Wickens returns to race track 6 months after frightening crash

Mario Andretti greets Robert Wickens on the pit lane in his return to the race track in St. Petersburg, Fla. (Courtesy: IndyCar Series/Chris Jones)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Robert Wickens is back at a race track just six months after suffering a severe spinal cord injury in a horrific crash at Pocono Raceway.

The Canadian driver traveled to St. Petersburg for the 2019 IndyCar Series opener this weekend.  He spent the first practice session of the new season visiting with race teams and fans.

“It’s been amazing.  I was expecting a lot of support, but it’s already gone way out of what I expected it would be,” Wickens said of returning to the paddock for the first time since the accident.  “I thought the fans would be more focused on the race cars, like I would have been when I was a fan attending a race, but all they seemed to care about was me and everyone was cheering my name.”

Wickens has been rehabbing four to six hours a day, six days a week in Colorado.  He says he’s getting better every day, but it’s still a long road.

“You feel like you’re on that road trip and it’s that one-hundred-mile road that’s a straight line the entire time without any scenery,” said Wickens. “You’re just working as hard as you can to get to the end, but we’re getting there.”

Despite the severity of his injury, Wickens says his dream is to get back into an IndyCar one day because racing is the only thing he’s ever known.

“Yeah, 100 percent,” Wickens said.  “The goal is to get back into an IndyCar.  We won’t know until I try it to see if it’s a reality.  There’s been so many remarkable drivers that have succeeded with hand controls in motorsports that it makes me believe that regardless of how my progression goes, I will be in a race car again.  It’s just a matter of which car.”

However, Wickens’ immediate goal is to be able to dance with his fiancée Karli Woods at their wedding.

“Even what I did before, it was hard to call dancing,” Wickens joked.  “Even if I stand perfectly straight, I can wiggle my upper body a little bit.  What defines dancing?  That’s the big thing.  If we can both stand there looking awkwardly at each other for three minutes, that would be pretty good.”

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