(via INDYCAR) – He made his presence known from his first Verizon IndyCar Series race in March and quickly became a fan favorite. Robert Wickens now carries the honor of Sunoco Rookie of the Year for the 2018 season.
Despite being forced to miss the final three races of the year while recuperating from injuries sustained in a crash at Pocono Raceway on Aug. 19, the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver has clinched the top rookie award prior to the season finale at Sonoma Raceway on Sept. 16. Wickens leads Zach Veach by 110 points in the rookie standings with a maximum of 104 available at the INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma.
In 14 races driving the No. 6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda, Wickens racked up seven top-five finishes, including four podiums. He won the Verizon P1 Award in qualifying in his series debut at the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. He also was named Sunoco Rookie of the Year for his ninth-place performance in the 102nd Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil in May.
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports co-owners Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson released a statement on behalf of Wickens, who remains at IU Health Methodist Hospital.
“When Robert joined this team, we had the highest expectations set for him to achieve,” the statement read. “Having Robert clinch the Sunoco Rookie of the Year with one race left on the 2018 calendar after missing the last three races, it’s just a testament to how hard he’s worked this season to set him up for a strong finish. The dedication, effort and energy he puts into his race craft, working with the team and his teammates, and all the above-and-beyond work he’s put in with our partners and the fans, we couldn’t ask for a better addition.
“We are proud of all that Robert has achieved this season, and we look forward to welcoming him back upon his full recovery. The No. 6 entry will be there waiting for him whenever he’s ready.”
A newcomer to the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2018, Wickens boasted a lengthy successful resume in other motorsports disciplines entering the year. He and SPM teammate James Hinchcliffe grew up karting together in Canada before Wickens went on to win the 2006 Formula BMW USA championship and finish third in the 2007 Champ Car Atlantic Championship.
From there, Wickens’ path veered to Europe, where he continued climbing the open-wheel ladder and eventually was a Formula One reserve driver for Marussia Virgin Racing. In 2012, Wickens shifted gears to the DTM touring car series, where he collected six wins in six seasons.
He made an immediate impact upon joining the Verizon IndyCar Series this season. After winning the pole at St. Pete, he led 69 laps and was running first on a restart with two laps to go when contact with Alexander Rossi knocked Wickens out in 18th place.
He rebounded a race later to finish second at ISM Raceway in his first-ever oval event. He followed that with third-place finishes at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and the Honda Indy Toronto, as well as a runner-up result in the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio. Wickens’ 187 laps led rank fifth among all drivers this season.