Road to Indy
May 10, 2019
Robert Megennis picked perhaps the perfect place to claim an emphatic first Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires victory: the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He did so in style too.
Megennis, from New York, N.Y., began his day by securing the pole position for the Indy Lights Grand Prix of Indianapolis this morning, and even though he was briefly headed in the 30-lap race by Andretti Autosport teammate – and championship leader – Oliver Askew, Megennis fought back with a decisive maneuver in Turn One, then edged clear of Askew to secure a hard-earned and thoroughly well-deserved victory.
Askew found some extra pace in the closing stages to set the fastest race lap at 1:15.6953, an average speed of 115.997 mph, narrowly beating the old track record set by current NTT IndyCar Series driver Felix Rosenqvist in 2016.
Askew, from Jupiter, Fla., thereby cemented second place ahead of his closest championship rival, Rinus VeeKay (Juncos Racing), from Hoofddorp, Netherlands.
Cool, crisp conditions ensured the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course was in good shape for this afternoon’s fifth race of the season, and Megennis made good use of his pole position to make a jump on the field. By contrast, outside front row qualifier VeeKay encountered heavy wheelspin and instantly slipped back into the pack.
Askew put the pressure on Megennis through the first couple of laps before using the extra horsepower offered by the push-to-pass feature on his AER turbo engine to accentuate the draft heading down the long front straight and then slip through into the lead at Turn One.
But Megennis wasn’t about to throw in the towel – not by any means. Two laps later, he pulled off a very similar maneuver at Turn Four to regain the lead.
Megennis then inched away from his rival, setting a string of fastest race laps to extend his margin to as much as 2.7 seconds. Askew discovered a little more speed in the closing stages but it was too little, too late as Megennis crossed the finishing stripe just over two seconds to the good.
Askew instead had to settle for second, a new lap record, a slightly increased championship lead and the Tilton Hard Charger Award.
“I was pushing as hard as I could in the beginning to get out of that push-to-pass range,” said Megennis post-race. “After that, Oliver and I had a pretty consistent pace. It’s great racing against him. He’s always super clean, and we respect each other and work well together. I didn’t end up on the right side of that at COTA (Circuit of The Americas) so it’s nice to change that here.
“But it hasn’t sunk in yet. If there’s anywhere you want to win, it’s Indy, with all the drivers who have stood on the podium before me. I can’t thank Andretti Autosport and my sponsors enough for the chance to be here.”
VeeKay, after slipping from second to fourth at the first corner, fought his way back past Ryan Norman (Andretti Autosport), from Aurora, Ohio, to reclaim third on lap 6.
David Malukas (BN Racing), from Chicago, Ill., also snuck past Norman but began to struggle for speed in the late stages and fell behind Zachary Claman (Belardi Auto Racing), from Montreal, Que., Canada, to finish sixth.
Following today’s Indy Lights round, Askew has maintained a slim points lead (123 to 114) over VeeKay. Megennis jumped up to third in the standings with his triumph, seven points ahead of Claman in fourth and 15 points ahead of Toby Sowery in fifth.
A second qualifying session will take place tomorrow at 8:30 a.m. EDT, with the green flag for round six of the 2019 season slated for 1:25 p.m., immediately before the INDYCAR Grand Prix headline event.
Header image and content by Road to Indy.
Open-Wheels coverage of the 2019 month of May at Indianapolis is presented by Driven 2 Save Lives. Driven 2 Save Lives, an entity of the Indiana Donor Network, is a program that utilizes motorsports as a platform to encourage race fans to become organ donors. Currently, there are 114,000 individuals that are waiting for a life-saving organ transplant. Register as an organ, tissue, and eye donor at Driven2SaveLives.org/register and follow Driven2SaveLives on Facebook and Twitter.