Photo courtesy Kalitta Motorsports

NHRA: Shawn Langdon back behind wheel of Top Fuel dragster with Kalitta Motorsports

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Former NHRA Top Fuel champion Shane Langdon will soon be back on track.

The 2013 champion lost his ride with Don Schumacher Racing at the end of last season due to lack of sponsorship.

But Thursday, Langdon and Kalitta Motorsports announced a partnership with new sponsor Global Electronic Technology to campaign a new Top Fuel team, the third full-time dragster in the Kalitta stable.

“I’m really excited about the opportunity to drive the Global Electronic Technology dragster,” Langdon, 34, said in a media release. “It is awesome to see new companies like Global Electronic Technology come in to drag racing and I am excited to be a part of it.”

When DSR’s ongoing efforts to gain sponsorship failed to materialize, Kalitta Motorsports was able to put together a package with GET to bring the ex-champ aboard.

“It’s been a tough year so far with me sitting on the sidelines,” Langdon said. “It has been the first time since my rookie year in 2009 that I haven’t been able to attend the NHRA races.

“I cannot thank Connie (team owner Connie Kalitta) and Jim O (team vice president Jim Oberhofer) enough for the opportunity. Kalitta has top quality cars that contend for wins and championships, so I feel that this partnership will work well.”

DSR hired Langdon with six races left in the 2015 season after Alan Johnson Racing suspended operations due to lack of sponsorship. AJR had lost its primary sponsorship from Al-Anabi Racing just weeks before the 2015 season began and self-funding lasted just 18 races before team owner Alan Johnson parked Langdon’s dragster, leading to him moving to the Schumacher camp.

Langdon was Top Fuel teammates at DSR with three-time champ Antron Brown, eight-time champ Tony Schumacher and Leah Pritchett.

DSR and Langdon had planned to continue in 2017, but lack of sponsorship forced team owner Don Schumacher to park Langdon and his dragster.

“I also want to thank Don (Schumacher) and everybody at Don Schumacher Racing for bringing me in when I didn’t have a ride and making me feel like part of the family,” Langdon said. “We did everything we could to find adequate funding, and I want to thank Don for keeping me on the payroll throughout the process of trying to find sponsorship.”

Even though he now is racing for a new team, Langdon – who has 14 career national event Top Fuel wins – still has the same goals he had at DSR and AJR.

“My focus is to contend for a championship,” he said. “We are seven rounds out of the top 10 and we have 14 races to catch up (to qualify for the six-race Countdown to the Championship NHRA playoffs) and I am confident in my chances with the group that Kalitta is putting behind me.”

Langdon now joins Doug Kalitta and Troy Coughlin as Top Fuel teammates with Kalitta Motorsports.

The addition of Langdon will cause some slight juggling within the team when it comes to crew chiefs. Jim Oberhofer will become the lead tuner on both Kalitta’s and Coughlin’s dragsters.

Troy Fasching will also team with Oberhofer on Kalitta’s car, while Glen Huszar and Nick Casertano will head J.R. Todd’s Funny Car team.

Lastly, team patriarch Connie Kalitta will oversee Langdon’s team along with Rob Flynn.

Kalitta Motorsports also fields the Funny Car teams of Todd and Alexis DeJoria.

The team will make its first race two weeks at the next NHRA SpringNationals, April 21-23, at Royal Purple Raceway in suburban Houston.

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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.”