Carl Edwards to say goodbye to Roush Fenway on Sunday, Jimmy Fennig heads to semi-retirement

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While this is a weekend of championships at Homestead-Miami Speedway, it’s also a weekend of goodbye’s:

* Marcos Ambrose is competing in his last Sprint Cup race (barring any future one-off races, particularly on road courses like Sonoma and Watkins Glen).

Ambrose is returning with his family to his native Australia to compete on the V8 Supercars Series, for a team co-owned by legendary owner Roger Penske.

Before he came to NASCAR, Ambrose was a two-time V8 Supercars champion.

* Sunday will be Steve Letarte’s last race as crew chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Letarte will join NBC as an analyst on NASCAR telecasts next year.

* And Carl Edwards and crew chief Jimmy Fennig will be spending their final race together, with both men going in different directions after Homestead.

Edwards is moving next season to Joe Gibbs Racing, following former RFR teammate Matt Kenseth, who moved to JGR in 2013.

Fennig, meanwhile, is retiring after 30 years as a crew chief, first in the American Speed Association (won a championship with Mark Martin in 1986) and then NASCAR.

Edwards, who was eliminated from the Chase last week at Phoenix – ending his hope of earning a Sprint Cup championship before leaving Roush Fenway Racing – on Sunday will compete in his 373rd and final race for the only Sprint Cup organization he’s known.

Edwards came close once before to winning a championship for RFR, tying for the title in 2011, but ended up second in the final standings when NASCAR was forced to go to the tie-breaker: most wins, which Tony Stewart had five to Edwards’ one.

Still, Edwards did win the Nationwide Series championship for RFR in 2007, sandwiched around four runner-up finishes in 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2010.

Edwards has had good success in the Cup ranks at HMS. Since he fell short of being able to give a championship to Roush, a win in Sunday’s race would probably be the next best thing.

Edwards has two Sprint Cup wins at Homestead in 2008 and 2010, and also won a Nationwide Series event there in 2008. In 10 career Cup starts there, Edwards has an average start of 11.7 and an outstanding average finish of 6.6.

“Even though our run at the championship is over, I am really looking forward to Homestead,” Edwards said in his weekly media release. “It has been a great race track for us. I love racing there.

“It’s Ford Championship Week and I want to get a win for Jack Roush and Jimmy Fennig and all of my guys, because they have worked so hard this year. They did the impossible. We made the Chase and we have two wins.

“(Plus) we held on for nine races of the Chase with a shot of winning the championship. I am really proud of every one of them. I want to give the performance to finish the season the way that everyone deserves. That’s what I am going to do.

“Jimmy and I have talked and he is as fired up as ever and hopefully we can go and do a good job.”

Fennig, who won the first Chase for the Sprint Cup (known as the Chase for the Nextel Cup then) in 2004 with Kurt Busch, is essentially semi-retiring, but is expected to remain with RFR as a consultant.

In words that were said 10 years ago but are still true today, Jack Roush said of Fennig after he and Busch won the 2004 title:

“Jimmy Fennig is an unsung hero at Roush Racing. He doesn’t do things that create a personal image away from the driver or away from the sponsor or away from the team.

“He’s the trooper that’s back there doing everything that he can everyday.”

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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.”