One of the nicest things when it comes to writing about cars and motorsport is the opportunity to leave the less-nice elements of the larger world behind when you’re selecting your subject matter. Examples of how enjoyable that can be don’t get much better than this one. If you follow the NTT INDYCAR series, you likely know about the affable Canadian hot shoe Robert Wickens and what happened to him. It happened at the Pocono round in 2018, when contact forced his Dallara into the catchfencing above the racing surface, disintegrating the car and leaving Wickens, who suffered leg and spinal fractures, as a paraplegic.
With a major assist from Hyundai and its factory racing partner, Bryan Herta Autosport, Wickens needed 989 days to get himself from the intensive-care unit to the seat of a racing car, albeit one fitted with hand controls. Personal trainer Jim Leo, who’d been with Wickens since he was a Formula Atlantic stud, continued his physical and motivational help as Wickens stayed focused on the impossible, a return to professional-level motorsport. It happened last week, when Wickens and co-driver Mark Wilkins came home in third place at Daytona International Speedway in the four-hour BMW M Endurance Challenge, a preliminary event to last weekend’s Rolex 24 for sports cars. Driving a Herta-prepped Hyundai Elantra N TCR, the event marked Wickens’ first podium finish since his INDYCAR top three at Mid-Ohio in 2018, just before the Pocono accident. Does this guy look proud of his accomplishment, or what? We’re grinning nearly as widely just from typing this.