Robert Wickens received a great present to lift his spirits Wednesday when he was named 2018 Sunoco IndyCar Rookie of the Year.
Wickens remains in IU Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, recovering from serious injuries suffered in a crash at Pocono Raceway on August 19. He has undergone surgeries to his spinal column, right arm and both lower legs and is still being treated for a spinal cord injury.
Despite the fact he will ultimately wind up missing the last three races of the season (plus did not finish Pocono due to being flown by helicopter to a hospital for treatment of his injuries), the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver received ROY honors because he leads fellow rookie Zach Veach by 110 points, with a maximum of 104 points available for the Sept. 16 season finale at Sonoma Raceway.
The driver of the No. 6 Lucas Oil Honda, Wickens had an outstanding season prior to his accident. The 29-year-old native of Toronto, Canada, made 14 starts and amassed seven top-five finishes including four podiums (runner-up finishes at Phoenix and Mid-Ohio, and third-place showings in the Indianapolis Grand Prix and in his native Toronto). He also earned the pole in his IndyCar debut at St. Petersburg in the season opener.
He also received Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors for finishing ninth in his first-ever Indianapolis 500.
“When Robert joined this team, we had the highest expectations set for him to achieve,” SPM co-owners Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson said in a joint statement released Wednesday. “Having Robert clinch the Sunoco Rookie of the Year with one race left on the 2018 calendar after missing the last three races, it’s just a testament to how hard he’s worked this season to set him up for a strong finish.
“The dedication, effort and energy he puts into his race craft, working with the team and his teammates, and all the above-and-beyond work he’s put in with our partners and the fans, we couldn’t ask for a better addition.
“We are proud of all that Robert has achieved this season, and we look forward to welcoming him back upon his full recovery. The No. 6 entry will be there waiting for him whenever he’s ready.”
Wickens is best friends with SPM teammate James Hinchcliffe. The two have known each other since they started racing go-karts together at around the age of 10 in their native Canada.
Even with having missed most of Pocono, as well as Gateway and Portland, Wickens remains fifth among all series drivers in laps led (187). He led 69 laps and almost won at St. Pete before being involved in a late-race crash with Alexander Rossi.