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Askew: Lundgaard pace doesn’t add pressure, just reassurance

Oliver Askew insists Christian Lundgaard’s pace in the third Rahal Letterman Lanigan entry he will drive in the final three IndyCar rounds of 2021 provides encouragement rather than added pressure.

Christian Lundgaard, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda

Christian Lundgaard, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda

Geoffrey M. Miller / Motorsport Images

Danish Formula 2 racer Lundgaard caused a major stir on his IndyCar debut in the #45 RLL machine on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course three weeks ago, when he qualified fourth in a five-car cluster that was covered by a mere 0.05 seconds.

Despite slipping back to 12th at the finish, largely due to inexperience of how hard the Firestone tyres could be pushed compared with the Pirellis he’s used to in F2, Lundgaard made a big impression.

Askew, the 2019 Indy Lights champion, will be the latest driver to take over the car at Portland, Laguna Seca and Long Beach as he seeks a comeback to a full-time IndyCar drive.

He was dropped from his Arrow McLaren SP drive after a season marred by late-diagnosed concussion following a heavy shunt in the Indianapolis 500, but returned to substitute for his replacement Felix Rosenqvist at this year's Detroit 2 race when the Swede was too bruised from a Race 1 shunt to take part in the following day’s race.

Askew also raced for Ed Carpenter Racing at Road America while subbing for the injured Rinus VeeKay, and previously tested for RLL at Barber Motorsports Park in late July alongside Lundgaard.

Speaking ahead of his team debut, Askew said his predecessor’s speed didn’t set unrealistic expectations for him but instead provided reassurance.

“I think [RLL team-mates] Graham [Rahal] and Takuma [Sato] are in the top five drivers in terms of progress from starting positions to finishing positions in the races this year,” he told Autosport.

“So I know the Rahal Letterman Lanigan team had a feeling that their cars were set up better for the races and that qualifying was more of a struggle.

Oliver Askew, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

Oliver Askew, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

Photo by: Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

“I don’t know if that theory has been debunked by Lundgaard’s speed there in quali, because all the tracks are very different, and I do think the Indy road course takes a very different technique in how you come off the brakes.

“But actually, coming into the team for these three races, I think it’s very reassuring to know that the team’s cars have that one-lap speed. And I think the Indy road course and Portland are similar enough – long straights, smooth surface – that there’s not a doubt in my mind that we’re going to be fighting inside the top 10 in qualifying and can have a good showing in the race.

“As long as we all execute well, I believe we’re going to have a strong weekend.”

Asked if he felt these final three rounds of 2021 felt like an audition for RLL – which team co-owner Bobby Rahal confirmed would be running three full-time entries next year – Askew replied: “We haven’t spoken about that too much.

“We’ve seen a couple of different drivers in this car, and I’m sure Bobby and the team are using this time to see what direction they want to go.

“But honestly that’s not where my head’s at right now. I see this as an opportunity to get back out there and enjoy myself and put on a good show.”

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