IndyCar
R
Birmingham
16 Apr
Next event in
40 days
23 Apr
Next event in
47 days
R
Texas
30 Apr
Next event in
54 days
R
Grand Prix of Indianapolis Race 1
14 May
Next event in
68 days
28 May
Next event in
82 days
R
Detroit
11 Jun
Next event in
96 days
R
Road America
18 Jun
Next event in
103 days
R
Mid-Ohio
02 Jul
Next event in
117 days
R
Toronto
09 Jul
Next event in
124 days
06 Aug
Next event in
152 days
R
Grand Prix of Indianapolis Race 2
13 Aug
Next event in
159 days
R
Gateway
20 Aug
Next event in
166 days
R
Portland
10 Sep
Next event in
187 days
R
Laguna Seca
17 Sep
Next event in
194 days
R
Long Beach
24 Sep
Next event in
201 days

Schmidt hopeful for Wickens, calls for barrier changes on ovals

Sam Schmidt has spoken candidly about his hopes for Robert Wickens following last Sunday’s shunt at Pocono Raceway, what the IndyCar rookie has done for the team, and the safety changes he wants introduced on ovals.

Schmidt hopeful for Wickens, calls for barrier changes on ovals

Schmidt was left quadriplegic after a shunt on the Walt Disney World oval in 2000, when his spinal cord was badly damaged in the cervical C3-C4 vertebrae region. But the 54-year-old from Lincoln, NE, told Motorsport.com he was hopeful of a far better outcome for Wickens following the Canadian’s surgery last night.

“We’ve had all the experts chime in, done all the protocols that IndyCar does – I can’t praise enough the IndyCar Safety Team and how they work with the local hospitals and surgeons – and so everyone’s done a fantastic job.

“The doctors are ticking all the boxes, doing everything they can, everything that needs doing for someone after such a violent crash when circumstances push the car and the human body to the absolute limit. After the other injuries [to his lower extremities and arm] are dealt with, we can hopefully get Robbie moved to Indy – that would be ideal.”

Asked if, should all surgeries and rehab prove successful, he believes Wickens could eventually return to the IndyCar Series, Schmidt said: “I think so, I hope so. I’ve only known Robbie for about a year but he’s the type of guy for whom racing is his life, he’s really enjoying IndyCar, he likes the atmosphere and the quality of the competition. It seems to suit him so well.

“So if he feels he can still be competitive, I have no doubt that he would come back. He’s the type of committed, driven individual who can overcome huge setbacks.”

MEDICAL UPDATE, Friday August 24 from SPM on Wickens: “Surgeries were performed late this week on his right arm and lower extremities without complication. The extent of the spinal cord injury remains indeterminate. Wickens also underwent a series of precautionary tests that found no indication of further injury.

“Future treatment for Wickens includes more corrective surgery and rehabilitation.”

Robert Wickens, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda and crew

Robert Wickens, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda and crew

Photo by: Michael L. Levitt / LAT Images

Wickens has been “inspiring” for SPM

Schmidt spoke movingly of the devastating effect last Sunday’s shunt has had on morale within the SPM team which, since running Dan Wheldon at the tragic 2011 race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, has also seen Mikhail Aleshin suffer a burst aorta in a huge shunt at Fontana in 2014, James Hinchcliffe’s horrific internal injuries at Indy in 2015, and now Wickens’ shunt.

“I’m sick of our team having to be the most resilient team,” said Schmidt. “No one on our team is in this business for the paycheck: they have a passion which sees them put up with so much time on the road, and learn how to live with each other. We have that bond because we’re racers and we want to win every time, and running well, weekend in, weekend out, just increases that intensity.

“And Robbie has already become such an intrinsic part of that, despite being a rookie in IndyCar,” Schmidt continued, describing his latest ace who not only scored a pole on his IndyCar debut, but also four podium finishes. “He’s such a hard and talented driver that he makes everyone else in the team raise their game, higher than they’ve ever been before, and you see it in the pitstops, in the chassis development, and so on. He’s testing people, but he’s also inspiring them and so that also draws the team members closer.

“But that’s what makes this kind of situation all that much worse,” he sighed. “We all recognize his talents and we don’t know if he could have got third or fourth in the championship this year, but he’d have given it a hell of a try. That’s just a fantastic performance by a rookie, however much experience he had from other series.”

Robert Wickens, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, crash at Pocono

Robert Wickens, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, crash at Pocono

Photo by: Todd Dziadosz / LAT Images

Schmidt says car “did what it was supposed to do”

On the subject of how well Wickens’ Dallara chassis withstood the accident, Schmidt commented: “I’m sure more analysis will be done by IndyCar, but from what I can tell, it did absolutely what it was supposed to do.

“I mean, there’s nothing left of it. There’s catchfence pieces intertwined in the entire chassis. It’s just a big pile of crap without a usable part – but that’s how it’s supposed to be, to dissipate energy during an accident like that. It helped protect the one element it’s supposed to protect – the driver.

“To see Robbie with his eyes open at the infield care center was huge, because 40 minutes of silence was just too long. Kudos to Dallara, the folks on the technical side of IndyCar, the Safety Team, and all the people who’ve contributed to the procedures and protocol that has been built in to the IndyCar system to cover those situations.

“You know, going back to the Safety Team a moment, I just have to say thank God for those 15 or 20 men and women that travel to all our races and have the same passion for racing as us. They save lives and care for the injured – whether it’s James, whether it’s Robbie, whether it’s Mikhail… Without the Safety Team, we’d lose more drivers.”

Robert Wickens, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, crash at Pocono

Robert Wickens, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, crash at Pocono

Photo by: Todd Dziadosz / LAT Images

Higher SAFER barriers should be introduced

Since Wickens’ accident, there have been renewed calls for U.S. motorsport series and venues to seek alternatives to catch-fencing which, when a car ‘digs in’ during a high speed accident, will send the vehicle into violent gyrations. Fencing also tends to shred large and small pieces off the car, causing debris on both sides of the fence.

Some have even suggested an appropriately strengthened version of the poly(methyl methacrylate) commonly referred to by the brand name Plexiglass, but while Schmidt is among those eager to see the situation remedied, he thinks the solution is more obvious.

“We’ve got to figure something out,” he commented, “and I’ve been saying this since Dan [Wheldon] died in 2011. I hate complaining about something or calling for changes when I haven’t got a solution. I’m not the guy with the answers.

“But what I’ve asked for since then is that in the turns where there is no grandstand so no spectator sight-lines are affected, I think they should go double-high with the SAFER barrier.

“Maybe that’s only a short-term fix, but the SAFER is tested and it doesn’t spring the cars back onto the track like some people have worried about regarding the ‘Plexiglass’ solution.

“If you looked at a replay of Mikhail’s accident, at Robbie’s accident, and others – including NASCAR – another three feet of SAFER barrier would have contained the car within the track without this cheese-grater effect that catchfencing has. I don’t know if that’s a longterm fix, I don’t know the level of investment required, but certainly on turns where spectator viewing isn’t an issue, the oval tracks need to do something like that.”

James Hinchcliffe, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, Robert Wickens, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda

James Hinchcliffe, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, Robert Wickens, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda

Photo by: Phillip Abbott / LAT Images

Schmidt undecided on who’ll sub in the #6 car

Schmidt said he still couldn’t confirm when or even if a substitute for Wickens would be found before the end of the season. The team revealed today that it would run just Hinchcliffe’s car at Gateway this weekend. The Portland race is the following weekend, with the Sonoma finale two weeks after that.

“For the last two races, I don’t know yet, I honestly don’t know,” said Schmidt. “As we discovered at Indy [when Hinchcliffe failed to qualify], we have incredible partners and we called all of them to discuss the situation. All of them said, ‘We need to focus on Robbie, focus on his needs, focus on his family, focus on Hinch having a successful finish to the season, and you don’t have to do anything for us.’ It was great to have that unity.

“As I alluded to, we’re racers and we want to race, but the minds of everyone within the team are inevitably distracted right now as we keep Robbie in our thoughts. Trying to introduce a new driver this weekend, so soon, would be another distraction. For Portland and Sonoma, I don’t know yet.”

Although Schmidt wouldn’t outright state that he wants a driver with money, the fact that the team has, as he said, nothing salvageable on the #6 car and heavy damage on Hinchcliffe’s #5 car, would suggest that he and co-owner Ric Peterson would ideally seek a funded driver to substitute for Wickens.

“The phone’s been ringing off the hook with potential replacements,” said Schmidt, “but first I want to get the team in a huddle this weekend to discuss the best way forward. Having three races on back-to-back-to-back weekends is difficult enough, and logistically it’s not helpful when they’re a superspeedway followed by a short oval and then a road course. It’s prohibitive from a timing standpoint.”

shares
comments
Schmidt Peterson withdraws Wickens’ car from Gateway race

Previous article

Schmidt Peterson withdraws Wickens’ car from Gateway race

Next article

McLaren “not confirming” IndyCar entry nor Alonso test

McLaren “not confirming” IndyCar entry nor Alonso test
Load comments

About this article

Series IndyCar
Drivers Robert Wickens
Teams Arrow McLaren SP
Author David Malsher-Lopez
Is Arrow McLaren SP ready for IndyCar’s title fight? Prime

Is Arrow McLaren SP ready for IndyCar’s title fight?

With Patricio O'Ward and Felix Rosenqvist leading its line-up, 2021 could be the year Arrow McLaren SP-Chevrolet joins the IndyCar elite, writes David Malsher-Lopez.

IndyCar
Feb 21, 2021
Dale Coyne picks the Top 10 drivers in his giant-slaying team Prime

Dale Coyne picks the Top 10 drivers in his giant-slaying team

Over 37 seasons, Dale Coyne has run no fewer than 80 Indy car drivers – including himself! Ahead of his first season running Romain Grosjean, we asked Coyne to pick the best 10 drivers ever to compete for him. By David Malsher-Lopez.

IndyCar
Feb 10, 2021
Why enigmatic Marco Andretti will be missed Prime

Why enigmatic Marco Andretti will be missed

Last Friday, Marco Andretti announced he is withdrawing from fulltime IndyCar racing. David Malsher-Lopez explains how this third-gen racer was a puzzle in the car, but a straight shooter off-track.

IndyCar
Jan 19, 2021
Why Roger Penske is an American motorsport icon Prime

Why Roger Penske is an American motorsport icon

In this exclusive one-on-one interview, Roger Penske reveals the inner drive that has made him not only a hugely successful team owner and businessman but also the owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar. He spoke to David Malsher-Lopez.

IndyCar
Dec 28, 2020
Is the mighty McLaren M16 the greatest ever Indy car? Prime

Is the mighty McLaren M16 the greatest ever Indy car?

When founder Bruce McLaren died in June 1970, his team could have folded. Instead, his loyal band rallied to produce a string of winners - including an Indy car game-changer that won three Indy 500s in six years.

IndyCar
Dec 23, 2020
How Newgarden delivered his best season, yet still lost Prime

How Newgarden delivered his best season, yet still lost

Josef Newgarden was our pick as top IndyCar driver of 2020 but his finest season-long run of performances failed to yield the championship. David Malsher-Lopez explains why.

IndyCar
Dec 18, 2020
2020 IndyCar Review and Top 10 drivers of the year Prime

2020 IndyCar Review and Top 10 drivers of the year

David Malsher-Lopez explains how the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series was unlike any other, and why it featured familiar and unfamiliar faces competing for glory.

IndyCar
Nov 27, 2020
How Dixon won his sixth IndyCar title, in his own words Prime

How Dixon won his sixth IndyCar title, in his own words

Chip Ganassi Racing’s newly crowned six-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon takes us round by round through his remarkable season. David Malsher-Lopez listens.

IndyCar
Nov 4, 2020