By Steve Wittich
For the fifth time this season, Oliver Askew stood on the top step of an Indy Lights podium. It’s the fourth time the 22-year-old won from the pole. It’s Askew’s 13th career pole.
It’s the sixth Indy Lights win at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for Andretti Autosport. It’s the Indianapolis, Indiana based team’s 54th Indy Lights victory.
For the fourth time this season, Ryan Norman finished on the podium. For much of the race, it looked like it might be the third straight Andretti Autosport one-two-three finish at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Unfortunately for the team, Megennis was passed by Rinus van Kalmthout (VeeKay) for the final spot on the podium.
The Dutchman, who started sixth after experiencing an issue with the floor of the car in qualifying, ended up collecting his eight Indy Lights podium. It’s his 30th career Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires podium.
After getting out of his Index Invest sponsored No. 28, Askew said: “It was a big day for us! It was a big points day.”
The gap between Askew and VeeKay at the top of the Indy Lights championship grew from 25 points to 34 points.
When the command to fire the turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder engines powering the nine Indy Lights entries for the Cooper Tires Indy Lights Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Race #1 were fired at 1:28 pm. That was a little late, as the track crew and AMR INDYCAR Safety Team were working on an issue just off the track at the exit of Turn 9.
The ambient temperature was 82F, and the track temperature was 114F. The sky was full of fluffy clouds, and the wind had picked up to a heavy breeze from the West South West.
The all-Andretti front row of Askew and Megennis led the field to the green flag on the front-straight.
The pair crossed the start/finish line together; racing towards Turn 1 before Megennis dropped in to follow Askew though the high-speed left-hander.
Norman was able to get ahead of Sowery, but the BN Racing/Team Pelfrey driver was able to regain the
Aaron Telitz, who started seventh, spun the No. 4 at the exit of Turn 5 on the first lap, falling to the back of the field.
At the end of the first lap, Askew’s lead over Megennis was 0.9 seconds. The remainder of the running order at the end of the first lap was Sowery, Norman, VeeKay, Kellett, Malukas, Kohl and Telitz.
For the first time this weekend, Indy Lights took to the 2.258-Mile, 13-Turn Mid-Ohio Road Course after the Stadium SUPER Trucks, and most drivers spent the first lap with their cars at 45 degrees.
After the race, Askew said that it took about six laps before he became more comfortable.
The second lap was no less exciting than the first lap. Norman got by Sowery for the final spot of the podium in Turn 4. Sowery was following Norman as they got to Turn 9 when he lost the rear end of the Gap Guard / Rich Energy sponsored No. 2, spinning 360 degrees before continuing.
Just after that, Kellett went for a wild ride, bouncing through the gravel and grass on the outside of the final corner.
Both drivers were able to continue, with Sowery working hard working his way by Kohl, Kellett, and Malukas to move back to fifth.
Megennis was able to remain within the margin for the push to pass through the first nine laps. At the one-third pole, Askew’s lead had grown to 1.5563 seconds over Megennis, just outside of the push-to-pass zone.
Ryan Norman completed the all Andretti Autosport podium.
Just after the leaders crossed the start/finish line, Sowery had another wild ride. This time the No. 2 dropped a wheel at the exit of Turn 11, hooking to the left and making significant contact with the tire barriers on driver’s left.
Telitz came to pit road during the yellow, which wasn’t a huge surprise. Before the race, team owner Brian Belardi told us that he expected the team to use the race as a test session. The reason? The team is struggling with its road course set-up.
The veteran came to pit road numerous times in final two-thirds of the race. Did it work? By the end of the race, the Outlaw Energy sponsored No. 4 had turned the sixth quickest lap of the race. One spot higher than Telitz qualified.
The running order when the green flag came back out on Lap 14 was Askew, Megennis, Norman, VeeKay, Malukas, Kohl, Kellett, Telitz, and Sowery.
Askew got a good jump on Megennis, who was facing immediate pressure from Norman. Malukas took a look at making a move on VeeKay but was not able to get through Turn 1 quick enough.
At the half-way point of the 30-lap race, Askew’s lead was 1.5 seconds and a lap later, Megennis had fallen out of push-to-pass range.
On Lap 18, Norman looked to the outside of Megennis in Turn 4. The rookie held off the veteran, which allowed VeeKay to get back into the picture.
On the next lap, Norman was able to complete the pass with the same move same spot, moving the Three Chord sponsored No. 48 to the second spot.
Askew’s lead over Norman when they began Lap 22 was 1.5874, with Askew turning his quickest lap of the race.
On Lap 23, VeeKay went to the outside of Megennis in Turn 4, but the New Yorker drove a perfect defensive line through Madness to hold onto the spot.
Two laps, later the Soul Red No. 21 got a better ruin off The Keyhole, easily making an inside pass in Turn 4.
With four laps remaining, Askew’s lead had grown to 2.9668 over Norman. Norman had 2.5 seconds over VeeKay, who was still pushing hard.
On Lap 28, the reigning Indy Pro 2000 driver turned his quickest lap of the race.
Askew, who had just turned the quickest lap of the race, took the white flag with a 4.2-second lead. That fastest lap of the race was over two-tenths quicker than any other driver.
Cooper Tires Indy Lights Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Race #1 Unofficial Results
|1||28||Oliver Askew||Andretti Autosport|
|2||48||Ryan Norman||Andretti Autosport||4.0665|
|3||21||Rinus VeeKay||Juncos Racing||5.0545|
|4||27||Robert Megennis||Andretti Autosport||10.2316|
|5||79||David Malukas||BN Racing||14.8649|
|6||5||Lucas Kohl||Belardi Auto Racing||23.9418|
|7||67||Dalton Kellett||Juncos Racing||64.4426|
|8||4||Aaron Telitz||Belardi Auto Racing||– 9 LAPS|
|9||2||Toby Sowery||BN Racing/Team Pelfrey||-21 LAPS|
The second Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires race of the weekend at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course gets the green flag at 12:45 pm on Sunday.