Injured IndyCar driver’s condition improving

The Associated Press

MADISON, Ill. — IndyCar driver Robert Wickens was breathing without medical assistance and began speaking with his family Saturday for the first time since his harrowing wreck at Pocono Raceway.

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports made the announcement shortly before the start of the IndyCar race at Gateway Motorsports Park. The team is only fielding James Hinchcliffe’s car in Saturday night’s race, though the No. 6 that Wickens would have driven this week was parked outside the haulers.

Many drivers, crew members and fans were wearing hats and stickers in Wickens’ support.

The IndyCar rookie crashed early in last Sunday’s race at Pocono, touching Ryan Hunter-Reay and hurtling into the catch fence. His car was torn apart and the Canadian driver was airlifted to the hospital, where he has undergone surgeries to his spinal cord and extremities.

Allgaier wins Xfinity

ELKHART LAKE, Wis. — Race leader Justin Allgaier watched in the mirror as the two cars closest to his Chevrolet spin out, essentially bumping his two closest rivals out of contention.

The coast was clear for Allgaier to sail to victory Saturday at Road America for his fourth win of the season.

But Allgaier kept thinking about everything else that could go wrong.

What if he didn’t hit his mark on a turn? What if his car ran over a debris on the track? What if he just ran out of fuel?

“Ok if I run out of gas I may not go back to the garage area,” Allgaier said in recounting his internal conversation. “I may just walk back home to Charlotte.”

Instead, he’ll head back with his second victory in three weeks, both coming on road courses, after pulling away over the final five laps.

Allgaier held a 5.4-second advantage over second-place Matt Tifft to take the tense race filled with bumps, scrapes and spin-outs around the 14-turn course. Daniel Hemric, Tifft’s teammate at Richard Childress Racing, was third.

The victory erases the sting of a close call in 2011, when Allgaier led late in the race before running out of fuel during a yellow flag.

This time, Allgaier was the beneficiary of late-race commotion.

With three laps to go, second-place James Davison and third-place Justin Marks were jockeying for position trying desperately to catch Allgaier when their cars spun out around a tight left turn.

Tifft blew past Davison and Marks. But no one could catch Allgaier, who started 11th. The victory allowed him to leapfrog Christopher Bell atop the series driver standings.

“I never would have thought we could have a dream season like this one,” he said with a smile after wiping sweat off his forehead. “Two road courses … would you believe that?”

NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott finished 20th after coming out of retirement to take his first ride Xfinity ride around Road America. The 62-year-old Elliott started 23rd, then climbed up to 17th before spinning out and falling back.

“It was a heck of a lot of fun,” Elliott said.

The old-school driver would have loved the racing at the front of the field. It was an entertaining afternoon for NASCAR during an off week for the top-level Cup circuit.

Most of the attention coming into the race fell on Road America rookies like Elliott. British racer Katherine Legge, who was driving in her second NASCAR race, finished 14th.

Bottas, who finished fourth in P3, starts the race from the back of the grid after being penalized for too many engine-part changes.

Hamilton gets the pole

SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium — Lewis Hamilton again showed he’s the best driver in the rain by taking pole position for the Belgian Grand Prix on Saturday.

The Mercedes driver saved his best for the last lap to easily beat Sebastian Vettel’s leading time for Ferrari by 0.7 seconds and secure a Formula One record-extending 78th pole.

Hamilton has won the last two races — both affected by rain — to take the championship lead and move 24 points in front of Vettel.

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