Road to Indy Headed to Final Oval Races of the Season
 August 20, 2019| 
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Indy Lights and Indy Pro 2000 on Deck at World Wide Technology Raceway

PALMETTO, Fla. – World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway has a new name this season but the 1.25-mile egg-shaped oval situated in Madison, Ill., just across the Mississippi River from downtown St. Louis, Mo., this weekend will provide the same unique challenge as in years past for the top two rungs on the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires open-wheel development ladder.

Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires will both race on Saturday in support of the NTT IndyCar Series, with coveted and lucrative championship titles still on the line as the 2019 campaign reaches toward its conclusion. Just four races will remain after this weekend, comprising a pair of road course events for each series at both Portland International Raceway, in Portland, Ore., on August 31/September 1 and then the series’ finales three weeks later at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, in Monterey, Calif.

Askew Seeks to Extend Indy Lights Lead
A recent string of three consecutive wins has taken Oliver Askew into a commanding 45-point lead in the quest for a champion’s scholarship which will guarantee entry into a minimum of three NTT IndyCar Series events in 2020, including the 104th Indianapolis 500. Saturday’s Cooper Tires Indy Lights Oval Challenge of St. Louis will represent the second and final oval race on the schedule, offering a 50 percent points bonus with 45 points available to the winner, plus additional points for pole position and leading the most laps during the race.

Askew, 22, from Jupiter, Fla., has won six of the 13 races held so far this season for Andretti Autosport, including a dramatic last-gasp victory at the Freedom 100 Presented by Cooper Tires at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May. Askew also set the pace during two of the three test sessions held at the track last week before sliding to fourth on the overall charts when he elected to concentrate on longer runs during the final period.

“The next five races will be the most important of my career, and Gateway will kick off this home stretch with one oval race worth 50 percent extra points,” noted Askew. “Andretti Autosport and myself will be putting all of our effort and time this week into making sure we leave nothing on the table.”

The man Askew edged to victory at Indianapolis, Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Norman, from Aurora, Ohio, will be out for revenge this week. Norman’s confidence will be high after claiming a brilliant first-ever victory last year at the Gateway oval following an intense battle with then-teammate and current NTT IndyCar series standout Colton Herta.

Robert Megennis, from New York, N.Y., also is expected to be a leading contender aboard a third Andretti Autosport Dallara-AER IL-15. Megennis won earlier this season on the Indianapolis Grand Prix road course and qualified fastest for the Freedom 100.

The team owned by former IndyCar star Michael Andretti currently holds a virtual stranglehold on the Team Championship, 430-282 over Juncos Racing, such that another one-two sweep – a potential sixth of the season – could be enough to clinch a second successive title with four races remaining.

One man anxious not to let that happen is teenaged Dutch sensation Rinus VeeKay, who has already won three times this season and is determined to find his way back to Victory Lane in order to bolster his own championship aspirations. VeeKay also will be seeking to maintain his record at World Wide Technology Raceway after scoring a clear win for Juncos Racing last year on his way to the Indy Pro 2000 Championship crown.

Belardi Auto Racing and HMD Motorsports also have high hopes of upsetting the Andretti applecart. After winning at Gateway two years ago, Belardi will field a single entry for Brazilian rookie Lucas Kohl, while the newly named and restructured HMD team (formerly BN Racing) displayed tremendous form in last week’s test with Englishman Toby Sowery (HMD/Team Pelfrey) and David Malukas, from Chicago, Ill., posting the fastest times.

“I’m quietly optimistic going into the race weekend,” said Sowery, who has scored two second-place finishes from his last three starts. “I don’t want to jinx it, because I really do want that first series win, but I think we’ve got the car under us, it’s just a matter of putting all the pieces together.”

HMD will carry fresh support on both cars from Variety the Children's Charity of St. Louis, which aims to empower children with special needs and improve their quality of life.

A solitary 45-minute practice at 3:00 p.m. CDT on Friday, August 23, will allow the teams to prepare for single-car qualifying at 7:30 p.m. that same evening. The 75-lap race will take the green flag at 3:25 p.m. on Saturday, August 24.

In the U.S., the race will air live and on demand on NBC Sports Gold with practice and qualifying coverage carried via live streaming on the Road to Indy TV App, RoadToIndy.TV, indylights.com and indycar.com. Internationally, practice, qualifying and the race will be live streamed on the Road to Indy TV App, RoadToIndy.TV and at indylights.com. Additional coverage can also be found on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network broadcasts which airs live on network affiliates, Sirius 216, XM 209, indycar.com, indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile App powered by NTT Data.

Lindh Set to Defend Indy Pro 2000 Points Lead
The battle for this year’s Indy Pro 2000 championship and a scholarship valued at close to $600,000 to assist in the progression to Indy Lights for the 2020 season is shaping up nicely. Teenager Rasmus Lindh, from Gothenburg, Sweden, currently holds the edge for defending champion team Juncos Racing, but a run of five wins from the last six races for RP Motorsport USA has brought Kyle Kirkwood, from Jupiter, Fla., to within just 13 points with five races remaining.

Neither of the championship protagonists has raced previously at World Wide Technology Raceway, although both were among the leading contenders during a one-day test last week. Lindh, 18, set the pace for the first two sessions before Kirkwood, 20, vaulted to the top in the final 60-minute period – by a mere 0.0278 second over Lindh. Both were considerably faster than the 32.0991-second lap (139.738 mph) with which RP’s Harrison Scott secured the pole position in 2018.

DEForce Racing teammates Kory Enders, from Sugar Land, Texas, and Moises de la Vara, from Guadalajara, Mexico, posted by far their most competitive performances of the season during the test, ending up with the third and fourth best times. Both were within 0.2-second of the benchmark time.

Lindh’s Juncos Racing teammate, Sting Ray Robb rounded out the top five at the test. Robb, from Payette, Idaho, is still seeking an elusive first Indy Pro 2000 win.

Parker Thompson (Abel Motorsports), from Red Deer, Alb., Canada, and Danial Frost (Exclusive Autosport) from Singapore, remain in the championship hunt after claiming victories earlier in the year. Frost will be looking to regain the form which saw him dominate the only other oval event on this year’s schedule at Lucas Oil Raceway in May. The pair of title rivals will have support from respective teammates Jacob Abel, from Louisville, Ky., who finished fifth at Lucas Oil Raceway, and Los Angeles-based Russian Nikita Lastochkin, who carries momentum from a fourth-place drive in the last event at Mid-Ohio.

Another Russian, Artem Petrov, from St. Petersburg, will make his North American debut for RP Motorsport USA after competing previously in European Formula 4 and Formula 3, as well as in the New Zealand Toyota Racing Series. Petrov, 19, made steady progress during last week’s test to end up with the ninth fastest time.

Canadian Antoine Comeau, now a resident of Chicago, Ill., will continue his learning curve with Turn 3 Motorsport. Comeau, who has raced Radical sports cars in recent years, followed up a promising debut at Mid-Ohio last month with a strong oval test one week ago.

The Cooper Tires Indy Pro 2000 Oval Challenge of St. Louis will get under way with a 30-minute practice session at 2:15 p.m. CDT on Friday, followed by qualifying at 6:30 p.m. The green flag for a 55-lap race is set to fly at 1:45 p.m. on Saturday, August 24. All sessions will be live-streamed on the Road to Indy TV App, RoadToIndy.TV, indypro2000.com and indycar.com.
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