Castroneves claims fourth Verizon P1 Award of 2015 in ABC Supply 500 qualifying (VIDEO)

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Helio Castroneves clinched the penultimate Verizon P1 Award of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season in qualifying for the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway on Saturday.

Castroneves recorded a two-lap average speed of 220.530mph to head up a Penske one-two-three at the top of the timesheets, leading home Simon Pagenaud and Will Power.

Power had set the early pace whose average speed of 220.398 remained the benchmark for the first half of the session despite him being just the second driver to take to the circuit.

Pagenaud turned in a two-lap average of 220.485 to edge out Power by less than 0.1mph and give himself provisional pole ahead of practice pace-setter’s Charlie Kimball’s run.

After posting the quickest warm-up time, Kimball’s qualifying run came to a surprise end when the Ganassi driver slammed hard into the wall at turn three and caught some air, hitting the fence in the process.

Thankfully, Kimball was quick to give a thumbs up and let everyone know he was okay upon coming to rest. However, the same could not be said of his car or the catch fencing, with repairs for the latter resulting in a 45-minute delay, during which time Kimball was cleared from the medical centre with only a small cut to his chin.

Once the session resumed, the task of toppling Pagenaud for pole fell to the Frenchman’s teammate, Castroneves, who managed to go 0.045mph quicker over his two laps to secure his fourth Verizon P1 Award of the 2015 season.

“We’re solid,” a jubilant Castroneves said. “I can’t wait for the race.”

A poor first lap cost championship leader Juan Pablo Montoya dearly as he could only qualify 19th, failing to replicate the form of his Penske teammates.

“We won at Pocono last year and we should run pretty good going to the next races, as well,” Montoya said. “I think we’re in good shape. You can’t really know what’s going to happen.

“We’ve done a really good job all year, like everybody else, had ups and downs, and we’ll see what it brings.”

To make matters worse for the Colombian, chief title rival Graham Rahal finished fifth, handing the American driver the upper hand heading into tomorrow’s race. Scott Dixon could only qualify 11th, spreading the three main title protagonists throughout the field.

Josef Newgarden continued his impressive form in 2015 to finish as the leading non-Penske driver in fourth place ahead of Rahal and Andretti’s Carlos Munoz, who was followed by teammates Justin Wilson and Ryan Hunter-Reay. Takuma Sato and Sebastien Bourdais rounded out the top ten.

Beyond Kimball, the other driver who did not take time was Stefano Coletti, who had crashed in the morning practice session.

The ABC Supply 500 from Pocono Raceway is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 2pm ET on Sunday.

RESULTS

LONG POND, Pa. – Qualifying Saturday for the ABC Supply 500 Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 2.5-mile Pocono Raceway, with qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, aero kit-engine, and speed:

1. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 220.530
2. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 220.485
3. (1) Will Power, Chevrolet, 220.398
4. (67) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 220.141
5. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 220.118
6. (26) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 219.831
7. (25) Justin Wilson, Honda, 219.685
8. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 219.672
9. (14) Takuma Sato, Honda, 219.578
10. (11) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 219.521
11. (9) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 218.969
12. (10) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 218.816
13. (19) Tristan Vautier, Honda, 218.596
14. (41) Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 218.331
15. (7) James Jakes, Honda, 218.246
16. (98) Gabby Chaves, Honda, 218.152
17. (18) Pippa Mann, Honda, 217.372
18. (5) Ryan Briscoe, Honda, 217.241
19. (2) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 217.194
20. (8) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 216.401
21. (20) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 216.315
22. (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 215.101
23. (83) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, no speed
24. (4) Stefano Coletti, Chevrolet, no speed

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.”