IndyCar: Pocono race resumes after bad crash puts Robert Wickens in hospital

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UPDATE 6 (4:30 p.m. ET): After a roughly two-hour red flag race stoppage, the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway has resumed on Lap 13 of the scheduled 200-lap event.

UPDATE 5 (4:24 p.m. ET): Engines have refired and drivers have begun driving back onto the racetrack. IndyCar Race Control said there will be four laps around the track before the green flag falls again for the third time today. Alexander Rossi is scored in the lead, followed by Will Power, Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud, Zach Veach, Sebastien Bourdais, Scott Dixon, Ed Jones, Ed Carpenter and Marco Andretti.

UPDATE 4 (4:20 p.m. ET): Drivers have climbed back in their cars. The race is expected to restart in the next 5-10 minutes, according to IndyCar Race Control.

UPDATE 3 (3:05 p.m. ET): According to a report, James Hinchcliffe has apparently left the racetrack and is headed to the hospital to be with Robert Wickens, his Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammate and best friend. Hinchcliffe declined to be interviewed on NBCSN about the circumstances of the crash that involved Wickens, Hinchcliffe and three other drivers.

UPDATE 2 (2:53 p.m. ET): IndyCar officials say the repairs to the catchfence will take at least another 30 minutes. Also, James Hinchcliffe, Takuma Sato, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Pietro Fittipaldi have all been cleared and released from the infield medical care center.

UPDATE 1 (3:20 p.m. ET): Curt Cavin, IndyCar Vice President of Communications, has spoken to media and said this:

“Robert Wickens was awake and alert when he came here (infield medical center) and is being transported to Lehigh Valley Cedar Crest Hospital in Allentown (Pa.) for evaluation. We’ll have more updates later. That’s where we stand.”

Original story follows:

A major crash involving Robert Wickens, Ryan Hunter-Reay, James Hinchcliffe, Takuma Sato and Pietro Fittipaldi has caused a stoppage of the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway.

Contact was made on Lap 8 of the scheduled 200 laps when, shortly after a restart and coming out of Turn 2, Wickens and Hunter-Reay touched wheels. Wickens’ car climbed and went up into the fence and spun several times in mid-air before coming to rest against the inside retaining wall.

Hinchcliffe then hit Wickens’ car as it came back onto the track.

It took safety crews about 12 minutes to extricate Wickens from his damaged vehicle. He was then taken by ambulance and transported into the infield care center in the paddock area, where he subsequently was put into a helicopter to take him to a local hospital.

The fence incurred major damage that will take a lengthy period of time — IndyCar officials said it will take at least an hour in duration — and rain is approaching the area, as well.

Hinchcliffe exited his car under his own power but was seen holding his wrists and walking gingerly to a safety vehicle.

Fittipaldi appeared uninjured, as did Hunter-Reay and Sato.

“I’m okay, just thinking about Robert,” Hunter-Reay told NBCSN. “It’s unfortunate but I just hope Robert is okay. I started pulling ahead and once we got to (Turn) 2 … I thought I had got past him.”

Added Sato to NBCSN, “It’s just unfortunate. My helmet was completely covered in oil and I couldn’t see anything. … It’s just a real pity.”

“He’s fine, he didn’t hit that hard,” team owner Michael Andretti said of Hunter-Reay to NBCSN. “I think Robert should have backed out of it. He was only halfway on Ryan’s side. … He was in Ryan’s blind spot so Ryan didn’t see him.”

It was the second wreck of the race. Graham Rahal and Spencer Pigot tangled as the field was coming to the green flag start of the race. The ensuing clean-up took seven laps to clean.

Several fellow race car drivers and fans took to social media out of concern for Wickens:

We’ll continue to update this story as more information becomes available.

 

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Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”