First event of 2014 TORC championship in the books

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Writer’s Note: The following is a recap of this weekend’s season-opening event for TORC: The Off-Road Championship – the “Duel in the Desert” from Primm, Nevada. NBCSN will air the event on Friday, April 25 at 11 p.m. ET. If you don’t want to know who won until then, we suggest you find another post to read here on MotorSportsTalk…

While gamblers hoped for a jackpot at the nearby casinos, the drivers of TORC: The Off-Road Championship entered the weekend at Primm Valley Off-Road Raceway hoping for a strong start to their 2014 seasons.

The “Duel in the Desert” began with an action-packed Round 1 on Saturday that saw Adrian Cenni win the PRO 4 race with a last-lap pass on Johnny Greaves, who still claimed second despite rolling his truck early in the race.

But a momentary mistake on Greaves’ part – in which he got loose in a corner and hit a hay bale – allowed Cenni to reel him in. On the final circuit, the two went side-by-side before Cenni made the pass stick in Turn 3 and then went on to win.

Meanwhile, Chad Hord’s wire-to-wire triumph in PRO 2 was overshadowed by the stunning barrel roll that Arie Luyendyk Jr. took after mid-air contact with another competitor.

Luckily, Arie Jr. was alert upon his transfer to a local hospital and earlier today, he was spotted back at the track to not only watch but also join the NBCSN team in the booth:

The 24-truck PRO Light class started the day, and that race was won from the pole by C.J. Greaves.

Saturday’s Podium Finishers

  • PRO 4: 1. Adrian Cenni; 2. Johnny Greaves; 3. Mark Kvamme
  • PRO 2: 1. Chad Hord; 2. Marty Hart; 3. Mike Jenkins
  • PRO Light: 1. C.J. Greaves; 2. Doug Mittag; 3. Jerett Brooks

However, in today’s Round 2 of the Duel, Johnny Greaves avenged his near-miss yesterday by beating Cenni to the checkered flag in PRO 4.

Greaves took the lead shortly after the drop of the green flag and held it up to the competition caution. When the green came back out at Lap 10, Greaves was able to maintain the point while second-place Mark Jenkins went over the wall to trigger a full-course yellow.

The incident elevated Cenni to second place, but Greaves quickly pulled away when the race went green again.

In PRO 2, Hord rocketed from fourth to the lead on the opening lap but lost the point shortly after the competition yellow to C.J. Greaves. C.J. then hung on the rest of the way for the victory, a nice follow-up to his third-place finish in PRO Light behind winner Jerett Brooks and runner-up Kyle Hart.

Sunday’s Podium Finishers

  • PRO 4: 1. Johnny Greaves; 2. Adrian Cenni; 3. Scott Douglas
  • PRO 2: 1. C.J. Greaves; 2. Chad Hord; 3. Patrick Clark
  • PRO Light: 1. Jerett Brooks; 2. Kyle Hart; 3. C.J. Greaves

TORC: The Off-Road Championship will return to action for the Showdown in Charlotte on April 25 and 26 at The Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

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.”