The Cooper Tires USF2000 powered by Mazda championship battle has turned into a head-to-head contest between rookies Oliver Askew and Rinus VeeKay entering the final race of the season Saturday at Watkins Glen International.
Askew, driving for Cape Motorsports, leads VeeKay of Pabst Racing by 13 points. With a maximum of 33 points on the line this weekend, the USF2000 championship and Mazda scholarship to advance up the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires ladder are still up for grabs.
VeeKay has been a model of consistency with two wins and 11 podiums in 13 starts this season. Knowing that, no matter how he fares, Askew will clinch the title with a podium finish, the 16-year-old Dutchman isn’t consumed by the different scenarios that would need to take place for him to capture the championship.
“You start the race and just forget about everything else,” said VeeKay (pictured at left), driver of the No. 21 Jumbo Supermarkets The Netherlands/Total Tatuus USF-17/Mazda. “Otherwise you can go crazy. Don’t worry about plans, just react to what’s happening.
“But to get 11 podiums in 13 races so far is a great year. It was a difficult beginning, but to get where we are now – I was reading on Twitter the other day, and I didn’t realize it, but I have never lost a position in a race. I have equaled my qualifying position or moved up. It was the best start you can have in your first year in racing (cars).”
For Askew, the road to this point is the completion of a whirlwind year of success. After earning a Team USA Scholarship last fall, he turned heads by finishing second in the Walter Hayes Trophy at Silverstone, England, as well as notching a pair of podium finishes in the Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch, England.
He then captured the Mazda Scholarship Shootout and $200,000 scholarship to compete in USF2000. The 20-year-old from Florida hasn’t stopped since, scoring seven victories and 10 podiums this season. He’s eager for the chance to win the championship this weekend and secure a ride in the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires – the second rung of the MRTI ladder sanctioned by INDYCAR – in 2018.
“It would solidify my place on the Mazda Road to Indy and my career path,” said Askew, driver of the Soul Red No. 3 Mazda Motorsports/MC Racing entry. “It would be my third scholarship in a year and a half, which is the kind of thing you dream of.
“I can’t believe that I’m in this situation. A year ago, I was in the worst place of my life. I didn’t know if I could even continue racing, so to be here, with the possibility of winning another scholarship and continuing my racing career, is surreal.”
USF2000 competition begins on the 3.37-mile Watkins Glen permanent road course on Friday, with a pair of 30-minute practices scheduled for 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET. Qualifying takes place at 8 a.m. Saturday, with the decisive race set to start at 1:15 p.m. Saturday (live stream on RaceControl.IndyCar.com).