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IndyCar rookies give themselves harsh grades for first season

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IndyCar rookies give themselves harsh grades for first season
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The stars of last year’s Indy Lights championship, champion Oliver Askew and runner-up Rinus VeeKay, have given themselves just six and seven out of 10 respectively for their rookie season in the NTT IndyCar Series.

This weekend’s double-header at Mid-Ohio sees Askew of Arrow McLaren SP-Chevrolet and Rinus VeeKay of Ed Carpenter Racing-Chevrolet return to a venue where they found success in the Road To Indy program. Askew won both Mid-Ohio Indy Lights races last year and also has a USF2000 victory here to his name. VeeKay scored podium finishes in Indy Lights and USF2000 but won both of Mid-Ohio’s Pro Mazda (now Indy Pro 2000) rounds in 2018.

VeeKay now leads the rookie standings by 21 points over Alex Palou of Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh, with Askew a further five points in arrears. However, neither VeeKay nor Askew have been entirely satisfied with their seasons so far, although the Dutchman sounded more positive, on the strength of his sixth and fourth places in the double-header event at Gateway two weeks ago.

“It's of course nice to be leading the rookie championship,” said VeeKay “but there's way more than that. I'm just trying to make sure I do the best job I can do.

“I've had quite a weird season, I think, and then having one good weekend and you're leading the rookie championship.”

Asked to grade himself out of ten, VeeKay said: “I think a seven. It's been a hard year. I've made quite a few mistakes, but after all, I'm learning a lot… I think seven. I think it's a good number. It's not perfect at all, but I think I'm doing a good job so far.”

Askew replied: “I think I'm pretty hard on myself, so I'd give myself a six… I just think I've lacked a little consistency. I know the speed is there. We were in the Fast Six right away in Indy GP qualifying and we had a really good weekend in Iowa.

“Like Rinus says, it's such a weird season and you just need to kind of capitalize and make sure you're on it all the time because it's such a close series. If you feel a little bit off one day, it looks like you're having a really bad weekend because everyone is so close together…

“I just need to make sure that we do our homework and show up and be fast right away because on these condensed weekends if you're not on it in Practice 1, it just kind of snowballs into the rest of the sessions. That's what I'm focused on right now, and I'm sure the other guys are thinking the same.”

Both drivers commented on the competitive nature of the NTT IndyCar Series, and VeeKay said his Road To Indy battles with Askew have played a role in getting him up to speed at the top level.

“I've always driven against Oliver, he's always been a benchmark,” said VeeKay. “But now there are 24 more Olivers! There's so many fast guys.

“You're eventually just making sure you do the best you can because there's always going to be fast guys around you. You know you're not going to be a few tenths ahead of anyone else. It's super tough. But it's nice to see that those years battling with Oliver really helped me preparing towards IndyCar.

Added Askew: “I think I can agree with what Rinus said. Honestly, my unbiased opinion is that this series is the most competitive in the world at the moment. You know, to come in as a rookie, there's a lot to learn, and if you don't take a stand against the veterans, they're going to understand that and use you up as much as they can.

“It's super tough, and probably more tough than many people realize.”

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