Excellent season for Justin Wilson continues with two Houston top-fives

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Yet again, Justin Wilson has delivered a pair of excellent results for Dale Coyne Racing, and yet again, it feels as though his achievements have been vastly overlooked.

Third in Saturday’s Race 1 and fourth in Sunday’s Race 2 of the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston doubleheader, the 17th and 18th races of the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series, made it four straight top-fives and six straight top-10s for the lanky Englishman in the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda.

“All in all, it was a great weekend with two top-fives,” Wilson said in a release after Sunday’s race. “Obviously, thinking of Dario and the fans, hope all are ok.”

Prior to Race 1, Wilson was caught out by the red flag in his qualifying group and so he started only 14th. Despite an early race flat tire, Wilson recovered admirably with a series of passes and good strategy called by engineer Bill Pappas.

He began sixth in Race 2 after the grid was set by entrant points entering the weekend. During the race, Wilson jumped to fourth early and stayed there for most of the remainder of the day even as nine full-course yellows interrupted the flow of the race.

Wilson described the track change from Saturday’s race to Sunday’s: “The track today was pretty good-it started out pretty slick but as it rubbered up, the grip got better and it got very fast. We were pushing harder and harder, every lap. It was a lot of fun, but it certainly feels like there are more bumps on day two! It’s physical, it’s tough. I want to thank everyone on the Boy Scouts of America team – we had great pit stops, strategy, and a great car. I’m pleased to be back in the top-five again.”

The driver of the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda is now fourth in the championship heading into the season finale. Wilson twice finished second in the Champ Car standings, in 2006 and 2007, but has yet to better ninth since Champ Car ended and Wilson’s career under the INDYCAR banner began.

“I’m looking forward to Fontana, we were good at the test. I think there is more to come,” added Wilson. “We will go there looking for the same kind of result. We want to go out there and attack and who knows, maybe come out of there with another win.”

Prior to Fontana, Wilson is also participating in the Dempsey Challenge, a bicycle tour and run/walk event designed to raise both cancer awareness and funds for The Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope & Healing, on October 12 and 13. Wilson ran with the Dempsey Challenge logo at Baltimore. The donation page is linked here.

Oliver Askew: ‘I was starting to lose confidence’ after ‘hardest hit I’ve had’

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Oliver Askew knew something was medically wrong in the days after concussion-like symptoms began from “the hardest hit I’ve ever had” in the Indianapolis 500. He’d been evaluated and cleared to race after the Aug. 23 crash, but he just didn’t feel right.

The IndyCar rookie told The Associated Press on Thursday he has been experiencing dizziness, sleeping difficulties, irritability, headaches and confusion since he crashed in the Aug. 23 race. He continued to race in four more events as he tried to “play through it” until friends and family encouraged him to seek medical treatment.

He since has been diagnosed with a concussion and is working on a recovery plan with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s sports medicine concussion program, the same place NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt Jr. received care after concussions in 2012 and ’16. Askew will not compete in next weekend’s doubleheader on the road course at Indianapolis, and Arrow McLaren SP will put three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves in the No. 7 Chevrolet.

“This is all I’ve worked for,” the 23-year-old told AP. “I don’t come from money, and I’ve worked my way up and have finally gotten my shot in a good car. And then all of a sudden, the results just weren’t there in a car I knew should be performing. And I just didn’t feel like myself, you know?

“So initially I felt like I needed to stay in the car and continue to improve. And then I didn’t feel like I could do that with my condition and what was going on. I was starting to lose confidence in myself.”

Earnhardt praised Askew for going to Pittsburgh to see Dr. Micky Collins.

“Oliver is in the best hands when it comes to taking care of this problem and getting back on the racetrack. It was very smart of him to get in front of Micky so that he could understand the seriousness of the situation and begin the process of getting well,” Earnhardt said. “You can absolutely heal from this but not without taking the step of getting help. Often that’s the most difficult step.”

Athletes often hide injuries to continue competing, and even Earnhardt admittedly masked concussions during his driving career. Askew didn’t know what was wrong with him but was frightened to get out of the car.

He is a paid driver who brings no sponsorship money to the team (but did bring a $1 million scholarship for winning last year’s Indy Lights championship), and owner Sam Schmidt holds the option on his contract.

As he tried to race on, his performance suffered. Askew had finished third and sixth at Iowa — the previous two races before Indianapolis. After the crash, he was part of a multicar accident the next week at Gateway and has not finished higher than 14th in the four races since Indy.

A year after winning seven Indy Lights races, Askew has fallen from 12th to 18th in the standings and slipped considerably off the pace. He said he struggled in team debriefs, had difficulty giving feedback and has gone through a personality change that was noticeable to those close to Askew.

Spire Sports + Entertainment, which represents Askew and was among those who pushed the driver to see a doctor, noted Arrow McLaren SP did not reveal that Askew was suffering from a concussion in its Thursday announcement he would miss next week’s race.

“Oliver clearly demonstrated his talent until Lap 91 of the Indianapolis 500, and I hope this does not become another case study of why athletes do not tell their teams they are injured,” said agent Jeff Dickerson. “The reason they do that is because more often times than not they are replaced. In motorsports, there is always somebody to replace you, and whether it was Dale Jr. or Oliver Askew, there is always another driver available.

“I hope this is not a barrier to progress for other drivers — especially young drivers afraid of losing their job — to notify their teams they are hurt. I hope the team proves me wrong because the good news is, the kid has had a head injury for the past month and has still run 14th in IndyCar.”

After finally seeking medical treatment, Askew said he was relieved to learn there was something wrong. He said doctors told him the injury has a “100% recovery rate” and he believes he will be able to race in the IndyCar season finale next month at St. Petersburg. He’s been rehabilitating with exercises and tasks that strain the brain such as deliberately going to grocery stores and the airport.

“Honestly, you know, if I had not gone to see medical professionals I would probably stay in the car,” Askew said. “But now after hearing what’s wrong and that it could get worse, God forbid I have another hit, I know I did the right thing. I think I can be an example for young drivers now in stepping up and saying something is wrong, I need to have this checked out.”