(Medical update at 10:40 p.m. ET Sunday, Aug. 19: Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver Robert Wickens is being treated for injuries to his lower extremities, right arm and spine following an incident in the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway. He also sustained a pulmonary contusion. He will undergo an MRI and probable surgery at Lehigh Valley Hospital - Cedar Crest at Allentown, Pennsylvania)
LONG POND, Pennsylvania — A frightening crash impacting five cars brought the ABC Supply 500 to a screeching halt at the outset of Sunday’s Verizon IndyCar Series race at Pocono Raceway.
Rookie Robert Wickens was awake and alert before being transported by helicopter for further observation at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest in Allentown, Pennsylvania. He was admitted to the hospital with orthopedic injuries and undergoing further evaluation.
The other four drivers were checked and released from the track’s infield medical center.
Extensive repairs to a shredded catch fence resulted in a red-flag stoppage of 1 hour, 56 minutes.
The melee began on the seventh lap in Turn 2 when the front right tire of Wickens’ No. 6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda bumped the left rear tire of Ryan Hunter-Reay’s No. 28 DHL Honda. Both spun toward the wall, with Wickens’ car riding over the front of Hunter-Reay’s and vaulting into the catch fence. The car pin-wheeled repeatedly in midair before flying back over Hunter-Reay’s car and coming to rest upright on the track surface.
“It’s unfortunate for the start of the race,” Hunter-Reay said upon exiting the medical center, “but I just hope Robert’s all right. I was lucky to get out of that one.”
“He had a run out of Turn 1,” Hunter-Reay said of Wickens, “came up along the side of me, but I was in the draft of (Will) Power in front of me, so I started pulling ahead. Once we got to (Turn) 2, he was at my (left rear) corner at best.
“I even gave room. I left a lane; left a half of a lane, if not more. I was pretty shocked I got hit in the back. That is neither here nor there right now. We’re just thinking about Robert.”
Wickens’ teammate at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, James Hinchcliffe, who was trailing the incident, spun amid the smoke and contacted Takuma Sato’s No. 30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic Honda. Hinchcliffe’s No. 5 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda was then hit by rookie Pietro Fittipaldi’s No. 19 Paysafe Dale Coyne Racing Honda. All five cars involved were out of the race at that point.
Hinchcliffe and Wickens have been friends since childhood, when they raced go-karts together in Canada. Once released from the infield medical center, Hinchcliffe hurriedly exited the track to go to the hospital to visit Wickens.
“Not the race day we were hoping for,” Hinchcliffe said. “I saw the accident happening in front of me. (Zach) Veach started sliding up, I tried to slow down and just kind of lost it in the fray. As I was going backwards, I think Pietro (Fittipaldi) had nowhere to go and came into me. Other than that, there was a bunch of stuff going on, I’m not sure exactly what happened.
“I took my hands off the wheel when I went backwards, and I think some piece of debris came in as I was holding them (my hands) in, kind of just smacked the top of them so I took of bit of beating, but nothing is broken, just some swelling and some cuts. We’ll rest it up and be fine.
“Obviously, I’m just hoping Robbie’s all right. Never good to see a car go up (into the fence) like that, but I know he is in good hands. Hopefully, we’ll see him back in the car soon.”
The series’ top rookie this season, Wickens was coming off four consecutive top-five finishes and entered the weekend sixth in the points. He qualified sixth and had a run on Hunter-Reay, who began the day fifth in the points and had qualified fourth. Unable to complete the pass, Wickens appeared to back off when the wheels touched.
Fittipaldi, who missed May’s Indianapolis 500 due to leg injuries from a sports car crash in Belgium, was grateful to avoid serious injury this time.
“I’m feeling great, thank God. Obviously a little bit sore from the impact, but I’m 100 percent,” he said. “No broken bones so, thankfully I’m fine.”
Fittipaldi said he tried to avoid hitting Hinchcliffe but didn’t have enough time.
“When I saw I was going to hit Hinch head on and I had to slam the brakes and try to get low, when I did that – I also think with the debris, also cold tires – I just lost the rear of the car and then hit him sideways,” he said. “Just speaking to Hinch and Sato after, it was just so much debris from the crash, there was just so much debris and fluid on the track.”
Four-time series champion Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing avoided the carnage and watched a replay of the crash during the stoppage.
“Coming into (Turn) 2, I had actually already got out of (the accelerator). I knew in some of the practices how tough it was to go flat through there, especially with the new bumps that we have there this year.
“Looking at some of the replays, Hunter-Reay and Wickens got into each other and then into the fence. And then you’re just trying to slow down as quick as possible. In speedway configuration, it’s really hard to pull these cars off and really hard to move them abruptly without spinning them out.”
INDYCAR will provide medical updates on Wickens as they become available.