LONG POND, Pa. (AP) — Alexander Rossi won Sunday at Pocono Raceway in race marred by a violent wreck that sent IndyCar rookie driver Robert Wickens to the hospital.
Wickens was awake and alert when he was airlifted out of the track for medical treatment.
The 29-year-old Wickens was attempting to pass Ryan Hunter-Reay when the two cars slightly touched just six laps into the race. That caused Hunter-Reay’s car to careen into the wall and Wickens’ car was pulled along for the ride. Once Wickens’ car soared over Hunter-Reay’s and hit the fence, it spun round and round like a top. The fencing was shredded and Wickens’ car reduced to just the tub, which came to a rest on the track along an interior wall.
Medical workers calmly attended to Wickens, who was taken to an ambulance before he was transported to the helicopter. The impact of the wreck tore out about 80 feet of fence, damaged a few posts and stopped the race. After a nearly two-hour delay, the race resumed without the spate of aggressive driving — Graham Rahal tangled with Spencer Pigot as the field was brought to green — and ended without further incident.
For Rossi, his thoughts were with Wickens.
“It’s tough to really celebrate after what happened,” Rossi said.
Rossi, the 2016 Indianapolis 500 champion, ended Will Power’s bid to win three straight Pocono races. Power made a hard charge down the stretch and finished second. Scott Dixon had his lead trimmed in the championship standings and finished third.
Rossi raced to his third victory of the season for Andretti Autosport and second straight. He also won on the streets of Long Beach in April and the Mid-Ohio road course three weeks ago.
Sebastien Bourdais, who finished fourth, raised concerns about the quality of the repairs and condition of the fence before he got back in the car. Track President Ben May said: “It may not be the prettiest job but it’s going to be safe.”
The crash was a grim reminder how drivers in open-wheel racing put their lives on the line.
Hunter-Reay, James Hinchcliffe, Pietro Fittipaldi and Takuma Sato were among the drivers collected in Wickens’ crash. Hinchcliffe grasped his wrists as he slowly left his car. He was cleared and released from the medical center and declined to comment to reporters out of respect for Wickens.
Hinchcliffe went to the hospital to visit his Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammate. The two raced each other as youngsters in Toronto and Hinchcliffe, runner-up on ABC’s “Dancing With The Stars” in 2017, helped lure Wickens to IndyCar this season after a successful career in Europe.
Hinchcliffe survived his own life-threatening injury when a broken part from his car pierced an artery during a 2015 crash at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Wickens had reeled off five straight top-five finishes and matched a career-best second in the last race at Mid-Ohio. He was sixth in the points race.
Fittipaldi had just returned from a lengthy layoff because of two broken legs suffered in Europe.
Fittipaldi later tweeted : “Thank god I am fine and walking away from that accident. Praying for you robertwickens, I hope you’re ok.”
It was a chilling moment again at Pocono. Justin Wilson died from a head injury in 2015 when a piece of debris from a crashed car bounced off the track and hit his helmet.