INDIANAPOLIS — My how quickly things change over the course of a year. Around this time a year ago, Arrow McLaren SP announced two drivers for their NTT INDYCAR Series program for 2020. Those drivers would be the last two Indy Lights champions in Pato O’Ward (2018) and Oliver Askew (2019).
The team boasted this decision may not be too popular but would work out for the future. No one was too thrilled with the team with how they handled letting James Hinchcliffe go and in his steed came basically two rookies.
McLaren SP wanted patience. They felt like they had plenty of room to grow.
“With our background in Indy Lights, I’ve followed Oliver and Pato closely over the last few years on the Road to Indy,” Arrow McLaren SP co-owner Sam Schmidt said that day of the announcement. “I couldn’t think of a better pairing as we write the first chapter in Arrow McLaren SP’s story. They’ve proven their skills on the Road to Indy and with an Indy Lights championship each, they are ready and deserving of full-time seats in IndyCar. I have no doubt that Oliver and Pato are the right drivers to move Arrow McLaren SP forward.”
Here’s what Gil de Ferran said.
“As we look to establish Arrow McLaren SP and re-establish McLaren in the world of IndyCar, I’m delighted to be welcoming these two young, homegrown talents to the team,” said Gil de Ferran, Sporting Director of McLaren. “Oliver and Pato represent the new generation of IndyCar drivers. Proven winners and exciting prospects, I have no doubt that they will form an excellent pairing as we take on the 2020 season.
“Both drivers were super-impressive in Indy Lights, racking up 16 wins between them over the last two seasons. We have taken time and care to make a driver selection that we believe is in the best long-term interests of Arrow McLaren SP.”
Their words. Not mine.
But, a little over a week before the season finale, one driver is already being shown the door.
There’s obviously something deeper here. Why is Askew being let go after just 11 races? This can’t be performance based because he’s not been bad.
There’s no testing. Practices are limited. It’s not easy to be a rookie this season. Everyone has acknowledged that. Askew, has performed well in his first campaign.
Rumors have been circulating though that it’s for what Askew and his personal team said in an interview to the AP about how his situation was handled with his concussion like symptoms that forced him to miss the last race weekend at Indy. You’ll never get anyone to confirm this on record, but it may hold more merit than initially thought.
Just look at Askew’s stats before his injury. He finished ninth in his INDYCAR debut at Texas. A race with one short practice session. He scored dual top 10s in Iowa. He was leading the rookie of the year standings at that time.
Then came the Indy crash. He never felt like himself after. While under the weather with these symptoms, he was 14th and 17th in the World Wide Technology Raceway doubleheader and 19th and 15th at Mid-Ohio. He then sought a consult to why he wasn’t feeling 100% and was told to remain out of the car until he did.
I wrote then that it wasn’t anyone’s fault for missing this. He didn’t exhibit any symptoms and passed all the protocols after his Indy crash. But, sometimes concussions have a delayed reaction. Askew, in fear of not wanting to get out of his seat, stayed in it. With results slipping, it was time to find out why.
Now, he’s out of a ride. Seems fishy, right?
It’s not a good look for the team that’s for sure. After how last years decisions were handled and now this, something is missing.
Askew was never given a fair shake.