eKartingNews.com Driver of the Month – November 2014 – Oliver Askew
Florida driver completes successful back-to-back with SuperNationals and Rotax Grand Finals
Askew lead Team USA in the Senior Max category at the Rotax Grand Finals (Photo: Ken Johnson - Studio52.us)
In a continued effort to highlight the many outstanding performances by drivers around the country, eKartingNews.com is proud to introduce the ‘Driver of the Month’ program. Each month, the staff at EKN will determine the one driver who stood out above the rest and give the viewers a chance to know exactly what they accomplished and who they are.
2013 was a dream season for Florida driver Oliver Askew. Making the move up to the Senior ranks after a very successful Junior career, the Ocala Gran Prix pilot adjusted well to the transition and was within striking distance of his first victory quickly. Askew scored the pole position in his first weekend at the Florida Winter Tour, earning his first victory the following month. After finishing fourth in the standings, it was total domination at the GoPro Motorplex in August as Askew became the US Rotax national champion. Backing it up with a victory at the Pan American Challenge in October at NOLA, things appeared to be looking good for his first Senior Max start at the Rotax Grand Finals.
The week in New Orleans started off strong until Askew found himself 30th overall in qualifying. Two separate incidents in the opening heat race was the blemish on his point total, placing third in the second heat and seventh in the final qualifying race to end up 24th overall. He drove his way up into the top-10 in the Prefinal, until he fought too hard for a position and ended up into the gravel trap. The result put him 30th on the grid for the main event. With the entire United States fan base cheering for him, it was go big or go home. Up 16 positions on the opening circuit, he continued to move his way forward, cutting down the gap the podium finishers held on him. Sitting fourth on the final circuit, Askew made his move for third, and it stuck. The rookie Senior driver held onto the spot all the way to the checkered flag for his first Rotax Grand Finals podium, and recording the best finish by an United States driver in the category.
The next day, Askew traveled to Las Vegas for the Superkarts! USA SuperNationals XVII. It would be his first start in the S2 Semi-Pro Stock Moto category, having run the Tony Kart/SwedeTech Honda throughout the season at local and regional events in Florida. Qualifying second overall, Askew was in position to challenge for victory. The opening heat race, Askew made a slight error in the wet, making contact with the barrier and ending his race. He bounced back with two straight heat wins the following to day to salvage a 10th starting spot for SuperSunday. Continuing to advance forward, Askew put himself into the second position and looked to have a podium finished secured until a broken chain with three laps remaining ended his race. It was a solid effort for the then 16-year-old.
Fast forward to 2014, there was no sophomore slump. The OGP driver earned the ticket to this year’s Rotax Grand Finals by scoring the Florida Winter Tour championship on the effort of four race victories and two runner-up performances. He was primed to defend his US Rotax Grand Nationals victory, but a back injury during testing once in Utah put him on the sidelines. Meanwhile, he made the move to the S1 Pro Stock Moto category, becoming a rookie on the SKUSA Pro Tour. A podium result in his debut was followed up with a top-five in Dallas. Askew was one of the quickest drivers in Modesto, placing fourth on Saturday and in contention Sunday until a wreck while fighting for the lead cost him a strong result. Oliver was ranked third in the SKUSA Pro Tour standings heading into the SuperNationals.
A mechanical issue in qualifying put Askew 21st in the 30-kart field. Gaining just two spots in the opening heat, Oliver showed his talents by climbing to fifth in the second moto. A 15th position in the final qualifying heat landed him seventh on the grid for SuperSunday. The 25-lap main event was a grueling battle, that including veteran Ron White, Dutchman Milan Dontje, and two-time Pro Tour champion Fritz Leesmann. Askew held his ground, as he showed all season, and crossed the line in the sixth position, just one spot away from a podium in his S1 SuperNationals debut.
Jumping on a plane Monday morning, he and the rest of the OGP crew set flight for Spain and the 2014 Rotax Grand Finals. A missed flight in Madrid forced them to arrive later then expected, missing the first two practice sessions on Tuesday at the Kartodromo Internacional Lucas Guerrero outside Valencia. Askew landed fourth in his group for his first laps on the course and the kart for the first time of the event. Qualifying was disappointing, as Oliver showed well in his group, but overall landed 23rd. A solid first heat race saw Askew advance up to seventh, but officials excluded him from the results due to contact. It was a devastating blow to the 2013 podium finisher, but he responded with a winning performance in heat #2 to make a much-needed statement heading into decision Friday.
Another stellar drive in Heat #3 to a runner-up finish secured Askew’s position into Championship Saturday, set to start the Prefinal in the 16th position. Heavy rains swept the area Saturday just as the Prefinals were about to begin. Officials elected to cancel the Prefinal races, and move into the Finals after roughly an hour delay for a flooded track. This certainly hampered Askew’s attempt at another podium finish, however, he took the challenge head on. The USA driver was the man on the move early, advancing from row eight starting spot into sixth after the chaotic opening lap. Askew moved up as high as third, racing against Canadian Zachary Claman-Demelo with six laps to go. As they fought for position, slight contact ‘moved’ Askew off-track and into the mud. Oliver returned to the track, but fell to sixth as a result, holding to the position until the checkered flag.
Some may see a sixth place finish at a race is sub-par, or average. But to do so at two of the biggest events in the world, against the toughest competition there is while overcoming adversity, in back-to-back weeks for a second straight year – that is remarkable. There is no doubting that Askew has the ability to win every time he sits behind the wheel of a kart, no matter if it is a TaG or shifterkart.
The same can be said about his former OGP teammate Nick Neri. In 2013, Neri placed ninth at the Rotax Grand Finals, and followed that up with a runner-up in S1 Pro Stock Moto at the SuperNationals. This year, he drove to fourth at the SuperNationals before heading to Spain. Troubles put him into the LCQ, where Neri clinched the final transfer position to start the main event from the 34th position. A great drive in wet conditions saw Neri advance to ninth, finishing as the top Team USA driver. The combination of Askew and Neri has certainly been a deadly duo for the past seasons for Ocala Gran Prix.
Askew’s plans for the upcoming 2015 have yet to be determined. There is no question where he ends up racing, the now 18-year-old is a force to be dealt with.
November 2014 EKN Driver of the Month – Oliver Askew
Hometown: Jupiter, Florida
Parents: Tony and Penny Askew
Siblings: Hanna Askew
Height/Weight: 6’0’’ / 145lb
Education: Florida Virtual School
Job: Full time karting driver
Chassis: Tony Kart EVR
Engine/Engine Builder: SwedeTech Racing Engines (Stock Moto), Ocala Gran Prix (Rotax)
Sponsors: Ocala Gran Prix; Bell Helmets; Sparco USA; Racing Driver Management; Race Tech Development; Risk Placement Management; Studio52; Swiftwick Socks
Series You Compete In: North Florida Rotax Max Challenge; SKUSA Pro Tour; Florida Winter Tour; ROK Cup USA
Years Karting: 9
How did you get started in karting? My father took be to the kart track for my 8th birthday and I’ve been hooked ever since. Motorsport doesn’t run in the family.
What has been the high point in your racing career? Either finishing third at the Rotax Grand Finals in 2013 or winning the National Championship, both were huge for me.
What are your goals in racing? My goals are to become a professional race car driver, one that young up and coming racers could look up to.
In a few words, how would you describe your driving style? Calm, Collected
Funniest moment at the race track? There have been too many funny moments with the OGP crew. One that comes to mind was when Paco lit a fire underneath Nick’s pit chair.
Favorite Track: Ocala Gran Prix
Favorite form of professional motorsports: Touring Cars / DTM
Favorite karting driver: Jeremy Fletcher
Favorite professional driver: Dan Wheldon
Favorite website: eKartingNews!!!
Favorite movie: Days of Thunder
Favorite actor/actress: N/A
Favorite music/group: Kaskade
Favorite vacation/activity spot: Sweden
Favorite food: Salmon
The Real Deal
What do you do when not at the track? Study, Train
What are your goals outside of karting? To finish school and become successful.
What type of street car do you drive? 1999 Audi A6
What type of street car would you like to drive? Ferrari FF
What are your pet peeves or things that irritate you? Anything messy or disorganized, a dirty kart
What do you think could be done to improve the sport of karting? Cutting cost will always help the sport of karting and motorsport in general. We need more people like Jorge Arellano in the industry that are more interested in developing successful young men and women.
What are your favorite aspects about the sport of karting? My favorite aspect of the sport of karting is how competitive the sport is. I am always looking for speed or ways to improve myself as a person off the track.
November 2014 Driver of the Month – Honorable Mention:
– Jake Craig: 2014 Superkarts! USA Pro Tour TaG Senior champion / 30th at Rotax Grand Finals (Senior Max)
– Austin Garrison: 2014 Superkarts! USA Pro Tour S2 Semi-Pro champion / Team USA Rotax Grand Finals member
– Jordon Lennox-Lamb: 2014 Superkarts! USA Pro Tour S1 Pro champion / SKUSA SuperNationals XVIII S1 winner
– Nick Neri: SKUSA SuperNationals XVIII S1 podium finisher (4th) / 9th at Rotax Grand Finals (best for Team USA in DD2)
– Sting Ray Robb: 2014 Rotax Grand Finals Team USA top Junior Max finisher (27th)
– Alan Rudolph: 2014 Rotax Grand Finals Team USA top DD2 Masters finisher (5th)
– Christian Brooks, Derek Wang, Jonathan Kotyk: Double duty drivers for SKUSA SuperNationals XVIII and 2014 Rotax Grand Finals in back-to-back weeks