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Will Power eyeing season championship after Indy 500 victory

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DETROIT (AP) — Will Power spoke calmly and nonchalantly. It was hard to tell if he was trying to keep an even keel or if he was just exhausted.

“You have to just try to keep the emotion as low as possible because you use so much when you are racing, so trying to keep these next two days as low as I can,” Power said. “I’m not a hyper type of person.”

As low key as Power can be, his victory at the Indianapolis 500 last weekend certainly brought out the exuberant side of his personality when he kept screaming during the celebration after the race. It was a different Power who was on hand Thursday for a media luncheon prior to this weekend’s twin IndyCar races on Detroit’s Belle Isle.

Power is now trying to shift his attention away from the Indy triumph. He has other, season-long goals in mind.

“Still focused on winning the whole season championship,” he said.

The last time the Indy 500 winner went on to win the IndyCar points title was in 2010, when Dario Franchitti did it. Juan Pablo Montoya nearly pulled it off in 2015 but lost the season title on a tiebreaker to Scott Dixon.

Power tops the standings entering this weekend’s races, but only by two points over Alexander Rossi. Power won the series title in 2014. Last weekend was his first Indy 500 victory.

“He’s now an Indy 500 champion, and you can’t take that away from him,” team owner Roger Penske said. “To be a champion and be on that Borg-Warner trophy is certainly something real special.”

Power finished second at Indy in 2015. His victory this year made him the race’s first Australian winner.

“It’s actually an honor to be the first Australian to win the Indy 500. And first Australian to win an IndyCar championship,” he said. “Growing up, it’s basically a childhood dream.”

Power said last weekend was the most excited he’s ever been about winning a race. No surprise there – and he said he became emotional when he saw footage of his wife, Liz, from the final moments.

“Just shows what it meant to us as a family,” he said. “It brought tears to my eyes to watch that, because I know how much it means to her, but it means that much to her because she knows what it means to me and how hard I’ve worked for that.”

The days after an Indy 500 victory can be a whirlwind. Power has been to New York and Texas, and now he has to race in Michigan both Saturday and Sunday.

“Not much sleep,” he said. “Busy, but well worth it.”

Since 2012, the Belle Isle race has occupied the spot on the IndyCar schedule immediately after the Indy 500. In that span, nobody has won in Detroit after winning at Indy. Franchitti finished second on Belle Isle in 2012 and Takuma Sato had a fourth-place showing last season.

The 2.3-mile street course along the Detroit River presents different challenges than Indy, but Power has long preferred road courses to ovals (at least until this year). He won at Belle Isle in 2014 and 2016, so this is an opportunity for him to take another step forward in his pursuit of a series championship.

No matter where he finishes this weekend, he sounds eager to return to a more normal routine after the post-Indy hoopla.

“Kind of look forward to just getting in the car and focusing forward,” Power said. “Sitting down with my engineer … and talking about the approach this weekend.”

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.”