Great news: Robert Wickens improves, breathing without assistance and is speaking

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Schmidt Peterson Motorsports issued a statement early this evening on the medical condition of race car driver Robert Wickens.

And the news is very encouraging.

“For the first time following his Aug. 19 incident at Pocono Raceway, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver Robert Wickens is breathing without medical assistance and speaking with his family,” the statement read.

Wickens was seriously injured in a Lap 7 crash of this past Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 at Pocono. His car made contact with the car of Ryan Hunter-Reay, flew up into the Turn 2 catchfence, spun in mid-air several times before coming down on the racetrack and ending up against the inner retaining wall.

Wickens was airlifted by helicopter to Lehigh Valley Hospital – Cedar Crest in Allentown, Pa., where he has undergone at least two surgeries and remains hospitalized in stable condition.

Jay Frye, IndyCar President of Competition and Operations, told NBCSN:

“Obviously, our thoughts and prayers are with Robby and his family, that’s our No. 1 concern. We’re here for them, however we can help them through the entire process.

“In regards to the car, we’re very encouraged by the way the car held up, but not satisfied. We’re never going to be satisfied when one of our drivers is hurt. Safety is our No. 1 priority and as long as that happens, we’re going to keep getting after it.”

Wickens’ No. 6 car was withdrawn from tonight’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Illinois.

Teammate James Hinchcliffe, who was also involved in the Wickens’ crash, is racing in tonight’s event and is wearing compression gloves to protect a fractured left ring finger and soreness in both hands.

“They’re a little sore and swollen, but they feel great in the race car,” Hinchcliffe told NBCSN. “They’ll be sore and swollen at the end of the race, but at the end of the day, not too bad.

“I think we’re going to be okay tonight.”

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Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”