A pair of junior-open wheel champions left Barber Motorsports Park on Monday feeling pleased about their performances during Ed Carpenter Racing’s shootout to see who’ll get the nod to become IndyCar’s newest full-time driver.
Oliver Askew, the 2019 Indy Lights (now Indy NXT) title winner and Christian Rasmussen, crowned two weeks ago as the 2023 NXT champ, were given their own Chevy-powered Indy cars to drive at the high-speed and high-commitment road course in Alabama, and according to multiple sources, Rasmussen was the faster of the two at the 2.4-mile, 16-turn facility.
But outright lap speed wasn’t the only point of evaluation as ECR seeks the right driver to complement its race-winning incumbent Rinus VeeKay. Everything from the quality of their engineering feedback to average pace on used tires was taken into account by the team as it pursues a significant increase in competitiveness at all the unique tracks on the IndyCar calendar.
Where Carpenter and the team’s top brass will lean is unknown; that will take a few days, at minimum, to process. In the case of Askew, who has 17 IndyCar races to his credit across 2020-21, and has been out of open-wheel racing since completing the 2022 FIA Formula E championship with Andretti Global, and Rasmussen, who put five big NXT wins on the board with HMD Motorsports, both say the chance to drive for ECR brought out their best.
“In the beginning, it was expected that I’d be a little bit rusty,” Florida’s Askew told RACER. “So in the morning, I just wanted to make sure that I got myself grounded and understood what I need to do to get the most out of the car again, and to get that blood pumping. It’s a beast of a car, and I felt like I was able to find my mojo again in the afternoon.
“I was really happy with my long-run pace, and my pace on old tires when the track got a little bit hotter as well. I felt like I was pretty strong and in a rhythm then. And we got through so many setup changes — more than I can ever recall doing in a one-day test. I love everything about it.”
Denmark’s Rasmussen was all smiles after his outing with ECR.
“I think the day went super well,” the 23-year-old said. “I got very comfortable and got up to speed super, super quick. Obviously, it’s a new car for me and you can definitely feel it’s a step up in terms of the physical challenge. I was fast, which is really all I can ask for on my first full day in an Indy car, especially with the experience that [Askew] has. I’m hungry for more, so hopefully we can figure something out and I can be the driver next year. I feel like I’m in a good spot right now. I feel ready, I feel fast, and think that it could be good.”
As the veteran driver at the test, 26-year-old Askew focused on playing that role throughout the day.
“We tried to go on track at the same time with the same tire strategy so we could compare some things more easily, and my approach was to come in and be as much of a leader as I can,” he said. “I naturally want to help Christian and the team out as a whole and I think that’s what I did. I was very open with what I was feeling with the car throughout this whole experience and I was helping Christian where I can — it was important for me to do that because I have that extra experience. That was my mindset going into the day, and we were pretty closely matched. In the afternoon, there wasn’t much between us at all.”
Rasmussen loved pulling into the pits and having a full timing stand of ECR engineers to interact with and to watch all the mechanics envelope his car as different setups were applied to his ride.
“To all of a sudden have that crew around you is a pretty cool feeling, and I think we all worked super well together,” he said. “Because this was my first real go in an Indy car, a lot of my time to start was on learning the car, and I did the best I could. On the feedback side, we went through some changes and got the car into a good window and made some improvements. But for sure there’s improvements to be made there from me with giving better feedback with more time in the car when everything is not new to me. I think some of that is to be expected, but I know I can be better.”
With the test completed, Askew and Rasmussen will wait by their phones and hope to receive a life-changing call from ECR with an invite to partner with VeeKay in 2024.
“Honestly, that’s something that I’m concerned about because it’s out of my control,” Askew said. “I’m proud of my performance today, felt like I got the most out of myself and I was proud of the effort that I put forward. I can be a leader for the team with Rinus, and he and I have shared countless podiums together, like 30 or 40 podiums throughout our years karting and through the Road to Indy as well, so I know that I can push him in ways that he hasn’t been over the last couple of years, and he can do the same for me in return.”
Rasmussen added: “I feel like I have shown everything that I needed to show now, and I can’t really ask for much more than being quickest. I have done everything that I can do to show them that it is me that they should choose. I just need to keep the phone charged and see where it goes with Ed and his team.”