Long Pond - Alexander Rossi and Robert Wickens have forged a
bit of a rivalry this season. They've tangled on the track a few times, and
exchanged the occasional verbal dart - some more playful than others, like when
Wickens jokingly locked Rossi in a prison cell during a promotional event last
WATCH: Horror crash mars IndyCar race
But animosity between IndyCar drivers tends to dissolve
quickly amid grim reminders of the sport's dangers.
Wickens was just a few laps into the race at Pocono Raceway
on Sunday when he connected with Ryan Hunter-Reay and soared into the catch
fence. The fencing was shredded, and Wickens' car was reduced to just the tub,
which came to a rest on the track along an interior wall.
The race was stopped - and IndyCar came together.
"All 22 of us, 33 of us, whatever it may be, are a
family," Rossi said. "We try our best to look after each other out
there. You don't want to see that happen to anyone. We'll continue to think of
him and pray for him, his family, his fiancée; all that they have to deal
Wickens was being treated for injuries to his lower
extremities, right arm and spine following an accident that led to him getting
airlifted from the track to the hospital. IndyCar said the Canadian sustained a
pulmonary contusion and will undergo an MRI and probable surgery at Lehigh
Valley Hospital Cedar Crest in Allentown.
IndyCar drivers were more concerned with his health and
future than what the race meant to the championship picture.
"All we can hope for is that everybody is going to be
OK," points leader Scott Dixon said.
It was the latest chilling moment 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.
James Hinchcliffe, who was caught up in Wickens' wreck, had
survived his own life-threatening injury when a broken part from his car
pierced an artery during a 2015 crash at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
But the series goes on - even on the oval tracks like Indy
and Pocono where danger makes even veteran race fans tense up.
Once the green flag dropped for the final time Sunday, the
drivers played nice. There wasn't another caution the rest of the way, and
Rossi closed the gap on Dixon in the points race with a dominant win.
Rossi led 180 of 200 laps to win his second straight race
and third of the season, slicing Dixon's lead to 29 points with three races
Will Power, who won the last two Pocono races, was second,
and Dixon finished third.
"We've been a bit blah. They've been excelling,"
Dixon said of Rossi.
Rossi also won for Andretti Autosport on the streets of Long
Beach in April and the Mid-Ohio road course three weeks ago.
Wickens finished second at Mid-Ohio, what was the latest in
a sensational string of races for the 29-year-old Canadian driver in his first
season in IndyCar. Wickens had reeled off five straight top-five finishes and
is sixth in the standings. Hinchcliffe, runner-up on ABC's "Dancing With
The Stars" in 2017, helped lure Wickens to IndyCar and Schmidt Peterson
Motorsports this season after a successful career in Europe.
"I know he is in good hands. Hopefully, we'll see him
back in the car soon," Hinchcliffe said.
It surely won't be next week at Gateway Motorsports Park or
the rest of this season.
IndyCar drivers can steel their will to put any kind of bad
news behind them once they get behind the wheel and hit 220 mph in an open
cockpit. There's a championship to race for and Dixon has a fifth title in
He not only has to hold off Rossi, but former series
champions Josef Newgarden and Power aren't out of contention yet.
Rossi sprayed champagne and confetti flew on the podium.
The celebration may have seemed normal, but thoughts
couldn't help stray toward Wickens.
"It's tough to really celebrate after what
happened," Rossi said.