INDIANAPOLIS — Following a couple week break between the NTT IndyCar Series doubleheader at the World Wide Technology Raceway at the end of August and another doubleheader for this weekend’s twinbill at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, the drivers of the series are chomping at the bit to get back behind the wheels of their respective Dallara’s.
For two drivers, they’re even more eager to get back going on the Ohio road course in general. See, both Rinus VeeKay and Oliver Askew are confident in their abilities to contend for podiums in both of the races this weekend. They’re also in a fight for Rookie of the Year Honors as well. That’s nothing new. More on that part of the story later.
First, you have to understand the symmetry between these two drivers and their paths to where they are right now. Both raced overseas in 2015 and 2016. Both came to America in 2017 to join the IndyCar ladder system. Both started in USF2000 that season, Askew for Cape Motorsports and VeeKay with Pabst. Askew won seven races. VeeKay three. That’s 10 of the 14 races won that season between the both of them. They finished 1-2 in the championship as rookies. Askew beat VeeKay by seven points.
They’d both move up to Indy Pro 2000 for 2018. Askew was back with Cape, VeeKay with Juncos now. This time, it was VeeKay’s turn to earn some hardware. He won seven times and took home the championship. Askew won just once and finished third.
For 2019, they graduated up again. This time Askew went to Andretti Autosport and VeeKay with the Juncos program in Indy Lights. They finished 1-2 in points again. Askew won seven times, VeeKay six. Askew beat him by just 21 points for the title.
Askew had 17 wins in the ladder system. VeeKay 16. Now, they both are IndyCar rookies.
“Yeah, of course. I’ve always driven against Oliver,,” said VeeKay of Askew and competing against him. “He’s always been a benchmark. But now there is, well, 24 more Olivers, so you’re not just looking to Oliver. There’s so many fast guys.
“You’re eventually just making sure you do the best you can because there’s always going to be fast guys around you. You know you’re not going to be a few tenths ahead of anyone else. It’s super tough, but yeah, it’s nice to see that in those years battling with Oliver. It really helped me preparing towards INDYCAR.”
Askew agreed. You’ll see that a lot in this story. Both are from different countries. Both have different families. Both have never even driven for the same team before, but both agree and sound a lot alike in what they’re saying.
“I honestly, unbiased opinion, my unbiased opinion is that this series is the most competitive in the world at the moment,” Askew said. “You know, to come in as a rookie, there’s a lot to learn, and if you don’t take a stand against the veterans, they’re going to understand that and use you up as much as they can.
“It’s super tough, and probably more tough than many people realize.”
VeeKay, leads the standings among all the rookies with 181 points. He’s 21 points ahead of Alex Palou and 26 over Askew. With five races left still, anything is possible.
“Yeah, it’s of course nice to be leading the rookie championship, but there’s way more than that,” said VeeKay. “I’m just trying to make sure I do the best job I can do. And then yeah, it’s quite crazy, I’ve had quite a weird season, I think, and then having one good weekend and you’re leading the rookie championship.
“You never know what’s going to happen, but I’m going to give it my all.”
VeeKay says that if he had to grade his season thus far, he’d give himself a 7 out of 10.
“One out of ten, so let’s say I think a seven,” said the Dutch rookie. “It’s been a hard year. I’ve made quite a few mistakes, but after all, I’m learning a lot. I think seven. I think it’s a good number. It’s not perfect at all, but I think I’m doing a good job so far.”
VeeKay, earned a Fast Nine starting position at Indy and has been in the hunt more times than not recently. His fellow rookie counterpart in Askew is a bit tougher on himself.
“Yeah, I’d say — I think I’m pretty hard on myself, so I’d give myself a six, 60 percent — well, 67 percent,” Askew said on what grad he’d give himself.
As to why he’s so tough on himself — he said he basically just wants to be more consistent.
“I just think I’ve lacked a little consistency,” Askew continued. “I mean, I know the speed is there. We were in the Fast Six right away in Indy GP qualifying and we had a really good weekend in Iowa, we just need to make sure we put it — like Rinus says, it’s such a weird season and you just need to kind of capitalize and make sure you’re on it all the time because it’s such a close series, so if you feel a little bit off one day, it looks like you’re having a really bad weekend because everyone is so close together.
“So I think, yeah, I just need to be a little bit more consistent and the results will be there.”
Askew, also agrees with VeeKay that with how difficult it is to contend in the series these days, you can’t take anything for granted. That’s why they like Mid-Ohio this weekend. There’s two races on the line and both drivers have been good on this track over their Road to Indy careers. They’re comfortable here.
“Mid-Ohio is a special track for me,” Askew said. “I’ve always loved going there. We’ve had a lot of success there in the Road to Indy and Indy Lights last year, as well. It’s a very technical track, and I think it suits me and I think it suits the team Arrow McLaren SP and Chevrolet, as well.”
Askew, won a USF2000 race in 2017 on this track. He swept the Indy Lights race weekend there last year. So, he has every reason to be confident.
So is VeeKay. He was third and second respectively in 2017 for USF 2000 and last year for Indy Lights. He swept the weekend in Indy Pro 2000 in 2018 though.
“Yeah, I feel very confident,” VeeKay said of this weekend.” I know the team has had a great car at Mid-Ohio in the last years. I think Mid-Ohio is going to be one of their strongest road courses, and I know everyone works extremely hard and is very motivated.
“I had the test there last October with Ed Carpenter Racing, and the car felt really amazing. I’m not worried at all, and I’m just very excited. I’m really looking forward to Mid-Ohio. Of course it’s a track where I’ve never finished off the podium in my whole Road to Indy. It’s quite a track. I love it there, and yeah, finally after a long time of ovals, we go to a road course again. Really enjoy the ovals, but yeah, I’m looking forward to turning right this weekend.
“I’ve had a very important test with Ed Carpenter Racing at Mid-Ohio, so yeah, good memories.”
For whatever reason, Mid-Ohio has been kind to Road to Indy drivers in general. Felix Rosenqvist hopped right in and came home second in a photo finish with Scott Dixon last year. Askew and VeeKay have their reasons why.
“I think it’s just a common racetrack, common racetrack to test at,” said Askew. “It’s always one of our most attended races of the year, and it is in close partnership with Cooper tires, as well. So they’re obviously a huge partner and sponsor of the Road to Indy, and we’ve put a huge emphasis on that track and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course through our Road to Indy careers. I think that has a lot to do with it. We both have quite a bit of time on that circuit.”
Veekay, again agrees.
“We always got a lot of practice there,” he said. “It’s just a great old-school track. Coming from Europe or seeing guys coming from Europe going into Mid-Ohio, it’s quite a step from having run-offs, having grass. Yeah, crazy track, but it’s a lot of fun, very technical, and I think if you can be fast at Mid-Ohio, you can be fast everywhere.”
These two have bright futures in this series and will forever be linked due to their paths. It’s a fun story.