Comeback Complete: Wickens Wins at Watkins Glen; Some Notes

It was only a matter of time before Robert Wickens would win a race. Saturday at Watkins Glen Wickens and co driver Mark Wilkins won the TC/R class of the Michelin Pilot Challenge race. The team finished at Daytona during the Rolex 24 weekend.

Wickens started the race, the Tioga Downs 250, in the Hyundai Elantra owned by Bryan Herta Autosport. He took the lead, then handed the car to Wilkins to finish the race.

In a weekend of national turmoil, it was nice to see a positive, uplifting story like this. Wickens’ comeback story has been an inspiration to many since his paralyzing accident at Pocono in 2018. (Thanks, NBC, for continuing to show it. We don’t need to see it anymore.)


I’m hearing rumors of a car dropping from the grid due to nonpayment by the sponsor. We may not be able to confirm this until the Mid Ohio entry list comes out. Losing a car would be a bit of a blow to the series, which has had a mostly positive season to date. If you have looked at other sources, you have an idea who I’m talking about.

I am curious about how you view races. Do you still watch on NBC? How many of you watch exclusively on Peacock? Please let me know. If you watch on Peacock, what do you like about it compared to the network broadcast? Thanks.

I believe 2014 was the last season in which the defending series champions dii not win a race in the first half of the year. Will Alex Palou break through sometime before September? I wouldn’t bet against it. I’m not sure it is going to be this weekend though.

Mid Ohio coverage starts tomorrow. I’ll be on site starting Friday with my usual drivel and boring stories.

Bourdais Leads Final Practice; Wickens Shines in Return

UPDATE: Mark Wilkins took over for To dry Wickens and finished third in the TCR class. Wickens gets a podium in his first race back.

Sebastien Bourdais led a Cadillac parade in the 01 for Chip Ganassi Racing with the fastest lap in this morning’s final practice. The session was run under cool, cloudy conditions and there was a brief light rain shower. The Cadillacs were ahead of the Acuras, the reverse of how practice has gone to date.

In LMP2 Phil Hanson led the way in the number 22 United Autosport Oreca. Rasmus Lindh was fastest in LMP3 in the Andretti Autosport number 36.

Mirko Bortolotti kept the number 63 Lamborghini (bottom photo) at the top of GTD Pro, and the 79 Porsche (top) driven by Julien Andlauer had the fastest GT. time.

Wickens Competitive in Return Race

Robert Wickens drove in his first competition since his accident at Pocono in 2018 in the BMW M Challenge for the Michelin Pilot Series. Wickens started seventh in the Hyundai Elantra, and moved fourth place early in the first hour of the four hour event. He ran as high as third. Near the end of his stint he had a spirited battle with a Bryan Herta Autosport teammate. Wickens drove for just a bit more than two hours. He showed that the talent which made him a star in Indycar is still there. This will be a fun series tom watch this year.

Wickens heads to turn four during the Michelin Pilot Challenge Race.

Wickens Races Again

It has been a long, torturous path for Robert Wickens since that awful July day at Pocono in 2018. He will be back in a race car in two weeks at Daytona, driving a Hyundai Elantra for Bryan Herta Autosport in the Michelin Pilot Challenge Series. The race on January 28 is a preliminary event to the Rolex 24.

It isn’t Indycar, but it is thrilling that Wickens will be back ina race car competing again.

Announcements from the team are below.

The announcement from BHA:

FOUNTAIN VALLEY, Calif., Jan. 14, 2022 – Three-time International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) Michelin Pilot Challenge (IMPC) Champions, Bryan Herta Autosport (BHA) and Hyundai Motor North America, announced they have signed international racing star, Robert Wickens to co-drive the #33 Elantra N TCR racecar. Wickens will drive with fellow Canadian champion Mark Wilkins in the 2022 IMPC.

“Today is a monumental day for us as a team and as fans of Robert Wickens,” said Bryan Herta, president of BHA. “We have followed along with Robert’s rehabilitation and marveled at his determination and dedication, along with his many, many fans. To now announce that he will be making his professional motorsports return in one of our Hyundai Elantra N TCR cars is truly incredible. We thank Hyundai for their amazing support and helping us build a path for Robert to get back to where he belongs.”

In May of 2021, Wickens successfully evaluated the BHA #54 Hyundai Veloster N TCR using hand controls. It was his first time driving a race car after 989 days of rehabilitation following an IndyCar accident that left him paralyzed in 2018. Wickens will return to competition, taking the green flag at the IMPC season opener, a four-hour endurance race commencing the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona race weekend at Daytona International Speedway on Jan. 28.

“I’ve spent a lot of nights thinking and dreaming of this moment, and with the support from Bryan Herta and Hyundai it is all becoming a reality,” said Wickens. “I am hungrier now than I was before my accident to compete for wins again! I’m really looking forward to incorporating myself with the entire Bryan Herta Autosport team and finally get my first taste of the Hyundai Elantra N TCR.”

Wickens, a former Formula One test driver, took the American IndyCar scene by storm as a rookie in 2018. He won the pole position and led all but two laps in his first IndyCar race, went on to score four podium finishes and earned the Indy 500 Rookie of the Year honor, all in his first 12 IndyCar races in 2018. Race number 13 of his stellar rookie IndyCar season changed his life forever. Wickens was involved in an accident on lap 7 at Pocono Raceway, where he suffered a thoracic spinal fracture, spinal cord injury, neck fracture, tibia and fibula fractures to both legs, fractures in both hands, a fractured right forearm, fractured elbow, a concussion, four fractured ribs and a pulmonary contusion. Since the accident, Wickens’ perseverance and persistence has led to triumphant breakthroughs in his relentless regimes of physical rehabilitation and therapy that continues daily. Wickens and his team of therapists and trainers have become trailblazers in developing innovative technology and treatment methods for the spinal cord injury community.

The #33 Hyundai Elantra N TCR has been fitted with a custom hand-control system designed by BHA Technical Director David Brown and Development Technician Jonathan Gormley. The system features a custom metal ring connected to the brake pedal by a series of rods specifically tailored to the Elantra. The ring is attached behind the steering wheel that is pulled with fingers to activate the brake. Two linked throttle paddles and shift paddles, all attached behind the steering wheel, allow the driver to accelerate, shift and make steering inputs. The system also features a switch for Mark Wilkins when he takes over the cockpit in pitstops that deactivates the hand throttle. The Elantra will accelerate and brake using the traditional foot pedals when Wilkins is driving.

Wickens and Wilkins join the previously announced 2022 BHA driver lineup featuring six Elantra N TCR entries to defend the team’s trifecta of series titles, and they will vie for Hyundai’s third straight manufacturers title. The 2022 season kicks off with the season opening test days, the “Roar Before the Rolex 24,” at Daytona International Speedway, Jan. 21-23, 2022. Round one of the 2022 IMPC season takes place the following weekend with the BMW Endurance Challenge, a four-hour race during the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona race weekend on Friday, Jan. 28, 2022.

Hyundai Motor America

Hyundai Motor America focuses on ‘Progress for Humanity’ and smart mobility solutions. Hyundai offers U.S. consumers a technology-rich lineup of cars, SUVs and electrified vehicles. Our 820 dealers sold more than 738,000 vehicles in the U.S. in 2021, and nearly half were built at Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama. For more information, visit

A Great Day for Two Good Guys

It’s only Wednesday and the emotions in the Indycar family have been riding a roller coaster since Sunday. The joy of Pato o’Ward’s victory was tempered with the news of Bobby Unser’s death. But yesterday, two of the nicest guys in the paddock had great days. Robert Wickens drove a car at speed for the first time since his horrific crash at Pocono in 2018. Stefan Wilson confirmed he has a ride for the Indianapolis 500.

Wickens Return Highlights Indycar iRace at Barber

Robert Wickens returns to the cockpit although virtually today. No matter. It will be great to see him on “track.” The race is at 2:30 pm ET and also on NBC sports.c and the NBC Sports app.

Here is Wickens’tweet from yesterday:


Toronto Preview

Photo from Alexander Rossi’s Twitter feed

Summer break is over. The NTT Indycar series points battle returns this weekend in Toronto. This is the 34th running of the series on the streets of Exhibition Place. The event began in 1986 and except for 2008 has run continuously.  The weekend has the feel of the Indianapolis 500 to it. The course layout has changed over the years  due to construction. It is a narrow track which makes qualifying very important and  perfect pit stops almost mandatory.

We are near the point of the season where a good points finish matters almost as much, if not more, than winning. Josef Newgarden leads Alexander Rossi by just seven points. Simon Pagenaud is 61points behind, and Scott Dixon trails by 94. Of the top four Rossi and Dixon are the two who most need to win Sunday. Rossi needs the victory to tie Newgarden with firsts this season.  Rossi would then hold the tiebreaker with three second place finishes should he and Newgarden end the season tied.

Dixon’s only chance to defend his series title is to win as many of the seven races left as he can. A deficit of nearly 100 points is difficult to make up, but Dixon is known for his second half strength.  Toronto was the last of his three victories last season. Dixon has won at Toronto three times. He swept the double header here in 2013.

Team Penske drivers Newgarden and Will Power have won three of the last four races and three of the last four poles. newgarden has won twice. Power, Newgarden, and Pagenaud have each won a Toronto pole since 2015. Dixon broke up the Penske pole party in 2016.  Since 2009 only Dario Franchitti (2009), Dixon (2013), and Sebastien Bourdais (2014)  have won the race from the pole.

The Honda Indy Toronto race has never been caution free. I don’t think Sunday’s race will break that tradition.  Pit strategy will be a big factor in the race. Newgarden and Tim Cindric have won three times this season playing pit strategy  perfectly. The breaks could fall their way again. In Rossi’s dominant win at Road America, his last pit stop was earlier than the first two. In other races Rossi had seemed to stick to a plan regardless of the situation. That early stop might mean the team is going to be more flexible should the situation warrant.

Qualifying is key at Toronto. The winner will likely come from the Firestone fast Six group.  In 2001 Michael Andretti won from 13th, the farthest back the winner has started. Newgarden started from the pole last year and seemed to be in control of the race. He went wide on a restart and hit the inside wall, allowing Dixon to take the lead and the victory.

Spotlight on the Canadian Duo

A Canadian will triumph before the race begins. Robert Wickens, severely injured in a crash at pocono last August, will drive the parade lap in a modified Acura NSX. Wickens has worked extremely hard on his recovery. He is still a long way from competing again, but his progress has been amazing. This might be the most watched parade lap in series history.

Note to NBC: We’ve seen the crash; we don’t need to see it Sunday. Thanks in advance.

Hometown hero James Hinchcliffe, Wickens teammate,  just missed the podium last year, finishing fourth. He has been on the podium  here, but has had some mixed results. A Hinchcliffe win would cap an amazing day for the two Canadian drivers.

Don’t Bet Against the Front Runners

Newgarden has won two street races on strategy. Rossi has won one in a powerful statement race, although that turned out to be a preview of Road America. Rossi also has finished second on a street course. Toronto is similar to Detroit, where Rossi and Newgarden made up the front row.

I think the race comes down to a battle between these two, but I also wouldn’t count out Pagenaud or Dixon. Last year there were three full course yellows, all in the first half of the race. A late yellow coukld completely change the complexion of the race.

I’m going with Rossi to make it two wins in a row. In 2018 Rossi won back to back races at Mid Ohio and Pocono.




Wickens to Drive Parade Lap at Toronto

Big news from Robert Wickens this morning.  It will be great to see him behind the wheel. I hope we don’t have to see numerous replays of the crash beforehand on NBCSN.  Back later with some thoughts on other things.