Andretti leads early, comes home fifth at Texas

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Marco Andretti continued his consistent 2013 campaign but fell out of a tie for the IZOD IndyCar Series championship lead with a fifth-place finish in last night’s Firestone 550 at Texas Motor Speedway, which was won by new outright points leader Helio Castroneves.

Andretti looked stout in the opening stint of the race, quickly taking the lead from pole sitter Will Power and staying there through the first caution of the night at Lap 53. In the next stint, he stayed within striking distance of the leaders, but lapped traffic visibly frustrated him – he twice threw up a hand in frustration toward Sebastien Bourdais, with whom he had a close call on the track.

Eventually, Andretti re-assumed the point on Lap 94 after teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay relinquished it to pit. But Castroneves managed to reel him in and pass him for P1 just two laps later, and Andretti found himself set back by a caution later on.

“I think [pit strategy] worked out for Ryan [Hunter-Reay] – he had a vibration and came in early [on Lap 4],” said Andretti.  “He went out, ran some quick laps and he didn’t catch a yellow. We tried to do the same thing, we caught the yellow and the RC Cola car ended up a lap down.”

Andretti would eventually put himself back on the lead lap but by then, his title rival Castroneves had emphatically put his stamp on the proceedings. However, the third-generation driver still managed to post a solid result and that’s what he’ll have to keep doing throughout the summer in order to position himself for a title run.

“It’s unfortunate and to top it all off, the worst guy in the championship fight against me won, but congrats to him,” Andretti said with a a laugh. “We’ll move on to [the Milwaukee] IndyFest next week and try to make the points back.”

Castroneves will take a 22-point edge over Andretti to Saturday’s race at the Milwaukee Mile (4 pm ET, NBC Sports Network).

Helio Castroneves will replace ailing Oliver Askew for IndyCar at IMS

Helio Castroneves replacing Askew
James Black/IndyCar
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Helio Castroneves will return to the NTT IndyCar Series next weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, replacing Arrow McLaren SP driver Oliver Askew in the No. 7 Dallara- Chevrolet.

The team announced in a Thursday release that Askew wasn’t cleared by the IndyCar medical team after reporting “a balance and coordination issue” after the Sept. 12-13 race weekend at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The Associated Press’ Jenna Fryer reported that Askew has been experiencing the concussion-like symptoms since his Aug. 23 wreck in the Indy 500.

Askew was placed in IndyCar’s Return to Racing Protocol. The rookie has endured an up-and-down season, suffering another hard crash at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the July 4 race on the road course. He also finished third and sixth on back-to-back races at Iowa Speedway in July.

“This was an incredibly tough call but I have to follow the advice of the INDYCAR Medical Team and my doctors,” Askew said in the release. “My priority right now is focusing on my health. Despite not being in the car, I will be at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Harvest GP, giving whatever insight and support to Arrow McLaren SP that I can.”

Castroneves will be driving this weekend at Mid-Ohio for Team Penske in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner has said he actively is seeking a ride for the 2021 season in IndyCar or IMSA with the demise of Penske’s DPi program as Acura switches to new teams next year.

Here’s the release from Arrow McLaren SP:

Arrow McLaren SP driver Oliver Askew will withdraw from the INDYCAR Harvest Grand Prix, after being declared not fit to drive by the INDYCAR Medical Team.

Following the INDYCAR race at Mid-Ohio, Oliver reported a balance and coordination issue, which triggered an examination from the INDYCAR Medical Team. As a result, Oliver is not medically cleared to race and is subject to INDYCAR’s Return to Racing Protocol.

“This was an incredibly tough call but I have to follow the advice of the INDYCAR Medical Team and my doctors. My priority right now is focusing on my health,” Askew said. “Despite not being in the car, I will be at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Harvest GP, giving whatever insight and support to Arrow McLaren SP that I can.”

Askew will be replaced in the No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet by Helio Castroneves for the upcoming doubleheader Harvest GP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

“The welfare of Oliver, our team members and fellow competitors is paramount,” said Arrow McLaren SP co-owner Sam Schmidt.

“We therefore support Oliver and the decision of INDYCAR. Withdrawing to focus on his health and recovery is the right thing to do.”

Helio will join Pato O’Ward, driver of the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet, to complete the team’s driver lineup in Indianapolis.

“First and foremost, we wish Oliver the best and that he is able to take time to recover,” said Helio. “I look forward to getting back on track and helping to build on the great progress that Arrow McLaren SP has made this year.”