Charlie Kimball crash cuts final warmup short for IndyCar at Barber

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The Chip Ganassi Racing garage at Barber Motorsports Park is likely a very busy place at the moment after Charlie Kimball’s crash halfway through this morning’s warmup for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.

The Chip Ganassi Racing driver, who qualified 17th for today’s 90-lap Verizon IndyCar Series race (2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra), lost control of the No. 83 Novo Nordisk Chevrolet in the Turn 12-13 complex and backed hard into the nearby tire barriers.

INDYCAR has confirmed that Kimball was checked at the infield care center and then cleared to drive.

The impact not only left significant damage to Kimball’s car, but also brought the 30-minute session to an end under red flag conditions with Josef Newgarden’s time of 1:09.2469 (119.572 mph) serving as the fastest.

“I feel badly for the guys, because they’ve worked hard all weekend trying to get me a good car,” Kimball told the IMS Radio Network. “We didn’t quite get there in qualifying – we’re still figuring that out – but I think we have a good race car. I have complete faith in those guys, they’ll get it back together.

“Unfortunately, it’s not the mentality we want to be having going into [today], getting ready for the race. But I think we’ll be in good shape.”

Helio Castroneves was second-quickest in warmup with a time of 1:09.3458, followed by defending Barber race champion Ryan Hunter-Reay in third (1:09.3464).

Juan Pablo Montoya was fourth in the session at 1:09.5179, and today’s pole sitter and current Verizon IndyCar Series points leader Will Power completed the Top 5 (1:09.5320).

Rain is in the forecast for today’s race, with a 60 percent chance of the wet stuff this afternoon in the Birmingham region.

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 later tweeted about the possibility of racing the Indy 500 and said his goal was “always to get back to the top level of motorsport” whether it’s IndyCar or IMSA.

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.