Robert Wickens returns to race in his native Canada, seeking another IMSA victory


Robert Wickens last weekend used hand controls in an IMSA sports car race for his first victory since a 2018 spinal cord injury temporarily ended his racing career.

In England, former IndyCar driver Sam Schmidt completed the hill climb at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in a special McLaren 720S Spider. The car was modified by Arrow Electronics, primary sponsor of the Arrow McLaren SP IndyCar team, so that Schmidt, a quadriplegic since a 2000 crash, could use a straw-like “sip and puff” device to accelerate and brake.

Also at Goodwood, motorcycle racer Wayne Rainey rode the same bike he used while winning his final championship in 1992. Rainey was paralyzed from the chest down in a 1993 crash, and the modifications to his motorcycle include pseudo training wheels that allow him to ride using only his hands.

IMSA AT CTMP: Details for watching this weekend

“It was a great weekend for disability awareness,” Wickens said.

Schmidt and Rainey have been part of previous projects modifying vehicles they can pilot. Wickens’ situation is completely different in that he has returned to competition this year after thinking his career was over following his airborne IndyCar crash at Pocono nearly four years ago.

He drives a Hyundai Elantra N-TCR for Bryan Herta Autosport in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge that has been fitted with hand controls. He shares the car with co-driver Mark Wilkins, a fellow Canadian who closed out Saturday’s victory at Watkins Glen.

The duo debuted in January with a podium finish at the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“It’s like riding a bike, but it’s a very different bike, I guess is the best way to describe it,” Wickens said of racing with hand controls. “Racing has been my life since I was 7 years old. It’s something I worked very hard to get to the level I was at when I was racing in IndyCar in 2018.

“And after the accident, I just knew I had to work harder to try get back to that. I didn’t know what it would look like for me. I didn’t know if I could return straight into IndyCar or if I would have to start off in go-karts, like you do as a kid. The whole recovery just was a bit of an unknown.”

Because he needs to be physically carried out of the car during driver changes, he has not been behind the wheel yet to cross the finish line and close out a race.

Herta told The Associated Press that could change, as early as Saturday when Wickens races at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park as part of the IMSA race weekend. Sunday’s Chevrolet Grand Prix in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will be at 3 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC and Peacock.

Herta said it’s faster for Wickens to start a race because removing him from the car is more efficient than carrying him over the pit wall and getting him into the seat during the driver change.

“Robbie will close races this year, he can do it,” Herta said. “He might even do it this weekend.”

Wickens is simply thrilled to be racing again and, at 33, enjoying one of the greatest times of his life.

Things got even more eventful this week when he missed Friday’s practice in Canada for an unscheduled trip to Indianapolis, where his wife, Karli, gave birth to their first son, Wesley Joseph Wickens.

Wickens now returns to racing Saturday in Canada for the first time since 2018, when he finished third on the downtown streets of Toronto. He suffered his spinal cord injury two races later.

“It just feels great. I’ve always been my happiest when I’m behind the wheel of a race car,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a stressful race with a lot of PR and a lot of press around it. The second you put your helmet on and close that door, it’s just peace for me and I can finally just get into the zone and get into the race and it’s been my happy place for most of my life.

“Life’s great, it almost feels like you’re living in a dream sometimes.”

Seattle Supercross by the numbers: Three riders separated by 17 points


Three riders remain locked in a tight battle with 17 points separating the leader Cooper Webb from third-place Chase Sexton and these are only a few Supercross numbers to consider entering Seattle.

Seattle Supercross numbers
Chase Sexton made a statement in Detroit with his second win of 2023. – Feld Motor Sports

For the fifth time in 10 rounds. Sexton, Webb, and Eli Tomac shared the podium in Detroit. Between them, the trio has taken 23 podiums, leaving only seven for the remainder of the field. Jason Anderson, Ken Roczen and Justin Barcia have two each with Aaron Plessinger scoring the other.

Webb and Tomac won the last four championships with two apiece in alternating years, but they were not one another’s primary rival for most of those seasons. On the average, however, the past four years show an incredible similarity with average points earned of 21.0 for Webb and 21.3 for Tomac. With five wins so far this season, Tomac (23 wins) leads Webb (19) in victories but Webb (43) edges Tomac (41) in podium finishes during this span.

Tomac has won two of the last three Seattle races and those two wins in this stadium are topped only by James Stewart. Fittingly, if Tomac gets a third win this week, he will tie Stewart for second on the all-time wins’ list. Tomac tied Ricky Carmichael for third with 48 wins at Oakland and took sole possession of that spot with his Daytona win.

Sexton still has a lot to say and after winning last week in Detroit, he is speaking up. The Supercross numbers are against him entering Seattle, however, because a points’ deficit this large after Round 10 has been erased only once. In 1983 David Bailey was 47 points behind Bob Hannah, and like Sexton he was also in third place. Bailey took the points’ lead with one race remaining.

The seven points Sexton was penalized last week for jumping in a red cross flag section in Detroit could prove extremely costly.

In fact, it has been a series of mistakes that has cost Sexton the most. In the last two weeks, he lost 10 points with a 10th-place finish to go with his penalty. Erase those, and all three riders hold their fate in their hands.

Plessinger’s heartbreak in Detroit is still fresh, but the upside of his run is that was his best of the season and could turn his fortunes around. Prior to that race, he led only seven laps in three mains. He was up front for 20 laps in Detroit with five of those being the fastest on the track.

Last week’s win by Hunter Lawrence tied him with his brother Jett Lawrence for 17th on the all-time wins’ list. With the focus shifting to 250 West for the next two rounds, Jett has a great opportunity to pull back ahead. The real test will be at the first East / West Showdown in East Rutherford, New Jersey on April 22.

Last Five Seattle Winners

2022: Eli Tomac
2019: Marvin Musquin
2018: Eli Tomac
2017: Marvin Musquin
2014: Ryan Villopoto

2022: Hunter Lawrence
2019: Dylan Ferrandis
2018: Aaron Plessinger
2017: Aaron Plessinger
2014: Cole Seely

By the Numbers

Anaheim 2
San Diego

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Chase Sexton wins in Detroit, penalized seven points