Askew hopeful ECR test leads to IndyCar return

Askew and newly crowned Indy NXT champion Christian Rasmussen will both test with ECR at the 2.3-mile track with the aim of earning a seat in the #20 Chevrolet alongside Rinus VeeKay for the 2024 season. 

After last competing in the series in 2021, Askew told Autosport: “There’s nothing that would make me happier than a redo at what meant the world to me, and what still does, in IndyCar. “I really want to go back and cause some mischief.”

Should 26-year-old Askew land the drive, it would create one of the more intriguing lineups on the grid as the pair were fierce rivals in the junior formula ranks. 

In what was formerly known as the Road to Indy, Askew captured the 2017 USF 2000 and 2019 Indy NXT championships, besting the Dutchman in a head-to-head fight by a combined 28 points. VeeKay did pull one back by winning the 2018 USF Pro 2000 title. 

“Speaking for what I think the team needs and that’s someone who can push Rinus, which I have been able to do my whole career,” Askew said.

“If there’s one guy who I can point to and say, ‘Yeah, he’s made me up my game and made me a better driver in competition,’ it’s Rinus. And I think he can say the same about me. I think that pairing would be perfect.

“Our styles complement one another. I would say. He’s very raw talent. Whereas I take a more methodical approach to things. There are pieces that we can both learn from one another.

Oliver Askew, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda

Oliver Askew, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda

Photo by: Jake Galstad / Motorsport Images

“I also think the team is in a sort of rebuilding phase. They’re trying to get back to the front of the grid and continue to fight more consistently than not. If you look at the IndyCar championship right now and the guys who finish up ahead in the championship, it’s those guys who are consistently fast on every weekend.

“All the teams have the potential to be quick, it’s just about being quick on every weekend. That makes the biggest difference at the end of the championship. That’s ECR’s goal right now is to get pieces in place so that they can be consistent and fight on those race weekends. I think I can play a role in helping develop the car and helping Rinus to be fast consistently by pushing him, and he can do the same thing for myself.”

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Although Askew ran 12 of 14 IndyCar races in 2020, scoring a podium at Iowa (Race 1) as a rookie driving for Arrow McLaren, he was dropped ahead of the 2021 season. After Felix Rosenqvist suffered an injury on the Streets of Detroit, he was called up for a one-off by his old team, which kickstarted a partial schedule with multiple teams, including ECR at RLL.

In the case of ECR, he was called to substitute drive at Road America for VeeKay, who suffered an injury from a biking accident.

“That was a great experience for me, and I think the team enjoyed working with me as well,” Askew said.

“Since then, I’ve stayed in contact and have looked for any opportunities that might arise there. That’s basically the gist of it. I didn’t really know of the opportunity until I was on my way out to Laguna for the last weekend.

“It’s the last weekend, so I figured that it’d be my last chance of the year to go network and see what was going on because if people don’t see you, then they assume that everything’s fine and I’m good or I have something going on.

Oliver Askew, Andretti Motorsport, has his photo taken with a fan

Oliver Askew, Andretti Motorsport, has his photo taken with a fan

Photo by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images

“So, it’s important to make that known. And yeah, I wasn’t aware of the changes happening at ECR until I was on my way out there. I had the chance to sit down with those guys and they were happy that I made the trip out. It pretty much went from there.”

After leaving IndyCar, Askew spent the 2022 season competing in Formula E with Avalanche Andretti and claimed top rookie honours but has spent 2023 on commentary duties. 

“There’s so much that I learned informally, honestly,” he explained. “More procedural things and how they structure their race weekends. The teams are extremely professional there. The margins are just as small as they are in IndyCar, speaking of how competitive it is. So, I think there’s a lot that I can bring to a team like Ed Carpenter racing from my experience in Formula E in that regard.”

Similar to Rasmussen, Askew spent time in Chevrolet’s simulator in North Carolina to prepare but has also continued to get feedback from VeeKay’s engineer, Matt Barnes, on the various nuances that might be different since he last stepped into an Indy car.

The other benefit in Askew’s favour is not only his experience but also his maturity to be a more complete version of himself.

“It’s a better time than it has been for the past couple of years,” Askew said.

“It’s never easy, especially when there’s a couple of new circuits that I haven’t been to. It’s never easy jumping into a series that is this competitive, with guys who have been at the top of their game with top teams in this formula for a couple of years now. No better time. I still have the toolbox and the experience to hit the ground running when it matters.”

Sergio Sette Camara, NIO 333 FE Team, Dan Ticktum, NIO 333 FE Team, chat with Presenter Vernon Kay, Presenter Oliver Askew

Sergio Sette Camara, NIO 333 FE Team, Dan Ticktum, NIO 333 FE Team, chat with Presenter Vernon Kay, Presenter Oliver Askew

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

As for the game plan, it’s a simple one.

“I just need to stay present and just get the most out of the thing,” Askew said. “At a place like Barber, I think it can initially be easy to underdrive. It’s pretty high speed, pretty high grip and yeah, getting the most out of the car right away is step one. If I were to ask anybody for advice, that’s probably their first bit of advice as well. And then trying to be as open as I can with the team, trying to point them in the right direction with the experience that I have is very good as well.”

Should everything lead to a reunion on the IndyCar grid in 2024, there’s no doubt it could provide the ultimate push for both he and VeeKay, who would take their rivalry and friendship to new heights, and with it, maybe also ECR.

“I wouldn’t want it any other way,” Askew said. “It’d be fantastic.”

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