Getty Images

Pre-Long Beach, Newgarden visits Detroit to throw out first pitch

Leave a comment

Josef Newgarden usually goes the extra mile to help promote the Verizon IndyCar Series and its events, and the Tennessee native was busy doing the promotional work today ahead of the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Presented by Quicken Loans weekend June 3-5.

The driver of the No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing made the rounds on local TV stations in the morning, then headed to Comerica Park to fulfill a childhood dream.

Here was Newgarden’s first pitch ahead of the Detroit Tigers hosting the Pittsburgh Pirates:

Newgarden one-hopped it home, and got a bit of good natured ribbing from Jimmy Vasser.

He recovered to sixth at Phoenix last race, despite getting hit by Charlie Kimball at Turn 1 following a restart.

Now he heads to Long Beach (Sunday, 4 p.m. ET, NBCSN), one of his favorite races on the calendar – and traditionally one where he qualifies well.

He was seventh on the grid in 2012 but bumped up to second following five Chevrolet cars incurring 10-spot grid penalties for engine changes. A bold but aggressive move to polesitter Dario Franchitti’s outside at Turn 1 that year left him in the wall and out of the race.

He qualified fourth in 2014 and had arguably his best weekend in IndyCar to date before he got taken out in Ryan Hunter-Reay’s aggressive move at Turn 4, then driving for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing. Incidentally, Ed Carpenter Racing won that day with Mike Conway delivering the team’s first road or street race win.

Last year, he finally got a result at Long Beach, starting sixth and finishing seventh.

“I can’t wait to get to Long Beach! It’s one of the most exciting events of the year,” Newgarden said in the team’s media advance release.

“As a street course, it’s very thrilling and it has an amazing atmosphere. It’s definitely one of the tracks I feel like we’ve always been fast at, just not quite able to seal the deal from a results standpoint.

“The last couple of years we’ve been close, fighting within the top five but not able to get to the podium. Hopefully we can turn that around this year with the Fuzzy’s car and get on to the podium or even to victory lane!”

Oliver Askew: ‘I was starting to lose confidence’ after ‘hardest hit I’ve had’

Leave a comment

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.”