Robert Wickens has secured the IndyCar Series’ Rookie of the Year honors despite missing the last two rounds and the upcoming double-points season finale at Sonoma due to injury.
The Canadian and his No. 6 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team also lost out on a meaningful points haul at Pocono, where Wickens sustained serious injuries in a crash with Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay.
“If you count Sonoma as two races, it was like winning it without competing in five races,” team co-owner Sam Schmidt told RACER. “As we’ve spoken of in the past, you had high expectations and hopes in this situation, and the results for him were way better than expected. In the week that followed Pocono, you look for anything that can be uplifting for him and the team, and we honed in on the Rookie of the Year honors, which we’re so proud to say Robert’s won.”
While the full extent of the 29-year-old’s injuries have not been disclosed, Schmidt says the mindset used by Wickens to run up front as an IndyCar rookie will be invaluable in the recovery process.
“His work ethic, his resilience, and his unequivocal determination to win got him Rookie of the Year,” he said. “And that will serve him to get maximum results from hereon out. A ‘never take no for an answer’ type of mentality in his rehabilitation is what’s needed.”
Schmidt also credited the series for its handling of the Pocono crash.
“IndyCar, as an organization, always tries to anticipate as much as they can, and the tub is certainly an example of those efforts,” he said. “There’s not a single bolt that’s reusable on that car, but the cockpit is intact, so that’s a testament to their research and foresight. And then there’s the AMR Safety Team and what IndyCar pays to truck that crew around to every race, the familiarity we have with them, and then after [the crash], knowing what to do and how to do it.”
Along with reaffirming his commitment to expediting Wickens’ physical rehabilitation, Schmidt is confident his driver’s fighting spirit will push those tasked with looking after the Rookie of the Year.
“And now we’re digging in and researching the best [rehab] facilities,” he said. “It’s not even a question of money. It’s where do we need to send him to have the best and quickest results? I pity the nurses and physical therapists who are going to have to put up with him.”