Watch Robert Wickens make big return to driver’s seat (Video)

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The Honda Indy Toronto started off with a bang.

Robert Wickens returned to the driver’s seat for the first time in public since the August 2018 crash at Pocono that severely injured his spinal cord and left him paralyzed from the waist down.

He drove his fiancee Karli Woods in a 1.786-mile parade lap with ease, thanks in part to a modified Acura NSX with special hand controls. Then, Wickens gave the command for the drivers to start their engines—“future drivers of mine, start your engines!”⁠—before taking another parade lap.

Simon Pagenaud holds off Scott Dixon to win Honda Indy Toronto

Wickens, who has been very public about his recovery via social media, was met with cheers from fans all around the 11-turn course in Toronto. After taking practice laps ahead of Toronto, Wickens detailed his recovery to NBC Sports, talking about how he’s slowly regaining feeling in his lower body and still plans to dance at his wedding later this year.

During Lap 7 of the 2018 ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway, Wickens made contact with Ryan Hunter-Reay and was sent spinning into the catchfence. He was taken off the track by an ambulance and was immediately airlifted to a hospital 45 minutes away.

It was later announced that he suffered a neck fracture, fractures in both legs, fractures in both hands, fractured forearm, fractured elbow, fractured ribs, pulmonary contusion, thoracic spinal fracture and a spinal cord injury.

Back in March, Wickens made an appearance at the IndyCar season opener in his quest for the “greatest spinal cord recovery in history.”

‘I’m going to come back’: Robert Wickens discusses his recovery

“I don’t care what I have to do. I don’t care how hard I have to work. I’m going to come back,” he told NBC Sports ahead of St. Petersburg.

Almost a year after Pocono, Wickens maintains his enthusiasm and determination.

“This is just Phase One of many more phases to come,” Wickens said.

Kyle Busch happy with first stint: ‘Put me in the car, there’s excitement!’

AP Photo/Terry Renna
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The Rolex 24 at Daytona debut of the “KB Show” was cut short by a strategy maneuver but still delivered drama and a positive result.

Kyle Busch got the No. 14 RCF GT3 Lexus back on the lead lap and back in contention for a GTD victory at Daytona International Speedway.

“It was good,” Kyle Busch said with a broad smile after a 42-minute stint. “Just, uh, shit, put me in the car, and there’s excitement around! Drove all my way back to the lead lap and everything.

“Overall, we’ve had a good experience and hell I only got one stint in, so I’m ready for more. Sign me up, coach!”

The two-time Cup champion was expected to drive for at least 90 minutes, but the first full-course caution of the race (with 19 hours and 16 minutes remaining) caused AIM Vasser Sullivan to change up its drive plan. Busch was called to the pits in favor of Parker Chase.

“With all the strategy and the way the wave-bys work here, it’s quite different than what we’re accustomed to (in NASCAR),” said Busch, who likely will drive longer now later in the race. “That wasn’t bad. To get ourselves back on the lead lap and back to a position where we can start scrapping again hopefully is what we needed.

“So I got one stint in, but I’m trying to save myself and (teammate) Jack (Hawksworth) for a little later.”

Busch climbed into the car shortly after 6 p.m. as the last of the No. 14’s four drivers. He complained a few times on his radio about traffic, which he said was his biggest challenge.

“There were a couple of instances we ran down a smaller car, and (it was) just mirror driving in front of us,” he said. “That was pretty bad. We lost probably 2 seconds on that. Overall, I guess that’s road racing.

The yellow flag was exactly what Busch’s team needed after being forced to start from the rear of the field when it missed qualifying because of an engine change. Hawksworth, who started the race, said the car was “quick in the wrong places and slow in the right places” after struggling with handling and speed in the first stint.

“I don’t feel we’re out of it,” Hawksworth said. “It’s a very long race. Still early days. We need to work on having speed for the end of the race. The position right now doesn’t really make any difference. We’ll need to find some performance at the end of the race to fight for the win.”