IndyCar team owner Bryan Herta to be honored with FIA Americas Award

Leave a comment

IndyCar team owner and former driver Bryan Herta will be honored this Saturday with the FIA Americas Award in Panama City, Panama.

The award was established in 2008, and this year’s Awards Gala will have 29 countries represented, with each country receiving both national and continental awards.

Herta was nominated for the award by the Skip Barber Racing School, where he got his initial start in pro racing back in 1990.

“We are excited for the opportunity to highlight an outstanding race car driver and team owner in Bryan Herta,” Skip Barber CEO Michael Culver said, according to a story on Racer.com. “He is an exceptional individual who possesses admirable traits of perseverance, passion and determination.

“He continues to influence the motorsports world and will do so for a very long time. Bryan is very deserving of this award and we’re thrilled for him.”

Herta began racing with the Skip Barber program in 1990, winning in both the Formula Ford and Saab Pro Series. He won the Indy Lights championship in 1993 before moving full-time to IndyCar.

Herta competed in the Indianapolis 500 five times, with three top-10 finishes and a career-best third-place finish in the 2005 edition of the 500.

Herta stepped away from an active driver’s role and formed his own race team, Bryan Herta Autosport. The team won the 2011 Indianapolis 500 with Dan Wheldon behind the wheel.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Robert Wickens views iRacing debut as major milestone in recovery efforts

Dana Garrett/IndyCar
Leave a comment

This Saturday afternoon will mark an important milestone in the recovery efforts of Robert Wickens.

For the first time since the summer of 2018, the popular Canadian will race against his fellow NTT IndyCar Series competitors – virtually at least – in the second race of the INDYCAR’s iRacing Challenge at virtual Barber Motorsports Park.

Wickens’ entry in the virtual race is another positive step in his recovery efforts after he sustained a spinal cord injury in an Aug. 19, 2018 crash at Pocono Raceway.

“I’m just excited to drive something,” Wickens said in a Friday teleconference. “Last night was the first time I’ve driven any form of race car since the accident at Pocono. Even though it’s virtual, it still felt pretty good.”

While Wickens is excited to make his first iRacing start, his debut was delayed by a week because he wanted to make sure he had the proper equipment before getting started.

“Simulation was always step number one for me. But unfortunately, through one reason or another, it was very challenging to basically do it right,” Wickens said. “I didn’t want to purchase an Amazon setup and try to learn on that. I wanted to build a good foundation that you can evolve from because I see this as a great training tool for me to make my hand control second nature.”

Wickens withdrew from last week’s event after not receiving the equipment he needed in time. A group of members from the motorsport community headed by Max Papis attempted to overnight Wickens all the necessary equipment, but unfortunately, the package did not arrive at his home until Thursday. He will use a wheel provided by McLaren this weekend.

Regardless, Wickens appreciates the efforts made by Papis and others.

“I think I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, but the fact that I have so many people supporting me on my return to this is amazing,” Wickens said. “When Max found out that I was in the market for a steering wheel, he jumped on and just got to work. He actually had already been doing stuff in the background that I wasn’t even aware of. He already had the hardware in his shop. I guess he was just waiting for me to reach out.

“He’s such a good guy. He’s a competitor at heart and although he’s retired from the cockpit, I think he sees his entrepreneurship as a new form of competition. He wants to be the best in the industry and he works hard, and I think he’s doing a great job.”

Wickens admits that with such little time to practice and a temporary wheel, he has a steep learning curve ahead of him. Nonetheless, he views iRacing as an important part of his recovery efforts.

“I always knew that through simulation was going to be the best way to try all the different handbrake configurations or paddle configurations so this is really just step one of 100 to get me back into the NTT IndyCar Series,” Wickens said. 

Some of Wicken’s fellow IndyCar competitors are also happy he will compete in this weekend’s race.

“It’s been great watching his progress,” said Will Power. “I think that like he said, his first step was to get back into a sim. It’s pretty cool that he’s actually able to get on and compete in a competition.”

Graham Rahal is another driver who is excited to race against Wickens again. Both drivers have been competing against each other since go-karts.

“To see his determination, to see his recovery process, to see his mentality and the way he’s thought through this is admirable but is not surprising from him if you’ve known him for a long time,” Rahal said. “I can tell you from going to see him in the hospital pretty early on after the accident that the destination was always there. He’s a guy who just from day one was committed to getting back on his feet and to getting back in a race car. It’s great to have him out here competing with us.”

Coverage of race two of the inaugural INDYCAR iRacing Challenge from virtual Barber Motorsports Park airs live Saturday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter @michaele1994