DAYTONA, FL - JANUARY 27: Robert Wickens, driver of the #33 Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb Agajanian Hyundai Elantra N TCR, during the BMW M Endurance Challenge on January 27, 2023 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fl.
Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Robert Wickens Nearly Triumphs in Return to Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Paralyzed in a horrific IndyCar crash, Robert Wickens continues his drive back at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Robert Wickens' long road back to racing since suffering a near-fatal accident during the opening lap of the 2018 IndyCar race at Pocono has logged another lap.

Making his first appearance as a driver at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) since winning the 2018 Indianapolis 500's Rookie of the Year for his ninth place finish, Wickens and teammate Harry Gottsacker overcame a drive-thru penalty to finish second in class during the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge at IMS' inaugural " Battle of the Bricks" weekend.

Competing in IMSA's TCR class in a Hyundai Elantra N for Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb Agajanian, the pair missed their first victory of the year by just 1.138 seconds behind the Unitronic/JDC Miller Motorsports' Audi RS3 LMS piloted by Chris Miller and Mikey Taylor.

Saturday's IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race marked the first time Wickens has driven in a race at IMS since he suffered a spinal cord injury from the horrifying Pocono accident. Missing the last three races of the 2018 IndyCar season due to the accident, Wickens had already amassed enough points in the series to sweep both the Indy 500 and the IndyCar Series' Rookie of the Year awards.

Using social media posts on his Instagram page, Wickens shared moments in his fight against the limits of his paralysis and dream of returning to racing. Just a few months after the accident, Wickens posted a video of him taking a few steps with the help of a machine. A few months later, he posted another video of him riding an exercise bike unaided. Nearly a year after the accident, he got behind the wheel of a car fitted with hand controls to drive the parade lap for the 2019 Honda Indy Toronto. The parade lap around Toronto led to a test session at Mid-Ohio in a Hyundai Veloster fitted with hand controls that paralyzed racer Michael Johnson drove.

In 2022, Wickens proved that dreams can come true by returning to professional racing with Bryan Herta Autosport in the Michelin Pilot Challenge. Paired with Mark Wilkins, Wickens scored a podium in his first race back, finishing third in the BMW M Endurance Challenge at Daytona. In a story seemingly out of Hollywood, Wickens and Wilkins later won races at Watkins Glen and Mosport to allow Wickens to finish sixth in the Touring Car championship.

With the second place finish at IMS over the weekend, Wickens and Gottsacker cling to a narrow 20 point lead over Miller and Taylor in the championship with only the season-ending Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta in October remaining. And while he wants to claim the championship, Wickens has his eyes set on an even bigger milestone in reclaiming his racing career.

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