It was one of the moments that makes a frog suddenly appear in your throat as Robert Wickens climbed behind the wheel for the first time since a horrific crash last year that left him unable to walk.
“Look at the courage and determination that Wickens has shown and you can’t help but cheer for the guy to make it all of the way back,” explained racing fan Norris McDonald as he walked out of the pits at the Toronto Honda Indy.
Wickens, a 30-year-old Guelph native, has spent nearly a year recovering from the August crash at Pocono Raceway, posting much of his progress online in hopes of inspiring others going through a tough time. On Sunday, many cheered for Wickens as he led the way, driving a modified car with hand controls, during the warm-up lap at the Honda Indy.
“It’s amazing to see Robbie,” smiled fan Kirk Griffith as he wished Wickens luck. “I was here last year seeing him on the podium and it would be great to see him back on the track again and in future years. I’d like to see him back in a race car again.”
In 2018, the rookie Wickens had seven top-five finishes. He was considered a rising star, a real force to be reckoned with, until the crash sidelined him. He suffered many fractures, including a spinal cord injury and pulmonary contusion. Wickens now uses a wheelchair to get around.
“It’s amazing to see him back in a car,” says fiancee Karli Woods.
While Wickens has a long road to recovery, one of his goals is to be able to dance with Woods during their September wedding. He recently posted a video to Twitter where he surprised her as he stood from his wheelchair.
“We always joke that he’s not going to be that much better of a dancer now than when he was before the accident so, we’ll see,” chuckled Woods, who sat in the passenger seat during the warm-up lap.
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