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Weather is only thing to stop Sam Schmidt’s bid at racing Pikes Peak

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Sam Schmidt continues to amaze.

Through modern technology, the Verizon IndyCar Series driver turned team owner, who was left a quadriplegic in an accident in January 2000 while practicing at Walt Disney World Speedway, is once again a race car driver of sorts.

Schmidt, along with co-driver Robby Unser, competed in Sunday’s 94th running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb near Colorado Sprints, Colorado.

Inclement weather cut short their run: Schmidt and Unser got about halfway up the 12.42-mile, 156-turn course before a combination of rain, snow and hail forced them to abandon their quest.

Yet, just to see Schmidt back behind the wheel and having his competitive juices flowing again was nothing short of inspirational and amazing.

It was actually the second time Schmidt has attacked the mountain, which has very few guardrails. He drove alone in a practice run two weeks ago and made it to the top of the 14,110-foot summit by himself, behind the wheel of a specially-equipped Arrow Electronics-sponsored Chevrolet Corvette.

A resident of Henderson, Nevada, Schmidt controls the car using just vision sensors and blowing through a tube, according to Ron Kantowski of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

“They turned us around and had the other (finishing) cars follow us down,” Schmidt said, according to Kantowski. “It was really well-received. It was all good.”

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Provisional Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew ready for IndyCar ride

Road to Indy
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Provisional Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew has done nothing but dominate the 2019 season, winning seven of the 16 races run so far and finishing on the podium in all but two of those events.

Now all the 22-year-old Floridian needs to do to formally clinch the 2019 title is simply start the final two races of the season, both of which will be held this weekend at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

For Askew, his maiden Indy Lights season will likely be one he’ll never forget. 

“It’s been a dream come true,” Askew told NBC Sports. “Being with the championship-winning team from last year, we had a really good shot at winning it again for Andretti Autosport. It’s very rare that we show up to a track and struggle to find speed. 

“That’s a fantastic feeling, especially as a driver. That gave me a lot of confidence and hopes of holding the million dollar check at the end of the year. That was the goal going into it.”

This weekend, Askew will accomplish said goal. The championship will not only bring him a sense of pride, but also the opportunity of a lifetime. 

As an award for being crowned the Indy Lights champion, Askew will be awarded a scholarship that guarantees him entry into a minimum of three NTT IndyCar Series events next year – including the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500. 

Time will only tell which team Askew will race for in IndyCar next season, and whether or not Askew’s rookie campaign will be a full-time or part-time affair, but Askew’s performance during the last few seasons in the Road to Indy system has certainly drawn attention of IndyCar’s top team owners.

In August, Askew had the chance to drive an Indy car for the first time in his career during a test session at Portland International Raceway, driving the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda usually piloted by Scott Dixon.

“It was an opportunity with Chip Ganassi Racing that I was very fortunate to have,” Askew said. “I think with my experience in the past couple of years with Cape Motorsports and this year with Andretti Autosport, going into that test was very helpful.

“Going into the test, it was more of trying to treat it as just another day at the racetrack, when it really wasn’t. It was a fantastic opportunity for me – a great experience – and I hope I can take that into my rookie season next year in IndyCar.” 

The final two races of the 2019 Indy Lights season will take place this weekend on Saturday, September 21 at 6 p.m. ET and Sunday, September 22 at 12:05 p.m. ET. Both races will air live on NBC Sports Gold.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter