ARCA: Justin Allison continues family tradition, wins at Pocono

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The next generation of stock car racing’s fabled Alabama Gang has now officially arrived.

Justin Allison, grandson of 10-time Sprint Cup race winner Donnie Allison, captured his first checkered flag in the ARCA Racing Series today in the ModSpace 125 at Pocono Raceway.

With the victory, Allison is now the third member of his prestigious family to win in the ARCA series. The late Davey Allison won eight times in the series, while 1983 Sprint Cup champion Bobby Allison earned a single win.

“I don’t even have words, man,” a stunned Justin told Fox Sports in Victory Lane. “I think we had a good car – we were struggling a little bit with being tight. But I can’t thank these guys enough. Without them, it wouldn’t be possible…This is awesome.”

Allison inherited the lead late in the 50-lap event, but still had to fend off the pursuit of Will Kimmel on the final lap.

Kimmel was on the same fuel strategy as Allison, rising up to second after leaders Brendan Poole and Justin Boston pitted under green before Lap 40 (ARCA rules require all cars to pit at least once before the race reaches 10 laps to go).

Tom Hessert also benefited from the strategy and moved up to third, which is where he’d finish ahead of Poole and Boston in fourth and fifth.

The call was made to bring Allison to the pits after a couple of cautions marred the early going. Allison may have been surprised by it, but he wasn’t about to argue with the result.

“That was definitely the right call,” Allison said. “We didn’t talk about it or plan to pit early, but all of a sudden, when the caution came out, they were like ‘Pit now, pit now.’

“I’m happy with the way things worked out.”

The victory drew congratulations from many in the stock car community, including Davey’s widow, Liz Allison, and Dale Earnhardt Jr., who worked for the Allisons while growing up.

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.