Davidson Racing wins 25 Hours of Thunderhill; NASCAR’s Kurt Busch 4th in class

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Overcoming engine and transmission issues, the team of ex-IndyCar racer Alex Lloyd and sports car veterans Brian Frisselle, Randy Pobst, and Kyle Marcelli pushed the No. 17 Davidson Racing Norma to the overall and ESR class victory in the 25 Hours of Thunderhill yesterday in California.

The winning No. 17 Norma logged 682 laps and 1,910 miles en route to the victory and also set the fastest lap of the race on Lap 28 with a 1 minute, 38.371-second time.

Team owner Bob Davidson was called upon to take the Norma over the finish line. It’s his first Thunderhill win in four years of trying.

“It has been a few years of hard work trying to win this race,” said Davidson. “We felt really good coming into the race this year. We have a great crew and a great line-up of drivers.

“The Norma has been a good car for us for a couple of years. It really came into its own this year and we had lady luck on our side.”

Said Frisselle: “I am so happy for Bob. He really deserves this victory. I don’t know if there is a team owner in this whole paddock that is more passionate about the 25 Hours of Thunderhill than Bob. We have been hard at it for four years trying to win this for him.

“Bob has a lot of hard work into this project. We had some engine trouble at the end so we were a little worried. We were able to put Bob in at the end and let him bring the Norma across the finish line to take the checker, so it was perfect.”

Also taking part in the weekend’s events was former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Kurt Busch, who co-drove the No. 61 Road Shagger Racing BMW in the E0 class.

A foolish penalty cost us 10 minutes in pit lane. We're still second in class, but now 5 laps down. Seems like a good time to put the ringer in for 2 hours! Long way to go…

Posted by Road Shagger Racing on Saturday, December 6, 2014

The team held the class lead early on, but a later penalty cost them precious time in the pits. Problems with the car’s differential also plagued the BMW during the event and forced the team off the track with one hour to go. They eventually returned to the track, however, to pick up a fourth-place finish.

The No. 31 Hankook Tires/El Diablo Motorsports BMW (Lance Boicelli, Scott Smith, Dale Sievwright, William Brinkop) took the E0 class victory.

Other class winners include: ES (second place overall) – No. 00 Award Motorsports/Ehret Family Winery Porsche (Pierre Ehret, Kelly Collins, Tom Hacker, Spencer Trennery, Tommy Sadler); E1 – No. 67 BMW of Sparta Evo Brakes/Maxxis Tire/Bullet Performance (Brett Strom, Mickey Miller, Ralph Warren, Robert Green); E2 – No. 34 Team RDR Mazda RX-8 (Dennis Holloway, Joel Miller, Lee Papageorge); E3 – No. 23 RJ Racing Mazda Miata (Gary Brown, John Gibson, Rob Gibson, Roger Eagleton).

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.”