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Hamilton vexed home race clashes with cricket, tennis finals

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SILVERSTONE, England – In a season of often mundane racing, the one time Lewis Hamilton can hope to grab the attention of home Formula One fans is the British Grand Prix.

On Sunday, that will be a whole lot harder.

Down in London, England’s cricketers will be contesting their first men’s World Cup final in 27 years.

And taking place at the same time near the British capital will be the men’s final at Wimbledon.

Hamilton, the reigning F1 champion and current championship leader, is not happy he has to share the limelight with so many other sports.

With the trio of big events, the clashes are proving even more problematic than last Sunday when three soccer finals were played on three continents in different time slots: the Women’s World Cup in France, the Copa America in Brazil and the CONCACAF Gold Cup in the United States.

“I don’t understand why the organizers put the race on the same day as all these other big events,” Hamilton said Thursday at Silverstone, discussing the Cricket World Cup and Wimbledon finals. “I hope in future they (don’t). This is such a special weekend it needs the focus of the whole country. People will be switching between channels on Sunday not knowing what to watch.”

Channel Four, the free channel showing the British Grand Prix, landed late rights to show England play New Zealand and will squeeze the racing around coverage of the cricket final. During Hamilton’s bid for a record sixth home race win, cricket coverage will switch to a secondary channel.

“I come here to raise the flag and do the country proud,” Hamilton said. “It’s such a privilege to be here. The British Grand Prix is the most special of the year. The sheer magnitude of it, how many people come here. It’s a special weekend, there’s excitement, adrenaline.

“My whole family is coming this weekend so it’s that one weekend where it’s the most special because your closest support surround you. I’ve had some spectacular races here.”

In the last race in Austria two weeks ago, Hamilton started fourth and lost time to replace the front wing of his Mercedes after 31 laps. He finished fifth.

“We’re here to improve this weekend as a team,” Hamilton said. “The last one was difficult for us. I think it will be close.”

What is certain is that Hamilton will have more chances to win at Silverstone in the future. Organizers struck a new deal this week to continue the race on the central England circuit through 2024.

“It feels like a long way away. Who knows if I will still be here then?” said the 34-year-old Hamilton, who is under contract at Mercedes until 2020. “If I’m not, if I stop racing, then I won’t be here in any other capacity.”

Provisional Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew ready for IndyCar ride

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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.

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