IndyCarRobert Wickens, left, and teammate James Hinchcliffe attend a pre-race autograph session prior to Sunday's race at Pocono Raceway. Photo:

IndyCar: Robert Wickens recovering from spinal cord surgery; severity of injury uncertain

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Verizon IndyCar Series driver Robert Wickens is recovering from successful spinal surgery performed Monday evening in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

A team of doctors at Lehigh Valley Hospital – Cedar Crest operated on Wickens to stabilize a thoracic spinal fracture associated with a spinal cord injury, according to a statement released this morning by IndyCar officials.

Titanium rods and screws were successfully placed in Wickens’ spine during the surgery.

However, according to the IndyCar statement, “the severity of the spinal cord injury is indeterminate at this time.”

The statement added, “Wickens is expected to undergo further surgeries to treat fractures in his lower extremities and right forearm. He remains in stable condition.”

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Wickens was injured in a high-speed crash during the early stages of Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway. Wickens’ car touched wheels with the car of fellow competitor Ryan Hunter-Reay, sending Wickens’ car airborne and into the catchfence at the end of Turn 2.

Wickens’ car then spun several times in mid-air before landing on the racetrack and eventually coming to rest along the inside retaining wall.

It took rescue workers more than 12 minutes to carefully extricate Wickens from the mangled vehicle. He was immediately transported via helicopter to Lehigh Valley Hospital– Cedar Crest, about 45 minutes away from Pocono Raceway.

The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver is in his rookie season on the IndyCar circuit after a lengthy racing career in Europe.

Here is the full update statement from IndyCar:

Medical update on Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver Robert Wickens

ALLENTOWN, Pennsylvania (Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018) – Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver Robert Wickens underwent surgery Monday, Aug. 20 at Lehigh Valley Hospital – Cedar Crest to stabilize a thoracic spinal fracture associated with a spinal cord injury sustained during the INDYCAR event at Pocono Raceway on Sunday, Aug. 19.

“Titanium rods and screws were placed successfully in Wickens’ spine during the surgery, which was performed without complication.

“The severity of the spinal cord injury is indeterminate at this time.

“Wickens is expected to undergo further surgeries to treat fractures in his lower extremities and right forearm. He remains in stable condition.

“Further updates will be provided when available.”

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Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry.

The idea of Hamilton attending the season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).