IndyCar driver Robert Wickens has surgery; spinal cord injury still unknown

ALLENTOWN, Pa. -- IndyCar said Friday that Canadian driver Robert Wickens underwent surgery this week on his right arm and lower extremities and tests found no additional injuries from his crash at Pocono last weekend.

Wickens has had titanium rods and screws placed in his spine to stabilize a fracture associated with a spinal cord injury. IndyCar said the severity of the spinal cord injury is still unknown and Wickens will require additional corrective surgery and rehabilitation. He remains hospitalized in Pennsylvania.

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports will not field his car in Saturday night's race at Gateway Motorsports Park near St. Louis.

The accident occurred early in Sunday's race, when Wickens' car made slight contact with Ryan Hunter-Reay's car and catapulted into the fencing above the SAFER barrier. Hunter-Reay barely managed to slip under Wickens' car as it helicoptered along the fence, and other drivers began trying to dodge the debris.

A large hole was torn into the fence, causing a two-hour delay for repairs.

Jay Frye, the head of competition for IndyCar, said Friday that Wickens' car performed exactly as it was designed when it tore to pieces during the frightening wreck.

Frye also acknowledged that a host of improvements could be made -- to the car itself, to the fencing that shredded the car and even to the injury reporting process that some criticized as being much too slow after last Sunday's accident.

"Any time you have something like this happen, you look at it," Frye said. "What was good about it? What was bad about it? Did it do its job? What could be better? How long did it take to fix?

"We were very encouraged by how the car held up, certainly not satisfied though, because the driver was injured. We'll never be satisfied until that doesn't happen."

Wickens' team owner, Sam Schmidt, said this week he would like to see the SAFER barriers at speedways extend higher in places where they wouldn't obstruct the view of fans. Traditional catch-fencing used for decades is designed to keep cars from catapulting over the wall, but in the case of an IndyCar, it also tends to grab hold of the chassis and break it into hundreds of pieces.

"We've very aware of what goes on globally," Frye said, when asked whether there are innovations elsewhere in wall design that IndyCar might implement. "There are certain minimum requirements we want, and most of our promoter partners greatly exceed our minimum standards. But yes, like with the car, we're encouraged but not satisfied. We always want to look to help any way we can."

Wickens, 29, is a rookie in IndyCar but a championship driver in touring cars in Europe. He left that series this year to try IndyCar alongside James Hinchcliffe.

The two Canadians became friends racing against each other in the junior ranks and Hinchcliffe lured Wickens back to North America.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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