BOWMANVILLE, Ont. (AP) — What a week for Robert Wickens, who earned his second victory in seven days on Saturday as he celebrated the birth of his first child.
Wickens returned to his native Canada and teamed up with compatriot Mark Wilkins to win the Touring Car class of the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
The victory follows their win last week at Watkins Glen in New York, which marked Wickens’ first victory since suffering a career-ending spinal cord injury in an IndyCar race in 2018. He returned to competition this year with Bryan Herta Autosport in a specially equipped Hyundai that allows Wickens to accelerate and brake using manual controls.
“It’s been a fairy tale, really,” Wickens said. “The victory at Watkins Glen was well deserved. We have worked hard. We’ve been there at every race this year. It finally clicked when we got that win. We thought, ‘Let’s take this momentum into our home run.’ »
But his return to Canada was cut short when Wickens’ wife Karli gave birth two weeks earlier. Wickens and Wilkins were in the middle of the track walk Thursday when Karli called and told her husband he had to rush to Indianapolis.
“She said, ‘I need you home tomorrow morning,'” Wickens said. “I can’t thank everyone at Bryan Herta Autosport enough – not only for being understanding, but also for not making me feel like there was pressure. They made it very clear that family always comes through. first.
The couple welcomed their son, Wesley Joseph, on Friday and Wickens returned to the track on Saturday to complete his first laps on the circuit. He started last in class, worked his way up to third, and handed the #33 Hyundai Elantra N TCR to Wilkins midway through the race.
“I’ve never been so well prepared before a race,” Wickens said. “But I’ve never jumped into a race without a single practice lap. Honestly, it’s just amazing. I certainly didn’t expect to win.
Wilkins took the lead on a restart with 20 minutes to go and led a podium sweep for three of Herta’s cars.
“The story is really Robert,” Wilkins said. “Arrive without making a lap and overtake three cars on your first lap? He hadn’t shot a lap at all here in I don’t know how many years. Mega drive.
Wickens, who has a consulting role with Arrow McLaren SP in IndyCar, was cheered on by the IndyCar paddock at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
“It’s not only impressive to see that he has the courage to step back in the race car and adapt to the manual controls and be aware of everything, and really learn to drive a car again. racing,” said Colton Herta, son of Wickens team owner Bryan Herta.
“It’s impressive when you can just do that, but also be very quick and win a race. It shows the dedication and passion he has for racing. I think everyone at IndyCar is really happy to see that.
Michael Lewis finished second in the #1 Hyundai BHA he co-drive with Taylor Hagler. Harry Gottsacker finished third in the #98 Hyundai BHA he shared with Parker Chase.
“It was a blur,” Wickens said. “Everything until Thursday afternoon was pretty quiet. It was a world of emotions. I think I shed all my tears on Friday when our son Wesley was born and he was healthy. I just can’t wait to get home and see the baby again.
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