Conway, Bourdais, Huertas work through day at Sebring

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Last week’s IndyCar test at Sebring featured 10 Chevrolet drivers, and while we hit the Ganassi and Penske contingents, they weren’t alone as part of the manufacturer’s group on hand at the short course.

With his initial test now out of the way at Ed Carpenter Racing, Mike Conway was able to push a bit more in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka entry. Conway is adjusting to a Chevrolet after campaigning a Honda powerplant in his seven 2013 races with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and Dale Coyne Racing.

“We got a lot of work done, but then coming here for this one, and with the 2014 specs applies to the engine, there is a lot of stuff to get through,” Conway explained. “New for everybody so there are going to be changes all day to get it right and in the sweet spot. So far so good I’m pretty impressed with the power band and I think definitely an improvement from last year.”

Meanwhile at KVSH Racing, Sebastien Bourdais and the team discovered different issues compared to when they first ran together in November.

“It was an interesting day very different conditions than we had last time,” the Frenchman said. “Last time was really windy but the grip on the track was much higher so we discovered very different issues with the car. We have been fighting the car balance pretty big and then this morning we used the introduction of the new engine. We took it pretty easy so once we got going and discovered the problems we didn’t have so much time left and that was a bit of a crash course.”

Carlos Huertas, a Colombian testing for Panther Racing for the first time, fought through electrical gremlins on his first day in an IndyCar.

“It’s going okay, just getting used to the car is very different to what I’m used to in Europe,” said Huertas, who raced in Formula Renault 3.5 in 2013. “It went well on used tires and then on new tires just didn’t make the right changes. It didn’t improve as much as I wanted, but just in general (I was just) getting used to the way the engine with the turbo works and stuff like that.”

Bourdais is in action this week for Action Express Racing as part of the Rolex 24 at Daytona; Conway, a Toyota reserve driver in the FIA World Endurance Championship, will have that and the road and street races to look forward to this year; Huertas was in Sebring for his first test, but no word has been given by the Panther team regarding his status for any future outings.

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.”