Hildebrand beats Panther in ‘messy’ race; Luhr comes up short of debut finish

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A subplot of the Sonoma weekend was the unofficial “JR Hildebrand vs. Panther Racing” battle that was taking place, even though Hildebrand downplayed it during his media availability on Friday.

To make things awkward, due to the order they had qualified with previous drivers Oriol Servia (Panther) and Luca Filippi (Barracuda Racing) at Mid-Ohio, the two teams were set up directly next to each other all weekend in the paddock and pit lane.

Hildebrand took the edge in both battles – he beat Panther’s Ryan Briscoe in qualifying, 18th to 22nd, and also in the race 16th to 17th. Not that either of those results is anything worth celebrating.

Hildebrand ran as high as 11th but was spun by Tony Kanaan on Lap 21 at Turn 7, and Kanaan was given a drive-through penalty for avoidable contact. Hildebrand recovered but had later contact with Graham Rahal, which dropped him back to 21st, before he made up five more positions by the flag.

“It was just a messy day out there,” Hildebrand said. “With that many yellows, it ends up being kind of a lottery where you actually end up on restarts because the risk/reward factor is quite high.”

Elsewhere, IndyCar debutante Lucas Luhr came up a few laps shy of a finish in the No. 97 RW/Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda. The first German to start an IndyCar race since Andreas Wirth in a Champ Car race at Australia in 2006, Luhr climbed from 24th place to 17th before an engine fire ended his race on Lap 81.

“It was a shame that we couldn’t finish the race because I think we had a possible top 14 or 15 finish in us,” Luhr said. “Toward the end of the race I was getting quicker. I think we were more competitive in the race than we have been all weekend long, and that to me shows that the learning curve is going in the right direction.”

Next up for these three: Barracuda and Panther see Filippi and Servia back for Baltimore, with Hildebrand returning for Barracuda at Fontana. Luhr resumes in his usual Muscle Milk Pickett Racing HPD ARX-03c P1 car in the American Le Mans Series race in Baltimore. Briscoe is back for Level 5 there, as well.

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.”