Penalties pepper Long Beach qualifying (VIDEO)

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You wouldn’t expect to find Marco Andretti, Justin Wilson, Scott Dixon and Oriol Servia in the last four positions on the starting grid. But immediately after qualifying concluded for the IZOD IndyCar Series’ Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, that was the case.

Dixon spun in Turn 1 and left Servia nowhere to go (above). The Panther DRR team appealed Servia’s penalty, and the penalty was rescinded. The Catalan was reinstated in 18th place on the 27-car grid, although that meant Dixon (below) would be relegated to the back of the field.

IndyCar explained the penalties issued to Andretti and Dixon in a news bulletin issued Saturday.

“If a Car interferes with qualifications as determined by the Race Director:

If the violation occurs during Segment One or Segment Two, the Car’s best two timed laps during the segment shall be disallowed, the Car shall not advance to the next segment (8.3.7).”

As for Dixon: “If a Car causes a Red Condition in any segment or otherwise interferes with qualifications as determined by the Race Director, the Car’s best two timed laps of the segment shall be disallowed (8.3.5).”

Andretti was mainly diplomatic in his taking the penalty in an interview with IMS Radio.

“Our car was way better than that,” he admitted. “There were four cars that held me up, too. But it’s what you expect on a 1.9 mile track. I’m definitely frustrated. They shortened the race so strategy’s off. We’re going to have to push like hell.”

Wilson’s team had not properly affixed stickers to the rear wing, and was unable to complete a timed lap.

“It seems like we have to have a sticker on the rear wing, so we had to put it on during qualifying,” he told IMS Radio. “We got the checkered on out lap. It’s unfortunate. We’ll need to see what we can do in the race. I’m not sure what’s meant to go on or why the breakdown in communication.”

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Robert Wickens in the Indy 500? Bryan Herta making plans to field a car for next year

Robert Wickens Indy 500
Brett Farmer/LAT Images/IMSA
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Bryan Herta wants to enter Robert Wickens in the Indy 500 as early as 2024 – a year longer than preferred as work continues on the hand controls needed for the paralyzed driver.

Wickens suffered a spinal cord injury in a crash at Pocono Raceway in his 2018 IndyCar rookie season. He’s worked as a driver coach for the Arrow McLaren IndyCar team since, but last year with Bryan Herta Autosport and Hyundai returned to racing in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.

The 33-year-old Canadian won a pair of races (including the season opener at Daytona) driving a Hyundai Elantra N-TCR that is fitted for Wickens to race strictly through hand controls. Herta said Thursday that perfecting that technology for an Indy car in the biggest race in the world has slowed the project he’s determined to do with Wickens.

‘I’M AS HUNGRY AS EVER’: Robert Wickens’ return to racing

“I’d love to take Robbie back to Indy because I know he could do that, and I think that would be a next step for him in his journey,” Herta told The Associated Press. “We’ve spent a lot of time looking at the logistical side of things, hand controls, and I think we have solutions for that.”

Herta said Honda has been supportive of the process, which Herta called “one of the most important things we’ve done in racing” last year.

“We actually looked at doing it this year, but the logistics of it, the timing, it just wasn’t enough,” Herta said. “That’s not something you can rush. There’s some things that we have to work very closely with IndyCar on, and things we just have to get right. It’s a process, but I can see a path to it.”

Wickens, when told his boss was openly discussing the Indy 500, grinned widely. Herta as a team owner won the Indianapolis 500 with Dan Wheldon and Alexander Rossi.

“That’d be fun,” he said of running the Indy 500.

But like Herta, Wickens said the effort has to be both done correctly and be competitive.

“We’d like to do it right. If we started right now, can we get a car ready for the open test in April? Probably,” Wickens told The AP. “But I don’t know where the systems would be and I want to get on proper simulators to make sure its correct.

“We all want to do a proper, professional effort,” he added. “I don’t want to do it for a marketing campaign. I want to do it for a chance to win.”

Wickens in 2021 did a demonstration in Canada that marketed advancements for paralyzed drivers and gave him a chance to again drive. His entire life had been upended 14 races into his rookie IndyCar season, just three months after winning top rookie honors at the Indianapolis 500.

Wickens has since married, returned to racing last year and welcomed the birth of his first child, an son named Wesley whom is infatuated with both race cars and the trip to Disney he took this week during the off days at Daytona International Speedway.

Wickens, who uses a wheelchair but can stand with some support, marks a full year back racing on Friday in the season-opening IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race. Despite success last season, Herta made changes to his lineups and Wickens this year will be teamed with Harry Gottsacker.