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Wayne Taylor Racing gets another oh-so-close finish in Rolex

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) Wayne Taylor Racing’s Corvette ended the Rolex 24 at Daytona in better shape than three of its drivers.

Max Angelelli parked the No. 10 car on the Daytona International Speedway road course during the cool-down lap, was helped out and transported to a local hospital for evaluation. IMSA officials said he was “conscious and stable,” but offered no further details about his condition.

Angelelli was behind the wheel for the final hours of the endurance race because brothers Jordan and Ricky Taylor were feeling ill. Jordan spent the last two weeks dealing with an undisclosed illness, and Ricky woke up with stomach issues Sunday morning.

The only healthy teammate was former Formula One driver Rubens Barrichello, who was added to the team just days before the twice-around-the-clock season opener.

Despite the health issues, the team notched its fourth consecutive podium finish at Daytona.

Maybe even more impressive, Wayne Taylor Racing ran a trouble-free race for the fourth straight year. But the drivers were hoping for more than another oh-so-close finish.

“I think you can imagine how frustrating it is, but it’s part of the sport,” Jordan Taylor said. “This year I think it’s especially tough because we did have a flawless race and the car that won had two penalties and went off and had all sorts of issues. We feel like we did the best we could, same as the past four years.

“Four years without a mechanical issue, without losing a lap, without going behind the wall, is quite an accomplishment for the team.”

Wayne Taylor Racing also finished second in 2013 and 2014. The team crossed the finish line third last year, but was later penalized and stripped of its third-place spot.

IMSA ruled that Jordan Taylor violated the drive-time rule late in the race, finding he was behind the wheel more than four hours during a six-hour period. The team was dropped from third to last in the 16-car class.

The team bounced back this weekend, but didn’t have enough speed to keep up with the No. 2 Extreme Speed Motorsports entry. The ESM Honda was the fastest car in the field, turning such quick laps that it was able to overcome a slew of miscues and claim the coveted Rolex watches.

“I think the most important thing for us is the team,” Ricky Taylor said. “I think that a winning performance once again. We never went back to the garage. The guys had awesome pit stops, the strategy. I think we spent four minutes less in the pits than the other cars. … We weren’t really racing (ESM), but for us we’re very disappointed to have another great run without a watch.”

The biggest problem the team faced on the track was getting Barrichello comfortable in the car. Barrichello, who’s considerably shorter than his teammates, struggled to find a rhythm.

“I drove for an hour and a half, and it looked like I was driving a Formula One for like 24 hours,” he said. “So I was pretty tired.”

The crew decided to use team owner Wayne Taylor’s old seat, which Barrichello said allowed him to be a “little bit more competitive.”

“I’m sorry that I didn’t get to drive much before because I really wanted to help it further, but I think the team did a fantastic job,” Barrichello said. “We had the fastest (Daytona Prototype) on the track and it was nice just to be able to be with all of them. I hope to be back. I love the series and I did enjoy my time with the team.”

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.”