in, meaning the track temperature was 10 degrees cooler than it was for the start of USF2000 qualifying.
Robert Megennis held the early provisional pole before his fellow Andretti Autosport rookie Askew took the top spot.
After just 10 minutes of running, Belardi Auto Racing veteran Aaron Telitz spun in Turn 12. The Belardi Auto Racing No. 4 got stuck in the long grass and had to be pushed back to the pavement by the AMR INDYCAR Safety Team. The Rice Lake, Wisc., based driver was able to drive back to the pits and rejoin the session.
For causing a red flag, Telitz lost his quickest lap of the session and will start seventh.
Because the red flag came out just before the half-way point of the session, the crews made adjustments to the AER/Dallara IL-15s and bolted on fresh Cooper Tire slicks.
When the green flag flew with 16-minutes remaining Askew held the provisional pole with a lap timed at 72.222 seconds. That was 0.3433 seconds ahead of his closest championship rival VeeKay. Dalton Kellett, Megennis and Norman made up the remainder of the top five.
All nine drivers were able to go quicker on their fresh Coopers. Much like the first half of qualifying, it was Askew that quickly went back to the point.
But behind him, things were much different. Askew’s teammate Megennis and Norman, along with Sowery were able to improve more than the Juncos Racing duo of Kellett and VeeKay.
Cooper Tires Indy Lights Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Qualifying #1 Results
|RANK||CAR. NO||DRIVER||TEAM||QUICK LAP||DIFFERENCE|
|1||28||Oliver Askew||Andretti Autosport||1:11.680||–.—-|
|2||27||Robert Megennis||Andretti Autosport||1:11.887||0.2074|
|3||2||Toby Sowery||BN Racing/Team Pelfrey||1:12.132||0.4527|
|4||48||Ryan Norman||Andretti Autosport||1:12.232||0.5524|
|5||67||Dalton Kellett||Juncos Racing||1:12.261||0.5812|
|6||21||Rinus VeeKay||Juncos Racing||1:12.296||0.6161|
|7||4||Aaron Telitz||Belardi Auto Racing||1:12.765||1.0856|
|8||79||David Malukas||BN Racing||1:12.885||1.2056|
|9||5||Lucas Kohl||Belardi Auto Racing||1:13.049||1.3695|
The first Indy Lights race of the weekend, a 30-lap or 50-minute race is scheduled to get the green flag tomorrow at 1:20 pm. However, the series will be back on track before that for Qualifying #2 at 9:45 am.