It was a busy morning on the Silly Season front for the NTT IndyCar Series. Both Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing and Juncos Hollinger Racing had rides available for the three west coast swing races but no one in the seats yet.
Now, we know. “TBA” never made it to the entry list for next weeks race and I suspect it won’t now for the remainder of the season.
That’s because RLL has decided to run the No. 45 Honda in all three west coast races this month and will feature one single driver in each race instead of a cast of participants.
Oliver Askew will drive the car after Santino Ferrucci and Christian Lundgaard piloted it already this season. The team secured Hy-Vee for a full time sponsor in 2022 and has said they’re evaluating drivers on who will race it next year.
Askew, will be the final one auditioning in race conditions as he will race at Portland (9/12), Laguna Seca (9/19) and Long Beach (9/26).
“It’s fantastic opportunity to run the final three races of the season with such a capable team in Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing,” said Oliver Askew. “We had a very productive test together a few weeks ago at Barber and I’m excited to drive the team’s car again, this time in Hy-Vee colors in one of the most competitive racing environments the world has ever seen. I believe we can put together a great string of results and I’m excited to get to work.”
Askew is a graduate of the Road to Indy ladder system with championships in Indy Lights (2019) and Cooper Tires USF2000 (2017). He made his debut in the INDYCAR SERIES with Arrow McLaren SP in 2020 completing a rise from go-karts to Indy cars in four seasons. In 2020, he had a best start of fifth place in the GMR Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and a best finish of third at Iowa Speedway in Race 1 of the doubleheader. In 2021, he has competed in two NTT INDYCAR SERIES races, one each for Arrow McLaren SP (Detroit, Race 2) and Ed Carpenter Racing (Road America) as the replacement for their injured drivers Felix Rosenqvist and Rinus VeeKay, respectively. Also in 2021, he made his sports car racing debut at the Rolex 24 at Daytona and won the LMP3 class with Riley Motorsports.
Hy-Vee first joined the team as the primary sponsor of Graham Rahal’s entry for Race 2 at the Iowa Speedway in 2020 where he finished third. The company was also the primary sponsor of the team’s entry for Spencer Pigot at the Indy 500 and an associate sponsor of Rahal’s entry for the legendary race. In 2021, they have been a primary sponsor at seven races to date: the Indy 500, Detroit Grand Prix doubleheader, Mid-Ohio and Nashville races with Ferrucci and at Road America and St. Louis with Rahal.
This is good news for them because depending on whom you talk to, the 45 car may or may not be in the money for the leaders circle program. They current sit on the 22nd and final spot and lead the No. 7 Chevrolet from Arrow McLaren SP by four points for that spot. They’re three points behind the No. 48 Honda from Chip Ganassi Racing for 21st, so as you can see, this is a tight battle for that spot should the 45 car be eligible.
Some think that even if you’re not full time this year but choose to be for 2022, then you’re eligible. That’s why RLL claims to hold the final spot of the leaders circle money at the moment.
The other ride announced hours after came from Juncos Hollinger Racing as they’ve announced that Callum Ilott will make his debut in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES at Portland International Raceway.
The 22-year-old Briton is the first driver announced for the No. 77 Chevy-powered Juncos Hollinger Racing entry for the 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES. Ilott joins a growing list of F1 drivers making their run in the highly competitive NTT INDYCAR SERIES field.
“I am pleased and excited to be announcing I will be racing with Juncos Hollinger Racing at Portland,” said Ilott. “This will be my first time in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and running in the United States, which will be a bit of a change from running on the European side. I am looking forward to working with the team during this first phase of their development and am proud to be a part of this opportunity to build into their future embarkment. I would like to thank the Ferrari Driver Academy for allowing me to take this opportunity and for Ricardo Juncos and Brad Hollinger for bringing me on board the team.”
Ricardo Juncos and Brad Hollinger announced their partnership to form Juncos Hollinger Racing in early August. The team committed to running the final three events of the 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season in preparation for a full-time run for the 2022 season. The Grand Prix of Portland will be the first time the team has been back on track in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES since knocking out McLaren’s Fernando Alonso for the final qualifying position of the 2019 Indianapolis 500.
“We are very excited to welcome Callum Ilott to the Juncos Hollinger Racing family,” said Juncos. “Callum brings a lot of experience and incredible talent to the team. We are confident that he will transition well into the NTT INDYCAR SERIES when we get on track for our final test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course tomorrow before making our official debut together at Portland next week.”
Ilott most recently competed in the 2021 24 Hours of Le Mans, claiming third with IRON LYNX in the LM GTE AM class. Earlier this year the young Briton was signed by Ferrari’s F1 team as their test driver and was named a reserve driver for the Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN F1 team.
Ilott began his racing career running in multiple karting series, earning many wins and podiums and was regarded as one of the best karting drivers of his time. At the age of 16 he was the first driver to be taken directly from karts to the FIA F3 European Championship for the 2015 season, joining team Red Bull. That year he was the only driver to finish all 33 races and would claim one podium.
He continued his run in the FIA F3 European Championship during the 2016 season, claiming two wins, seven podiums, and two poles to finish sixth overall that year. The following year Ilott would wrap up his successful career in the FIA F3 Championship, finishing fourth overall after earning six wins, 11 podiums, and nine poles. In 2018 Ilott was invited to join the Ferrari Driver Academy. That year he also competed in the GP3 Series, capturing two wins, seven podiums, and one pole to finish third overall in the championship. Ilott moved up to the FIA F2 Championship in 2019. That season he earned two podiums and one pole. In 2020 Ilott returned to the FIA F2 Championship with UNI-Virtuosi Racing and would go on to finish second overall after claiming three wins, six podiums, and five poles.