Askew stars for RLL in Laguna Seca qualifying

Oliver Askew made a strong case for full-time employment when he drove his Rahal Letterman Lanigan-Honda into the Firestone Fast Six in qualifying for tomorrow’s Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey.

Askew stars for RLL in Laguna Seca qualifying

The 2019 Indy Lights champion, who is in his fourth different team this year – Andretti Autosport preseason testing, Arrow McLaren SP at Detroit and Ed Carpenter Racing at Road America – will start tomorrow’s race from fifth on the grid.

Having qualified in the top 10 in Portland last week, for his first race with RLL, Askew spun at Turn 1/2 chicane on the opening lap, and was later punted out at the same place by Sebastien Bourdais.

But the 24-year-old Floridian came out fighting this weekend at Laguna Seca, for his first race in an IndyCar at the venue, and set sixth fastest time. He then got promoted to fifth when his former AMSP teammate Pato O’Ward lost his best time for spinning and causing a red flag.

“Fantastic qualifying here today for the Hy-Vee #45 guys from Rahal Letterman Lanigan,” said Askew. “I felt really good in the car and the car complimented me as well.

“And when you get it right around here it feels really good, when you get it wrong not as much. Today we got it right. It was a really enjoyable session and I’m looking forward to starting in the top-five tomorrow.

“Hopefully we have a strong run. I’m very happy with that run and obviously really happy for Hy-Vee #45 Honda guys and everyone at Rahal Letterman Lanigan. This is exactly what we needed. A good starting spot for tomorrow here is extremely important because, as we know, it is difficult to pass.”

Full-timers Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato were far less content, as the former looked likely to make it into the Fast Six – as he managed in Portland – before a lurid spin out of the uphill left-hander Turn 6.

“We were actually on pace to advance without a problem,” said Rahal who is seeking his first win since 2017. “That's on me. You know, I was just pushing hard and it just tracked out up Turn 6 and the car bottomed on the curb, and that was it. We just lost control.

“Unfortunately, we just have to focus on tomorrow. We're going to start 12th. It was nice to advance to Q2, we were in a pretty stacked first group so to be able to get through was a great sign.

“We’ve got to keep our heads down and focus on what we've got to do tomorrow. It's going to be a tough day. Tire deg is going to be a major issue and hopefully we can sneak up there into the top five.”

Takuma Sato, expected to leave the team at season’s end, was in far more trouble in the #30 car, having struggled all weekend.

“Qualifying didn't go well at all, it was tough,” said the two-time Indy 500 winner. “We had a little difficulty in practice and weren't really able to carry on the performance in qualifying. We predicted the direction we wanted and that was opposite of what it has been in qualifying. 

“It was a pity but at least the teammates made a pretty good qualifying so we can share some things and figure out what we can do tomorrow. But today we had a really tough day.”

Sato will start 23rd in the 27-car field.

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