IndyCar teams affected by governor’s ‘Stay at Home’ order through April 7

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Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb has issued a “Stay at Home” order for the entire state beginning Wednesday, March 25 through April 7. That will effectively shut down IndyCar Series teams from working at the shop for an extra week as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be addressed.

“The next two weeks are critical if we are to slow the spread of COVID-19, and we must slow the spread. You must be part of the solution, not the problem,” Gov. Holcomb said during a live address Monday afternoon televised throughout the state.

Holcomb has ordered that all residents of Indiana remain in their homes except when working for essential businesses or for ‘permitted activities, such as taking care of others, obtaining necessary supplies, and for health and safety.’

“Essential businesses and services include but are not limited to grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, police stations, fire stations, hospitals, doctor’s offices, health care facilities, garbage pickup, public transit, and public service hotlines such as SNAP and HIP 2.0,” according to the Governor’s executive order.

This decision is important to IndyCar Series teams and vendors as they currently do not fall under the “essential business” category. The majority of teams in the NTT IndyCar Series are based in the Indianapolis area and will be impacted by this order. Team Penske is in Mooresville, North Carolina, and Dale Coyne Racing is in Plainfield, Illinois.

Teams in IndyCar already had shut down after returning from the canceled St. Petersburg street race last week. Several, including Chip Ganassi Racing, A.J. Foyt Racing and Dale Coyne Racing, had announced they would re-open on March 30 prior to Governor Holcomb’s announcement.

The Indiana Governor’s executive orders mean those operations will remain closed for at least another week. Teams have told NBCSports.com that some of the engineering and simulation work is being done while staff works from home.

IndyCar and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway are moving forward with the intention of running the 104th Indianapolis 500 on May 24, provided the COVID-19 pandemic is under control by then.

NBCSports.com will update this developing story.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500 

Robert Wickens in the Indy 500? Bryan Herta making plans to field a car for next year

Robert Wickens Indy 500
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Bryan Herta wants to enter Robert Wickens in the Indy 500 as early as 2024 – a year longer than preferred as work continues on the hand controls needed for the paralyzed driver.

Wickens suffered a spinal cord injury in a crash at Pocono Raceway in his 2018 IndyCar rookie season. He’s worked as a driver coach for the Arrow McLaren IndyCar team since, but last year with Bryan Herta Autosport and Hyundai returned to racing in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.

The 33-year-old Canadian won a pair of races (including the season opener at Daytona) driving a Hyundai Elantra N-TCR that is fitted for Wickens to race strictly through hand controls. Herta said Thursday that perfecting that technology for an Indy car in the biggest race in the world has slowed the project he’s determined to do with Wickens.

‘I’M AS HUNGRY AS EVER’: Robert Wickens’ return to racing

“I’d love to take Robbie back to Indy because I know he could do that, and I think that would be a next step for him in his journey,” Herta told The Associated Press. “We’ve spent a lot of time looking at the logistical side of things, hand controls, and I think we have solutions for that.”

Herta said Honda has been supportive of the process, which Herta called “one of the most important things we’ve done in racing” last year.

“We actually looked at doing it this year, but the logistics of it, the timing, it just wasn’t enough,” Herta said. “That’s not something you can rush. There’s some things that we have to work very closely with IndyCar on, and things we just have to get right. It’s a process, but I can see a path to it.”

Wickens, when told his boss was openly discussing the Indy 500, grinned widely. Herta as a team owner won the Indianapolis 500 with Dan Wheldon and Alexander Rossi.

“That’d be fun,” he said of running the Indy 500.

But like Herta, Wickens said the effort has to be both done correctly and be competitive.

“We’d like to do it right. If we started right now, can we get a car ready for the open test in April? Probably,” Wickens told The AP. “But I don’t know where the systems would be and I want to get on proper simulators to make sure its correct.

“We all want to do a proper, professional effort,” he added. “I don’t want to do it for a marketing campaign. I want to do it for a chance to win.”

Wickens in 2021 did a demonstration in Canada that marketed advancements for paralyzed drivers and gave him a chance to again drive. His entire life had been upended 14 races into his rookie IndyCar season, just three months after winning top rookie honors at the Indianapolis 500.

Wickens has since married, returned to racing last year and welcomed the birth of his first child, an son named Wesley whom is infatuated with both race cars and the trip to Disney he took this week during the off days at Daytona International Speedway.

Wickens, who uses a wheelchair but can stand with some support, marks a full year back racing on Friday in the season-opening IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race. Despite success last season, Herta made changes to his lineups and Wickens this year will be teamed with Harry Gottsacker.