Fast Facts: Firestone 600

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Courtesy of INDYCAR PR, here’s all you need to know heading into this weekend’s Verizon IndyCar Series weekend at the Texas Motor Speedway:

Date: Saturday, June 6, 2015
Track: Texas Motor Speedway, a 1.455-mile oval
Entry List:  Firestone 600 (PDF)
Race distance: 248 laps / 360.84 miles
Firestone tire allotment: Eleven sets for use through the weekend
Twitter: @TXMotorSpeedway @IndyCar, #Firestone600, #IndyCar
Event website: www.TexasMotorSpeedway.com 
INDYCAR website: www.IndyCar.com
2014 race winner: Ed Carpenter
2014 Verizon P1 Award winner: Will Power, 47.8584 seconds, 218.896 mph (two laps)
Qualifying record (two laps): Will Power, 47.7960 seconds, 219.182 mph, June 7, 2013
Qualifying record (one lap): Gil de Ferran, 23.5031 seconds, 222.864 mph, Oct. 10, 2003

NBCSN television broadcasts: Qualifying, 6 p.m. ET Friday, June 5; Race, 8 p.m. ETSaturday, June 6. Brian Till is the lead announcer for the NBCSN broadcasts this weekend alongside analysts Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy. Pit reporters are Marty Snider, Kevin Lee, Kelli Stavast and Robin Miller.

Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network broadcasts: Paul Page is the chief announcer with analyst Davey Hamilton. Verizon IndyCar Series qualifying and races are broadcast live on network affiliates, Sirius 212, XM 209, IndyCar.comindycarradio.com and on the INDYCAR 15 app. Verizon IndyCar Series practice sessions are available on  IndyCar.comindycarradio.com and the INDYCAR 15 app.

Video streaming: All practice sessions for the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season are available on RaceControl.IndyCar.com.

INDYCAR 15 app: The Verizon INDYCAR 15 app has new features to keep fans in the know of the latest race-day action. Exclusive features of the INDYCAR 15 app for Verizon Wireless customers will stream live through the app and include interactive 3D Live View with real-time leaderboard and car telemetry to see where a fan’s favorite driver is positioned, leaderboard with enhanced 2D “marching ants” and car telemetry, in-car camera video streams from cameras that move 360 degrees and driver-pit crew chatter as drivers talk strategy with their pit crews during the race.

At-track schedule (all times local/CT): 
Friday, June 5
11 a.m.-12:15 p.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series practice
3:15-4:15 p.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series qualifying (single-car format, cumulative time of two laps)
6:45-7:15 p.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series practice

Saturday, June 6
3:45 p.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series systems check
7 p.m. – NBCSN on air
7:50 p.m. – Firestone 600 (248 laps/360.84 miles)

Race notes:
* There have been seven different winners in eight Verizon IndyCar Series races in 2015: Juan Pablo Montoya (Streets of St. Petersburg and Indianapolis 500), James Hinchcliffe (NOLA Motorsports Park), Scott Dixon (Streets of Long Beach), Josef Newgarden (Barber Motorsports Park), Will Power (Grand Prix of Indianapolis), Carlos Munoz (Raceway at Belle Isle-1) and Sebastien Bourdais (Raceway at Belle Isle-2). In 2014, there were a record-tying 11 different race winners. Dixon’s win at Long Beach on April 19 gave him sole possession of fifth on the all-time Indy car victory list with 36. He is the active leader in wins.

* The Firestone 600 will be the 27th Indy car event conducted at Texas Motor Speedway since the track opened in 1997. TMS hosted two races a year from 1998-2004 and featured a doubleheader event in 2011.

* This is the second of six oval races on the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule. Montoya won the first this season, the Indianapolis 500, on May 24.

* Helio Castroneves has won four times at Texas Motor Speedway (2004 Race 2, 2006, 2009 and 2013), the most wins by an Indy car driver at the track. He is one of six past TMS winners entered in this year’s race, along with Tony Kanaan (2004 Race 1), Dixon (2008), Ryan Briscoe (2010), Will Power (2011 Race 2) and Ed Carpenter (2014).

* Power has won the pole for the past two Texas Motor Speedway races. Other past pole winners entered this year are Castroneves (2004 Race 2), Dixon (2008) and Briscoe (2010). Kanaan won a draw to start first for the second of the 2011 doubleheader races.

* Six drivers have won the Texas race from the pole: Sam Hornish Jr. (2001 Race 2), Gil de Ferran (2003 Race 2), Castroneves (2004 Race 2), Tomas Scheckter (2005), Dixon (2008) and Briscoe (2010).

* Drivers who have won at Texas have gone on to win the Verizon IndyCar Series championship five times: Hornish (2001 Race 2 and 2002 Race 2), Kanaan (2004 Race 1), Dixon (2008) and Dario Franchitti (2011 Race 1).

* Twenty drivers entered this weekend have competed in past Verizon IndyCar Series events at Texas Motor Speedway. Ten of those drivers have led laps at the track (Marco Andretti 82, Briscoe 282, Carpenter 91, Castroneves 492, Dixon 256, Ryan Hunter-Reay 35, Kanaan 313, Montoya 13, Power 245 and Graham Rahal 27).

* Three drivers entered this weekend – Gabby Chaves, Stefano Coletti and Sage Karam – will make their first attempt to start a Verizon IndyCar Series race at Texas Motor Speedway.

* Kanaan seeks to start his 242nd consecutive race this weekend, which would extend his Indy car-record streak that began in June 2001 at Portland. Teammate Scott Dixon has made 183 consecutive starts heading into the weekend.

* The 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season marked the competition debut of aerodynamic bodywork kits designed, manufactured and supplied by Chevrolet and Honda. Cars are differentiated by their shape as the manufacturers have designed separate aero kit specifications for road and street course/short ovals and superspeedways for the Dallara IR-12 chassis. References to the cars incorporate the name of the corresponding manufacturer. The superspeedway versions of the kits made their competition debut at the Indianapolis 500 and will be used again this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.

* The No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske crew of Helio Castoneves won the Firestone Pit Stop Performance Award during Race 1 of the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit with a total pit lane time of 52.462 seconds. During Race 2 of the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit, the No. 28 DHL Andretti Autosport crew of Ryan Hunter-Reay claimed the Firestone Pit Stop Performance Award with a total pit lane time of 55.464 seconds. The Hitachi Team Penske crew and the DHL Andretti Autosport crew will receive their respective $5,000 awards during pre-race festivities at the Firestone 600 at Texas 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.”