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.

IndyCar teams with NASCAR on IMS road course doubleheader in 2021

IndyCar NASCAR doubleheader 2021
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
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The NTT IndyCar Series will be sharing Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the NASCAR Cup Series in a race weekend doubleheader for the second consecutive season, but both series will be on the road course in August 2021.

IMS announced Wednesday that IndyCar will hold an Aug. 14, 2021 race on its 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course. It’ll be a day before NASCAR’s premier series runs the same layout for the first time after the Brickyard 400 was contested on the 2.5-mile oval for the first time in 27 years.

This season’s rescheduling of the IndyCar GMR Grand Prix to July 4, 2019 (a day before the Brickyard 400) led to the first NASCAR-IndyCar doubleheader weekend. The Xfinity Series also raced on the IMS road course for the first time July 4 after the IndyCar race ended.

INDYCAR AT IMS THIS WEEKEND: Harvest GP schedule, entry lists

IndyCar will be holding its second race weekend this year at the IMS road course Friday and Saturday with the Harvest GP.

“Our first NASCAR-INDYCAR weekend was a big success last July, with positive feedback from
our loyal fans who watched the races on NBC and from the drivers, teams and participants
involved,” IMS president Douglas Boles said in a statement. “The Xfinity Series’ debut on the IMS road course provided exactly the kind of thrilling action from the green to checkered flags that we anticipated, so we know the teams and drivers of the Cup Series will put on a great show as they turn left and right for the first time at IMS.

“We can’t wait to welcome back fans to see NASCAR and INDYCAR together during this
exciting weekend as we add another memorable chapter in the long, storied history of the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

It also will mark the first NASCAR Cup-IndyCar doubleheader with a crowd as fans weren’t permitted at IMS in July because of the novel coronvavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Over the course of Wednesday, NASCAR is releasing its 36-race slate for next season. IndyCar has yet to release its full 2021 schedule.