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Sad, Sad News On Wickens

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, October 26 2018

Robert Wickens fans got bad news on Friday.

Canadian Robert Wickens, injured in a violent multiple-car IndyCar Series crash at Pocono Raceway in August, has confirmed he is paralyzed from the waist down.

A 29-year-old native of Toronto, Wickens updated his condition Thursday night on Instagram, accompanied by a video of him using his arms to slide off a rehabilitation table into a wheelchair. In the background was team-owner Sam Schmidt, who is paralyzed from the neck down after a crash at Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando, Fla., on Jan. 6, 2000.

“(I) did my first slide transfer as a paraplegic today,” Wickens said. “My upper body is getting stronger and stronger, and hopefully I’ll be able to do it unassisted soon. I’ve only been posting videos of the small movement in my legs, but the reality is (that) I am far away from walking on my own.

“Some people are confused with the severity of my injury, so I wanted to let everyone know the reality of it. I’ve never worked harder for anything in my life, and I am giving it all I’ve got to spark those nerves in my legs.”

Wickens was injured on Sunday, Aug. 19, during the ABC Supply 500 on the 2.5-mile “Tricky Triangle” in Long Pond, Pa. He underwent surgery for a spinal injury the following evening at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest in Allentown, Pa. An MRI was instrumental in revealing the most appropriate surgical course for Wickens, a series rookie with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

In addition to the paralysis, Wickens suffered a thoracic spinal fracture, a neck fracture, tibia and fibula fractures to both legs, fractures in both hands, a fractured right forearm, fractured elbow, four fractured ribs and a pulmonary contusion.

After spending several weeks at the facility in Allentown, Wickens was transferred to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. Wickens continues to undergo physical rehabilitation at Methodist with the goal of walking again.

The Pocono race was delayed nearly two hours by a red-flag stoppage for track catch-fencing repairs following a five-car incident triggered by Wickens on Lap 7 of the scheduled 200. The field had reached Turn 2 on a restart on Lap 6 when Wickens’ No. 6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda made light contact with the left rear tire of Ryan Hunter-Reay’s No. 28 DHL Honda fielded by Andretti Autosport. As they slid toward the SAFER Barrier on the outside wall, Wickens’ car launched over the front of Hunter-Reay’s and into the catch-fencing, where it pin-wheeled violently before landing on the track driver-side up before sliding to a stop along the inside wall.

Wickens originally was reported as “awake and alert” when attended to at the crash scene by the AMR INDYCAR Safety Team and INDYCAR Medical staff. It took safety personnel approximately 12 minutes to extricate Wickens from the wreckage.

Wickens qualified on-pole for his first IndyCar Series start, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg street race in Florida on March 11. He finished second twice this season _ on ISM Raceway’s 1-mile oval in Avondale, Ariz., near Phoenix on April 7 and on Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course’s 2.258-mile natural terrain layout in Lexington, Ohio, on July 29.

Wickens moved to INDYCAR after six years of competition in the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM) sedan series, posting six wins and 15 podiums. Wickens drove for Mercedes-AMG Motorsport in 2017 and also participated in a practice session on the 4.048-mile road-course at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., for SPM as a substitute driver. He also tested an Indy car for SPM at Sebring International Raceway in Florida as part of a preseason ride swap with fellow-Canadian James Hinchcliffe.

“IndyCar is a series I’ve always kept a close eye on while I was racing in Europe,” Wickens said in his biography in the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series Media Guide. “It always has been a dream of mine when I was a kid to race in IndyCar and the Indy 500.”

Wickens earned Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year honors on May 27 after starting 18th and finishing ninth at the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Despite missing the season’s final three races, Wickens was named IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year after logging four top-three finishes in 14 starts.

Wickens finished 11th in the final driver standings with 391 points, ironically tied with SPM teammate Hinchcliffe.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, October 26 2018
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