The following story first appeared on the INDYCAR Mobile powered by NTT DATA app. For more information,visit www.indycar.com/mobile-app
At 22, Oliver Askew has become an NTT IndyCar Series success story.
Coming from a family that didn’t have a lot of money and only racing on the Road to Indy ladder system for the past three years, Askew faced some serious odds to make it to the pinnacle of North American open-wheel racing. Without financial backing, Askew was going to have to do it the old-fashioned way: He was going to have to earn his way to success.
One setback could be the end of the road for the driver from Jupiter, Fla., and he had a short window of opportunity to impress the few team owners in INDYCAR.
One of those was Sam Schmidt, who 10 years ago was the dominant and most successful team owner in Indy Lights history. Schmidt is key member of the ownership group at Arrow McLaren SP and was impressed enough with Askew that he chose him to drive one of the two full-time entries in 2020.
Pato O’Ward will drive the other Arrow McLaren SP Honda.
“We have got an amazing American star in Oliver Askew, and his story is nothing short of remarkable, working his way to the top,” Schmidt said Wednesday. “Pato O'Ward briefly was able to show his talents in IndyCar last year, and I think these two together could be our magic combination going forward.
“I think it's a different time. When Gil (De Ferran, McLaren Sporting Director) and myself were coming through the ranks there was no sort of clear path. In what we're seeing recently with the Road to Indy is nothing the short of amazing. If you win you advance. If you win you advance.
“And the other part of it is these kids aren't coming in with three and four and five years of experience, as they mentioned, we're talking 13, 14 years of racing experience and so they're coming in a lot more advanced than the rookies of days of old.
“What Colton Herta did this year was nothing short of amazing and these guys come from exactly the same background. So, we're hoping we'll have the same type of results. A lot of people have said that it's really risky, it's a gamble, but we really don't think it is.”
It was Askew who took the gamble. He knew with limited funding; he would have to race his way to the top. And that is what he did in 2019 by winning nine races with an incredible 15 podium finishes in 18 contests as he easily won the 2019 Indy Lights Series championship.
On Wednesday, Askew was rewarded for that hard work and success with a full-time ride in the NTT IndyCar Series.
“That's how it should be, right?” Askew replied to NTT INDYCAR Mobile. “It's an honor. A couple years ago IndyCar looked so far away, let alone Indy Lights. So, it's been a whirlwind couple of years. It's a testament to the people around me for sure I mean starting with Cape Motorsports and USF2000 and Indy Pro 2000 and then and Andretti Autosport this year in Indy Lights.
“I've been surrounded by a lot of great people and have been given tremendous opportunities. And I've just based my success off of a lot of preparation beforehand, before the season, before the races, and I've dedicated my life to racing and I've sacrificed a lot to get to this point and it's definitely an honor and I still, it's still just sinking in.
“It's honestly a dream come true. And honestly, right now, I don't have any expectations, we're going to be putting a lot of hard work in, in the off-season to make sure we take advantage of the tools that we have here, especially with myself as a pure rookie, only my fourth full season in cars, but I think I'm ready for it with the resources that we have here and the personnel.
“Obviously, it's a top-tier team and I'm looking forward to representing Arrow McLaren SPM going into the future.
“This is what I've been working for, for my entire career since I started racing when I was seven years old in go karts. So, it's a surreal feeling to finally be here, but I just can't, I can't wait to get to work.”