By Steve Wittich
For the sixth time in the 2019 Indy Lights season, Rinus van Kalmthout (VeeKay) stood on the top step of the podium. Similar to Saturday’s race, VeeKay led from the green flag to the checkered flag in a demanding fashion.
Today’s 32 point haul marked the fifth time this season that the Dutchman took home ‘max points’ for winning from the pole and leading the most laps.
“The Juncos team gave me a great car, and I had a good start, though Oliver was good with the push-to-pass,” said VeeKay after the final race of the 2019 season. “I’ve learned a lot about tire management and that really came into play today. It was great to win the little battle with Oliver today, to end up with more Road to Indy wins than he has. But the Road to Indy has taught me so much. Everything I’ve learned is what I will take to IndyCar, and I can show them what the Road to Indy means to drivers. I’m so happy; it is the best way to end the Road to Indy for me. I knew the championship was not to be this weekend, so to take both wins means a lot. It shows the IndyCar teams what I can do.”
VeeKay, who won for the 16th time in the last three seasons, now leads Askew by one win across their concurrent 48 race Road To Indy careers.
The win is the fifth in the last six Indy Lights races at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca for Juncos Racing.
Askew didn’t quite have enough pace for VeeKay and Juncos Racing this weekend but ended his Road To Indy career with his 31st career podium.
“My engineer, Doug Zister, came on the radio and said it was my last stint of the season – and I gave it all I had,” explained Askew after the race. “We just didn’t have the speed this weekend; Juncos was strong. But I’m happy with our performance, today and all year long. I’m humbled and privileged to have raced for Andretti Autosport all year and hopefully our paths will cross again in years to come. And Rinus – it’s been an honor to race against him. We’ve made each other better drivers, and I can’t wait to have more battles with him in IndyCar.”
Askew joins Patricio O’Ward (2018), J.R. Hildebrand (2009) and Raphael Matos (2008) as the fourth Indy Lights champion for Andretti Autosport.
HMD Motorsports/Team Pelfrey rookie Toby Sowery finished on the final step of the podium, solidifying a third-place championship finish for the Cambridge, England driver. It was the eighth time that the distinctive Gap Guard/Rich Energy sponsored No. 2 finished in a podium position.
The command to fire the turbocharged 2.0L AER engines for the last time in 2019 was given at 9:09 am.
After two pace laps to get their Cooper Tire slicks up to temperature, the front row of VeeKay and Askew brought the field to the green flag.
The Soul Red No. 21 of VeeKay was the first car to get to the corner, but behind him, things weren’t so simple. Sowery was able to get to the inside of Askew, but the newly crowned champion was able to out-brake the HMD Motorsports/Team Pelfrey driver, grabbing the second spot back around the outside.
The biggest loser in the Andretti Hairpin was Megennis, who dropped from his fourth starting spot to sixth. The Andretti Autosport rookie was able to get back past Kellett for fifth on the run up the Rahal Straight.
The running order at the end of the first lap was: VeeKay, Askew, Sowery, Norman, Megennis, Kellett, Malukas, Kohl.
VeeKay’s lead when they crossed the line to start the third lap was 0.5 seconds, but Askew has already used his push-to-pass four times.
The front three started to pull away from the rest of the field.
On Lap 5, Andretti Autosport teammates Megennis and Norman banged wheels at the turn-in of Turn 2, with Norman holding off the Cybersecurity sponsored No. 27.
On Lap 7, Megennis got to the inside of Norman in the same spot. This time, the New Yorker was able to muscle his way past the Three Chord sponsored No. 48.
To begin Lap 9, VeeKay had a 1.475 second lead over Askew, just within push-to-pass range. Sowery was 2.0 seconds behind Askew, outside of the push-to-pass zone.
At the one-third pole, VeeKay’s gap to Askew had grown to 1.7 seconds, putting the Dutchman outside of the 1.5-second push-to-pass range. The rest of the running order was Sowery, Megennis, Norman, Kellett, Malukas, and Kohl.
At the half-way point of the 30 lap race, VeeKay’s lead over Askew had stabilized right around the 2-second mark. After hanging onto the front pair for the first five laps, Sowery fell back five seconds. His grasp on the final spot of the podium was a safe 6.2 seconds.
With ten laps remaining, VeeKay’s lead had grown to 3.5 seconds over Askew. Behind them, the closest battle was between Norman and Kellett for fifth. The Canadian, who was the only driver to start on sticker Cooper Tires was able to stay within one second of Norman. The Andretti Autosport veteran was able to hold off Kellett
VeeKay took the white flag 5.7 seconds ahead of Askew, leading all 30 laps for the second day in a row.
After the race, championship winner Askew stopped in Turn 2 to celebrate by roasting his Cooper Tires and creating a smoke show.