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IndyCar drivers eagerly anticipating return to Road America

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Defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon doesn’t mince words. He says what’s on his mind.

So, when asked if all of his fellow drivers are looking forward to the first IndyCar race at Road America since 2007, Dixon put it very bluntly: “I’m sure every single driver will say so. If they don’t, they are just flat-out lying to you.”

That’s just a microcosm of how eager drivers have been anticipating the return to Road America, which has been one of the premier permanent road courses not just in the U.S., but the world since it opened in 1950.

And now that the Kohler Grand Prix race weekend is at hand, many of them are acting like kids in a candy store, ready to be unleashed on the legendary 4.048-mile, 14-turn permanent road course.

Here’s a cross-section of what several IndyCar drivers are saying about a track that Andretti calls one of the best in the world:

Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 2 DeVilbiss Team Penske Chevrolet): “I haven’t raced at Road America in quite a while. We had a teammate test there last week and it will be interesting to see what did and didn’t work well for them. It’s a challenging track that tests both the speed and agility of our DeVilbiss Chevrolet. I’m really looking forward to it.”

Helio Castroneves (No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet): “It’s going to be fantastic to go back to Road America. We haven’t raced there in a number of years, but I’m excited to get out there and see how the Hitachi Chevrolet performs. It’s a big track, but track position, as usual, will be important.”

James Hinchcliffe (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): “I’m so excited to go back to Road America. This has been my favorite road course in the country from the moment I first went there in 2004. It’s the kind of track that Indy cars are built for. I hope that it’s a great race and it stays on the calendar for a long time.”

Mikhail Aleshin (No. 7 SMP Racing Schmidt Peterson Honda): “I’ve never been to Road America before but I watched some on-board camera footage and the track looks pretty cool. There are a couple of very fast turns which is always exciting.”

Max Chilton (No. 8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “After my first experience at Road America last Wednesday, I am super excited to finally get back this weekend to race it. It has a great flow to it and reminds me of my favorite circuit, Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium. It’s old-school, fast, hilly and rewarding.”

Scott Dixon (No. 9 Clorox Chevrolet, 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series champion): “I know for a fact that Road America is on the top of all the drivers’ lists, and we have been waiting to come back for quite some time. I think my last visit there was in 2002 with CART, and it was great to be back at the track testing again last season. This course is just amazing to drive.”

Tony Kanaan (No. 10 NTT Data Chevrolet): “I can’t wait to get back to Road America this weekend. This is one of the best tracks in the U.S. in my opinion. I was able to test there last week with the No. 10 NTT Data Chevrolet and it felt really good to be back after so long. The track is just so much fun to drive and definitely one of my favorites.”

Will Power (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “Even though I haven’t raced there in a while, I enjoy the track at Road America. I find it very challenging. Some drivers have tested there and some haven’t. We had a teammate there, so what worked for them will give us a starting point and we’ll go from there.”

Takuma Sato (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): “Road America is very impressive and a great, fun track as expected. I’ve heard so many positive stories about this circuit since I joined the IndyCar Series, and I know everyone as well as the fans wanted INDYCAR to go back there. It was a nice experience that we had a great crowd show up at the test day last fall. I had a lot of fun driving this superb track and I’m looking forward to racing there.”

Graham Rahal (No. 15 Gehl/D-A Lubricant Honda): “Road America is my favorite track and the favorite of many drivers. It’s the best track at 4 miles long, with elevation changes and many challenging, interesting parts. If you ask my dad (Bobby Rahal) or many drivers, they will tell you it’s the best, pure road course. It’s another track that I went to a lot as a kid when my dad was racing. It was definitely one of my favorites as a kid.”

Conor Daly (No. 18 Jonathan Byrd’s Hospitality Honda): “I think every driver can’t wait to get there. It’s going to be an incredible race. We’ve always wanted to go back there for many years. I can’t wait to get out there. I’ve won two races there, finished second in a sports car there so I feel pretty good about it. We just have to do the same in an Indy car and try to get ourselves back on the podium.”

Gabby Chaves (No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda): “Road America is one of my favorite tracks. I haven’t been there since 2009. It’s where I won the Formula BMW Americas Championship, so I’m definitely very excited to get back there and to compete with Dale Coyne Racing. … I’m just really excited to see what we can do out there. It’s going to be a fun track to drive and certainly one of the most enjoyable circuits that we go to this year.”

Spencer Pigot (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet): “It doesn’t get much better than driving an Indy car around Road America. We had a very good test there last week and I can’t wait to get back for the race with the Ed Carpenter Racing crew. It’s an amazing track and I think it’s going to provide some great racing for the fans.”

Simon Pagenaud (No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet, 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series championship leader): “I’m definitely excited to race at Road America. It’s a challenging circuit, but a really fun place with the Indy car. This event has been in the past and remains a classic event on our schedule.”

Marco Andretti (No. 27 United Fiber & Data/Snapple Honda): “We had a solid test at Road America last week and I am looking forward to getting the United Fiber & Data car back on track. This track is my favorite permanent road course to drive. I think it should be a great race with a lot of passing into Turn 5 and through Turns 12 and (Turn) 1.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay (No. 28 DHL Honda): “I’m really looking forward to INDYCAR’s long-awaited return to Road America. Outside of Indy, this place has always been my favorite racetrack, so it’s been tough being away for so many years. It’s been 12 years since I last raced here, and I can’t wait to get the DHL Honda on track for the race this weekend.”

Jack Hawksworth (No. 41 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): “I love Road America. It’s very quick, has a variety of corners and is the only track we go to that is over 4 miles in length. I had a fantastic time racing there in 2014 (in sports cars), made even better by the fact that I had a very quick car.”

Charlie Kimball (No. 83 Tresiba Chevrolet): “Since the return was announced last year, I think everyone, from drivers to fans, has been really excited to head to Elkhart Lake for the race. We had the chance to test there in September and get a feel for it, but I know there’s so much more to learn in a short time this weekend. You just feel the speed at the end of every straight and going into those long corners; it’s unlike anything else on the schedule.”

Alexander Rossi (No. 98 Castrol Edge/Curb Honda): “In the past, Road America has always been a race that I look forward to and this year is no exception. It is one of the flagship tracks not only in America, but globally, and I am so excited that the Verizon IndyCar Series is returning this year. We had a positive test there last week, so we will be doing everything we can to make sure the No. 98 car is at the sharp end (of the field). It is going to be an incredible event.”

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Neurosurgeon discusses brain injuries such as Michael Schumacher’s

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PARIS (AP) — More than four years after a ski accident caused him a near-fatal brain injury, little is known about Michael Schumacher’s current condition. Updates on his health have been extremely scarce ever since he left hospital in September 2014 to be cared for privately at his Swiss home on the shores of Lake Geneva. Details of his specific condition and the treatment he received have been kept strictly private. The last public statement 16 months ago clarified nothing further would be said.

Colin Shieff is a retired neurosurgeon from Britain’s National Health Service and a trustee of Headway, the national brain injury charity. Although he has never treated Schumacher, or spoken with doctors who’ve treated Schumacher over the years, he has dealt with similar cases both at immediate critical-care level and further down the line in terms of long-term treatment.

Shieff spent many years working with people with brain injuries and trauma, including at NATO field hospitals in Afghanistan an Iraq. He answered questions for The Associated Press related to the nature of Schumacher’s brain injury, pertaining to how his condition may have evolved in the time since his accident.

MORE: As F1 season begins, Michael Schumacher still fighting, far from forgotten

Q. In your opinion, what’s the likely prognosis at this stage?

A. “The nature of his injury and those bits of information that are available, and have been available, suggest that he has sustained permanent and very major damage to his brain. As a consequence his brain does not function in a fashion similar to yours or mine. The longer one goes on after an injury the more remote it is that any improvement becomes. He is almost certainly not going to change from the situation he is now.”

Q. What ongoing treatments would he be having?

A. “He will have the kind of treatment, which is care: giving him nourishment, giving him fluid. The probability is that this is given in the main – or at least as supplements – through some tube passed into his intestinal system, either through his nose or mouth, or more likely a tube in the front wall of the tummy. He will have therapy to sit him, because he won’t be able to get himself out of a bed and into a chair. He will be treated in a way that will ensure his limbs move and don’t remain rigid.”

Q. Would someone in his position receive around-the-clock treatment?

A. “He will be allowed a period of rest and sleep and relaxation, and he will be given an environment. I’m positive as I can be without knowing the facts (that) he will be living in an environment that – although it’s got artificial bits of medical kit and care and people – will mimic a caring, warm, pleasant, socially stimulating environment.”

Q. Would he be able to sense he’s in such an environment?

A. “I don’t know. There is always a technical, medical and neurological issue with defining a coma. Almost certainly he cannot express himself (in a conversation). He may well be able to indicate, or it may be apparent to those around him, that he is uncomfortable or unhappy. Or (he) is perhaps getting pleasure from seeing his children or hearing music he’s always liked, or having his hand stroked.”

Q. Are patients in his situation aware of touch and voice from family members?

A. “Absolutely. Even in the early stages, even in a critical care unit, when medicines are being given, for one individual at one time there may be an ability to discern and show response to someone they are familiar with. Respond to familiar, respond to family you’re triggered to. You hear them all your life so that’s the very, very familiar (aspect) the person is going to respond to.”

Q. Is there a chance he can make A) a full recovery? B) A partial recovery?

A. “First one, absolutely, totally no. Number one statistically, number two neurologically, and number three he’s been ill for so long. He’s lost muscle bulk, even if he opened his eyes and started talking there will have been loss of memory, there will be impact on behavior, on cognitive functions. He would not be the same person. (As for a) partial recovery, even the smallest thing that gets better is some kind of recovery. But (it depends) whether that recovery contributes to a functional improvement for him to be able to express himself – other than an evidence of saying `Yes’ or an evidence of saying `No.’ (Therefore) if he could use words of two syllables, if he could turn on the remote control for the tele. One can do, professionally, all sorts of wonderful things with electronic devices and couple them up to eye and mouth movements. Sometimes with a person in a situation called `Locked In’ or `Profoundly neurologically comprised’ – which is essentially paralysis but with continuing intellectual function – ways can be found to communicate with those people. If that had been so with Michael Schumacher I am positive we would have known that is the case, so I don’t believe it’s so for him.”

Q. This is a deeply personal decision for the family. But how long can treatment last for?

A. “In, for example, our health system we don’t have the luxury to keep maximal intervention going in a high-tech hospital environment. For Michael Schumacher’s family, I suspect they have the financial support to be able to provide those things. Therefore, for him, the future is longer but it doesn’t imply any change in the quality of it.”

Q. Some reports have estimated the cost of treatment at anything up to 200,000 euros ($245,000) per week. Is that realistic?

A. “I would personally think that’s over the top, in terms of what I reckon that might buy him. He’ll have a nurse, a therapist, a visiting doctor. There’ll be an extra pair of hands when something physical is being done, when he’s being moved to somewhere. That doesn’t add up to 150,000 euros or 200,000 euros. He needs essentially, somebody with nursing or therapeutic qualifications with him at all times. So that’s however many people you need to run a 24/7 roster. You’re talking probably eight people to provide that level of care constantly over a year’s period. That’s the number of nurses required for instance, to nurse or to staff, one critical care bed in an intensive care unit.”

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