Verizon IndyCar Series 2015 silly season update, Round 1


With several driver announcements in the last month, the Verizon IndyCar Series grid is coming together for 2015.

Here’s where we stand at the moment:

Team Penske (4, Chevrolet)

Confirmed: Will Power, Juan Pablo Montoya, Helio Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud. Power’s a champion, Pagenaud and engineer Ben Bretzman move over from Schmidt Peterson, and Castroneves and Montoya return again after top-five championship seasons. A four-headed monster.

Chip Ganassi Racing (4, Chevrolet)

Expected: Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Charlie Kimball. Although no formal announcements from the team have been made regarding any of their drivers, at least three of the same four from 2014 are expected to continue. Dixon and Kanaan ended 2014 on a high with wins in three of the last four races.

To be determined: The fourth car. Ryan Briscoe has been reported out, although the team’s said nothing as such; rookie Sage Karam is poised to step up to a full season. The car’s budget is something they’re working through, per team manager Mike Hull.

Andretti Autosport (4, Honda)

Confirmed: Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Carlos Munoz. RHR won the Indianapolis 500 and Munoz was rookie-of-the-year to provide highlights a year ago.

To be determined: The fourth car, which Michael Andretti still expects to run. Daniel Abt has tested, Justin Wilson would be a perfect fit, and Andretti has Zach Veach and Matthew Brabham potentially waiting in the wings. Andretti also remains hopeful of a fifth car, but that would be later in the offseason to be determined.

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (2, Honda)

Confirmed: James Hinchcliffe. Team leader, Canadian driver at a team with a Canadian team owner in Ric Peterson, and driver launch announcement made at a brewery. Sounds Hinchtown-certified.

To be determined: The second car. Mikhail Aleshin is in the driver’s seat provided he recovers from Fontana injuries and wants to return, but will still need the budget to confirm a second year. Gabby Chaves, Rocky Moran Jr. and Rodolfo Gonzalez have tested for the team this fall.

A.J. Foyt Enterprises (2, Honda)

Confirmed: Takuma Sato, Jack Hawksworth. Hawksworth moves over from BHA and Foyt has a full season two-car lineup for the first time since 2000. No third car for the ‘500 expected.

CFH Racing (2, Chevrolet)

Confirmed: Josef Newgarden, Ed Carpenter. Newgarden stays with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing as it transitions into CFH, merged with Carpenter’s fellow single-car squad.

To be determined: Carpenter’s road course ringer. Mike Conway can return only if he isn’t offered, or opts to decline an offer from Toyota Racing to join its FIA World Endurance Championship full season program. With five WEC conflicts on road and street courses, Carpenter would need another driver, and JR Hildebrand or Conor Daly would be a perfect fit for an all-American team. A third car is likely for the Indianapolis 500, and would be a natural spot for the road course driver.

KV Racing (2, Chevrolet)

Confirmed: Sebastien Bourdais. Bourdais in for year two with KVSH and looks for a multiple win season after breaking through at Toronto last year. Bryan Clauson is also confirmed for the Indianapolis 500 in a KV-run entry for Byrd Racing, as that name returns to that race for the first time in 10 years.

To be determined: The second full-time car. Also to be confirmed is the team name of said second car, whether it’s a KVSH entry, KV Racing Technology alone, or something different altogether. A wild card entry that will likely require a funded driver.

Dale Coyne Racing (2, Honda)

To be determined: Both cars. It’s only November. The season doesn’t start til the spring, so there’s no need to panic. This is standard operating procedure for DCR. We don’t know who will fill Dale Coyne’s two cars, but we do know Dale will find a way to field two like he always does.

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (1, Honda)

Confirmed: Graham Rahal. Set to work with Eddie Jones and reunite with Mike Talbott and Martin Pare on the engineering front, while a pursuit of a new primary sponsor continues to replace the departed National Guard. A second car ran part-time in 2014 but there haven’t been any rumblings of it coming back for 2015; the team traditionally runs an extra car at the Indianapolis 500.

Bryan Herta Autosport (1, Honda)

Confirmed: Jay Howard, Indianapolis 500, second car. Announced last week, Howard will seek to make his return to IndyCar for the first time in four years.

To be determined: First full-time car, as the winning owner from the 2011 Indianapolis 500 looks for some newness next season on the driver and sponsor front.

Lazier Partners Racing (1, Chevrolet)

Confirmed: Buddy Lazier, Indianapolis 500. The 1996 race champion and his family-run team are expected to return for a third go-around in 2015.

Potential wild cards (2 cars)

Both Davey Hamilton and Fan Force United have made outliers about their hopes for getting into IndyCar in 2015. Hamilton, a previous partner with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, could support an existing team or branch out on his own.

FFU, which ran the Lotus-powered entry for Jean Alesi in 2012, had announced its intentions to run with Stefan Wilson next year, but that’s gone quiet in the last couple months. It would be great to see, though.

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.”