Robert Wickens is an anomaly and an inspiration.
After surviving a terrible crash on lap 7 of IndyCar’s ABC Supply 500 at Pocono in 2018, the Toronto native was told he would never walk again.
But that wasn’t an option for Wickens, who detailed his odds-defying recovery with Jeff Rickard and Joe Staysniak on The Fan Morning Show with Jeff & Big Joe.
“I’m a stubborn, stubborn man,” Wickens observed. “I’ve always been brought up [and taught by] my family that if you work hard, you can achieve great things. I’ve set my mind to a very large goal, and I’m doing everything in my power to try to achieve that. It’s not a solo effort. I have great people around me. My wife is super supportive…I feel like it would be a waste if I didn’t give it everything I had to try to get better.”
Throughout rehab, Wickens has maintained a positive, humble, and gracious demeanor despite the physical toll. He suffers from chronic back pain further aggravated by an intensive workout regimen.
“For example, my left glute is quite a bit weaker than my right glute so my left lower back is overcompensating and then that’s always really aggravated and inflamed when I’ve had heavy days. So I’m constantly living with lower back pain but just on the left side. It’s a bit odd. But when you break 26 bones, there’s definitely gonna be some pain that goes along with that,” Wickens said.
There is a silver lining. The pandemic has given Wickens the opportunity to race virtually with many IndyCar regulars…using hand controls.
“Because of the cost of testing, I always saw simulation as my first step back into a race car because it’s a very cost-efficient way of trying to figure out of what hands controls I want to go racing with. The worst nightmare would be traveling an entire team all the way down to Florida and I do one lap and realize that the configuration of the paddles we made won’t work and we just stop and go home. Even though eSports has taken center stage for entertainment, I see this simulator as a much bigger project for me than just having some fun during this pandemic.”
There’s still a long road ahead for Wickens, but he’s up for the challenge. Jeff Rickard asked about the next steps of the driver’s plan to get back to racing at the highest level.
“I think the next steps from here [are] to continue to evolve my hand controls until we have something that we think is viable for an IndyCar,” Wickens said. “Once everything becomes second nature I think that’s the big thing. I started racing when I was seven years old in go-karts. So for basically 23 years I was driving one way, and that was with my feet. To have to retrain myself, luckily I don’t have to relearn the theory of motorsports, I just need to learn how to use my hands effectively.”
For Robert Wickens, getting back in an IndyCar would be the victory of a lifetime.
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