Speedway Digest Staff
Follow us on Twitter @SpeedwayDigest
23-year-old Nathan Byrd of Litchfield Park, Ariz. will take on the inaugural Riskon360! Open Wheel Showdown with a triple-duty campaign, racing in the $50,000-to-win Winged Sprint Car, $10,000-to-win Midget, and $5,000-to-win Super Modified divisions at the Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Byrd will be making his Winged Sprint Car and Super Modified debuts during the event that runs from November 30 through December 2.
Byrd is a fourth-generation racer but the first in his family to pursue a professional driving career. His great grandmother started the Byrd Racing tradition of owning, preparing, and sponsoring race cars. Byrd Racing is most well-known for its exploits at the Indianapolis 500 and Nathan Byrd joins Davey Hamilton, Jr. and Sr. along with Arie Luyendyk, Jr. among entrants with ties to the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. The strong entry list and record-breaking purse have the Open Wheel Showdown set to be one of the biggest events in pavement open wheel racing in many years.
“I’m blessed to have the opportunity to be a part of a racing family and brand that has its roots in Indy,” Byrd said. “It’s cool because I’m technically the first Byrd racer that’s raced at a professional level.”
“It’s really awesome that (Davey Hamilton, Jr.) has been able to make this happen. It’s going to be the biggest Winged Sprint Car show ever and a really special event. I’m grateful to be a part of it,” Byrd said.
Byrd has had one of the most varied racing careers in North America over the last two or three years, racing road courses and short tracks in both open wheel and closed wheel machines. At the Open Wheel Showdown, he will test his adaptability in a Sprint Car fielded by Jimmy Waters, a Super Modified owned by Jim Birges, and a pavement Midget for the juggernaut Bertrand Motorsports.
“That’s been my whole training method, jumping back and forth with different cars,” Byrd said. “Working up the limits in a safe and proper manner. It usually takes me a few laps to adjust to the next car. (At the Open Wheel Showdown) there’s not going to be that much time to do that. I’m going to have to be on it really hard from the get-go.”
The young racer has set realistic expectations for himself, knowing the quality of equipment he will have underneath him against over 100 of the top Open Wheel drivers in the world.
“It’s going to be very interesting to see how I stack up among the Sprints and Super Modified since I’m going in as a newbie and relying on my adaptability,” Byrd said. “I think all the cars I’m driving are going to be very competitive and as long as I do my work as a driver, I definitely hope to be in the conversation and show I deserve to be there.”
Pit pass sales and assigned hauler parking opens on Wednesday before on-track activity begins on Thursday with Winged Sprint Car practice. Practice begins at 2pm and runs until 8pm. On Friday, pit gates open at 9am with grandstands opening at 12:30pm. Time trials for the Winged Sprint Cars are set for 2:45pm. Opening Ceremonies are at 5:00pm with the 12-lap Winged Sprint Car heat races to follow.
Saturday’s championship night includes qualifying for the Midgets and Super Modifieds and all features. Open Ceremonies are at 4:30pm followed by the Winged Sprint Car Dash, C- and B-Mains, and the 100-lap feature. It will also include the 50-lap Midget and 40-lap Super Modified features. Grandstands open at 12:30pm
General Admission Tickets are on sale though the Las Vegas Motor Speedway ticket office and online. Details can be found at both www.LVMS.com and the Open Wheel Showdown website. Adult tickets are $25 and kids 12 and under are free! More information is available at www.OpenWheelShowdown.com
Pit Pass sales will be available at the gates on race weekend and include access to the grandstands. Pit passes are $150 for a three-day pass or $105 for a two-day pass.
The event will be telecast through Speed Sport with a $24.99 access pass available to view both nights of the excitement live! For more info, visit www.SpeedSport.Live
Renee Wilm, CEO of the Las Vegas Grand Prix, and Stefano Domenicali, CEO of Formula 1, today issued the following statement:
“Our top priority at Formula 1 is the safety and security of our drivers, employees, and fans. Responsibility for the oversight of a Formula 1 event falls with Formula 1 as the commercial rights holder of the sport, the FIA as the regulatory body, and the local promoter, in this case the Las Vegas Grand Prix. This is important for those who are new to racing to understand.
“Last night, approximately nine minutes into the first Free Practice session, a water valve cover broke on the straight on Las Vegas Boulevard. At that time the FIA, which is responsible for the safe running of the activities on the circuit, stopped the session so that we could look at the broken water valve cover and inspect the track. This has happened on occasion at other tracks at other races around the world.
“The precautionary step of removing all of the water valve covers on the entire track and filling them with sand and asphalt was undertaken. The entire process, from determination of the issue to remediation, took approximately five hours. The decision to remediate in this way was taken out of an abundance of caution and because the safety of drivers, trackside marshals and officials and our fans is always our highest priority. We thank the contractors who worked expeditiously to resolve the situation so quickly.
“As a result, the first Free Practice ended early. We moved ahead with the second Free Practice session at approximately 2:30 AM PT for 90 minutes.
“The decision to run the second Free Practice session at 2:30 AM PT was supported by all parties to ensure the sporting integrity of the remainder of the event.
“We would like to thank the drivers, mechanics and all the teams for their patience and commitment last night to ensure that we could run the session successfully.
“Now, let us turn to the fan experience.
“The delay in the start of the second Free Practice session from midnight to 2:30 AM PT created risks for our employees and our fans.
“We made the decision to close the fan areas that are under LVGP’s purview at 1:30 AM PT and send fans home.
“Let us explain why.
“First, we were concerned about our public safety and security officials who had been in service for a long time and who are being asked to work for the next three nights. We thank Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, Department of Public Works and other public safety officials for their incredible support during the event and also as we re-opened the track early this morning.
“Second, we were concerned about our transportation employees who are responsible for driving our fans back to hotels. By Federal law, they were bumping up against the amount of time they can legally and safely drive buses.
“Finally, our hospitality staff needed the ability to clean and resupply our guest areas to ensure that the fan experience is optimal for everyone over the coming days.
“We know this was disappointing. We hope our fans will understand based on this explanation that we had to balance many interests, including the safety and security of all participants and the fan experience over the whole race weekend.
“We have all been to events, like concerts, games and even other Formula 1 races, that have been cancelled because of factors like weather or technical issues. It happens, and we hope people will understand.
“So how will we address this tonight?
“We have worked overnight to adjust our staffing plans across security, transportation and hospitality to ensure that we can function and serve fans with the best possible experience in the event of an extended race schedule.
“We are excited about the racing today and thank our entire team and our fans for their support. We know this is going to be a great event. With that let’s get back to racing.”
Dean, the two-time ARCA Menards Series winner, will showcase his massive Mud Truck nicknamed “Vengeance” as the Bluffton, S.C. native looks to deliver another podium finish to close out a competitive 2023 Motorsports season.
“Twitty’s Trucks Gone Wild is such an exhilarating event to be a part of,” said Dean with a chuckle. “It is very competitive, but it’s also a day where people smile and have a great time everywhere you turn.”
Expected to be a packed house on Saturday afternoon, Dean said his Dean Racing team relishes in the compliments of his “Vengeance” vehicles and utilizes the events to compete and educate.
Dean also hopes Saturday leads the opportunity to set a new personal best-eclipsed lap around the unique course. The popular driver added the Mud Truck, which boasts more than 1800 horsepower, to his Motorsports platform less than two years ago.
“Even when I’m turning circles with Late Models or ARCA, I always tell everyone about our Mud Truck,” he explained. “It is something everyone has to experience at least once. The synergy these events bring reminds me of a NASCAR weekend.
“Lots of people, plenty of cheering, excellent competition, and most of all cool looking race vehicles. I am fortunate enough to have my own cheering section, whether competing on Daytona International Speedway’s high banks or getting dirty in the mud.
“That’s something I never take for granted, and I continue to appreciate all the support, especially when racing locally. This weekend is another opportunity to keep digging and continue getting faster.”
Saturday’s “Trucks Gone Wild” event will conclude Dean’s 2023 Motorsports schedule. This season, the South Carolinian participated in Late Models, the ARCA Menards Series and Mud Truck competition.
Dean experienced success in all three series, including a runner-up finish at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway in April and followed it up with another runner-up finish at Michigan International Speedway in August.
No matter what happens on Saturday, Dean is thankful to continue a racing career and will soon be ready for 2024.
“It’s been a busy year, especially my first year being married to my wife and best friend, but we’ve had a very competitive racing season too,” Dean added. “Our speed with Venturini Motorsports carried over to
the 2023 season, and I think we turned some heads.
“We showed some speed with our Late Model and, of course, the success in the Mud Truck too. It’s all part of the journey; I would not change it for anything.”
Dean already knows some of his racing plans for next season, which include returning to the potent Venturini Motorsports for the season-opening ARCA Menards Series race at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 17, 2024.
“Things are coming together for next season,” added Dean. “We’ll announce more in the future, but it’s great to know that with our Daytona plans set, we can go to Twitty’s Mud Bog on Saturday and have fun!”
Gus Dean PR
The SRX Racing Series will return to Stafford Speedway for the 5th time next July. Stafford Speedway and SRX officials have announced that the 2024 SRX series will once again open their season in Stafford Springs, CT on Thursday, July 11th. This marks the 3rd time SRX has kicked off their season at Stafford.
“This is a testament to the Northeast race fans,” explained Stafford Speedway CEO Mark Arute. “We were honored to host the SRX series the first time in 2021, now we are on SRX's fifth visit to Stafford. Our fans continue to show how much they love short track racing. Each time the SRX series has come to town the atmosphere in the stands is incredible. The Northeast has always been overlooked when it comes to the national auto racing spotlight but SRX has proved that these fans deserve events like this.”
Past Stafford SRX winners include quite the mix of drivers with Ryan Newman winning twice in 2022 and 2023, Denny Hamlin taking home the win in his first SRX start in 2023, and local hero Doug Coby shocking the world and winning in the SRX series debut in 2021. If history is any indication, 2024 will be another event full of drama and surprises.
“I’ve known the Arute’s for a very long time, they wanted SRX back and we think it makes sense,” explained SRX CEO Don Hawk. “The ownership group, ESPN, and the drivers' reaction was similar - they run a first class race track and we pack the place every year. Why not reward that commitment and passion of the entire Arute Family with the return to CT.”
Tickets for the July 11th event will go on sale January 6, 2024. Season ticket holders can now purchase SRX tickets as an add-on with their annual season ticket renewal.
Full driver lineup will be announced in early 2024. Past drivers include Ryan Newman, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Bobby Labonte, Brad Keselowski, Ryan Preece and more. See all past SRX results on srxracing.com.
SRX Racing PR
Toyota Racing Development (TRD) is pleased to announce a multi-year commitment to Jade Avedisian, which will see the California-native continue her development with dirt and pavement opportunities as a part of the Toyota Racing family.
For the 2024 motorsports season, Avedisian will compete in USAC National Midget and XTREME National Midget races with Keith Kunz Motorsports (KKM), while also running the complete Toyota GR Cup schedule with Nitro Motorsports to begin her development on pavement and give her experience in road course racing. TRD partner, ExxonMobil, will be featured throughout the season on Avedisian’s efforts, with additional sponsorship to be announced at a later date.
“I’m honored to continue my motorsports career with Toyota Racing and their driver development program in the years ahead,” said Avedisian. “Everyone at Toyota has quickly become family and have provided me with all the tools necessary to achieve my dreams in racing. This commitment means so much, and I’m beyond grateful to the entire team at TRD for believing in me!”
The 17-year-old made history throughout 2023 as part of the KKM team. Avedisian started the season by becoming the first woman to finish on the podium on a Chili Bowl preliminary night before claiming Rookie of the Year honors as the only rookie – of more than 80 – to qualify for the main event. More recently, Avedisian became the first woman to earn a national dirt midget championship, winning the 2023 Xtreme Outlaw Midget title on the strength of five victories and 16 top-five finishes in 29 events.
“Toyota and TRD remain dedicated to finding and developing the future talent of our sport,” said Tyler Gibbs, GM, TRD. “Jade has earned her place in our development program with her tremendous talent, work ethic and bright future. We are thrilled to make this commitment to Jade and her family and look forward to continuing to watch her succeed at the highest levels in years to come.”
Avedisian is a part of a celebrated Toyota Driver Development (TD2) program that includes graduates Christopher Bell and John Hunter Nemechek, who will compete in the NASCAR Cup Series next season. Further information on the 2024 TD2 lineup will come at a later date.
Due to substantial rainfall throughout the week continuing into Friday morning, officials have postponed the Friday portion of the 10th annual Emil & Dale Reutimann Memorial to Saturday, Nov. 18, creating a single-day lineup of events leading up to the 50-lap, $10,000-to-win DIRTcar UMP Modified finale.
Pit gates are set to open on Saturday at 11:30am with a great weather outlook of sunshine and clear skies projected. Drivers meeting will commence at 2pm, followed by Hot Laps and Qualifying for all six divisions at 2:30. Once opening ceremonies are complete, UMP Modified Showdown Features will kick off the racing action, followed by necessary Last Chance Showdowns for 604 Late Models.
The 602 Late Models will start the Feature racing action, followed by the 3/4 Modifieds, UMP Modified Last Chance Showdowns, and the 604 Late Model Feature. The 50-lap Emil & Dale Reutimann Memorial UMP Modified Feature will then take to the track, followed by the Street Stock and Thunder Stock Features to wrap up the program.
The full order of events has been posted in the updated competitor guide, which can be viewed here.
DIRTcar Series PR
If it has wheels, you can pretty much guarantee you can watch it being raced on American soil.
Motorcycles are no different, with one of the fastest competitions on two wheels set to return to the Circuit of the Americas in 2024.
The Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas is considered to be one of the highlights on the calendar of what is the highest grade of road-based motorcycle racing on the planet – MotoGP, while its sister competitions Moto2 and Moto3 also feature on the schedule for an outstanding day of racing.
And, on April 14 2024, you’ll be able to watch the bikes hurtle past at incredible speeds of up to 227mph!
Blink and You’ll Miss Them
With a comfortable cushion at the top of the riders’ standings, Francesco Bagnaia is expected to convert his lead over nearest challenger Jorge Martin - making the Italian a two-time, back-to-back MotoGP champion in 2023.
Bagnaia was the favourite in the betting odds from Paddy Power from the start of the season, with many sportsbooks offering prices on the riders’ championships in the various MotoGP disciplines. Bettors can even wager each way – securing a payout if their chosen rider finishes in the appropriate places.
A betting calculator helps bettors to determine their return from a wager, with the numbers stacking up rather handsomely for those that have backed Ducati’s riders during the 2023 season – they won 15 of the opening 18 races of the MotoGP campaign courtesy of their highly talented stable.
But what is interesting is that neither Ducati nor Bagnaia have a particularly good record at the Circuit of the Americas, which means that bettors could have some unique opportunities to take on the favourites at the Red Bull GP in 2024.
Ducati have won just one of the ten editions of the America GP, while Bagnaia spurned pole position in 2023 – allowing Alex Rins, a Texan track specialist, to claim a second Circuit of the Americas victory amid his otherwise disappointing season.
And so the Red Bull Grand Prix of Americas could be one of the most exciting and unpredictable races on the 2024 calendar, which will make for prime viewing for the many spectators that will cram into the 120,000 venue.
The MotoGP class is contested by 900cc four-stroke bikes, which boast remarkable speed and power even from a standing start while handling corners like a dream.
As mentioned, they can reach a top speed of 227mph – recorded by Brad Binder at the Italian MotoGP back in June, ranking these bikes amongst the fastest two-wheeled vehicles on earth.
<iframe width="560" height="315" src="/" title="YouTube video player" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture; web-share" allowfullscreen></iframe>
Mind you, the bikes used in Moto2 and 3 aren’t too slow off the mark, either. In fact, the Moto2 bikes kick like a mule from 765cc of power, with three cylinders handing these engines plenty of heft.
This competition has provided a platform for many riders before stepping up to the top MotoGP class, with the likes of Bagnaia, Johann Zarco and Augusto Fernandez all winning the Moto2 title before tackling the faster bikes. It will be fascinating to see where the stars of 2023 end up in their own racing journey.
As for Moto3, the single-cylinder 250cc bikes still offer plenty of torque for those who know how to get the most from them – Martin, Binder and the legendary Marc Marquez are just some of those who served a racing apprenticeship in Moto3, so you can check out the stars of tomorrow when the Red Bull Grand Prix of Americas heads to Texas.
With all three races taking place on the same weekend, spectators are in for a treat.
What started as an unknown as far as title chase went ended in an inaugural ASA STARS National Tour championship for Ty Majeski.
With his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series duties paired with the daily lives of his Super Late Model crew members, hitting the final three races at Toledo, Winchester and Nashville was going to be a challenge. Ultimately, Majeski and his team were able to attend the final three races with the assistance of Michael Hinde Racing at Winchester, and the Wisconsin driver was able to claim the series title.
“I’ll be honest, we weren’t planning on running the whole series to start off. We were committing to racing through Kaukauna, which would’ve been the first seven,” said Majeski. “I knew the last three were going to be difficult for me to get to logistically with my race team. Toby (Nuttleman)’s our only full-time guy; we’re lucky to have a full-time guy but the rest of our guys have full-time jobs so it’s difficult to get to all these races. We were able to put together the last three races and make it work from a personnel standpoint and logistically.
“I thought it was a good first season for the ASA STARS National Tour in general. I felt like short track racing has had a craving for something like this for quite some time and it’s cool to see Bob (Sargent) put a team together to kick this thing off. It was something that I wanted to support.”
The first seven races of the season saw Majeski all but dominate the ASA STARS National Tour. He led the series in wins with his triumphs at Madison, Milwaukee and WIR, while also winning the most stages and scoring the most stage points out of anybody. Following race seven at the Gandrud Auto Group 250, his tenth-place run at North Wilkesboro was his only finish outside the top-five.
Disaster would then strike the final three races. Engine issues ended his day early at both Toledo and Winchester, closing what was a 93-point gap after WIR to just eight going into the finale. He did collect a stage win at Nashville, but an accident knocked him out of winning contention at Nashville. He was able to limp his way to an 11th place finish five laps down, which was enough to beat Cole Butcher for the championship after the Canadian fell out of the race late.
The 2023 season also saw Majeski return to Super Late Model racing on a more regular basis with a championship run in the ASA STARS National Tour, something he says helped his program to make up lost ground.
“It was not an ideal last three races with basically three DNF’s, but we did finish Nashville limping around. We ended the season with pretty much three DNF’s but we did barely sneak out the championship. It was a pretty up-and-down season but overall I thought it was good for the series and a good season for my team as well getting back to racing a little bit more.
“I took a backseat to Late Model racing a little bit in 2022 and that caused our program to fall behind a little bit. I feel like we got our edge back and our racecars pretty good again.”
Along with winning the ASA STARS National Tour championship, Majeski also competed full-time with the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, where he finished eighth in the final points standings while winning a race at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park. Balancing the two championship chases throughout the year was important, though made easier than in years past.
“It was a lot easier this year because I’m no longer a full-time engineer at ThorSport. I’m able to spend more time at the shop with Toby and Joe (Shear Jr) and my engineer had the Truck side handled. It’s just a balance and making sure you’re putting the right amount of effort into all facets, whether it’s my family, the Late Model side or my Truck side. Making sure I spend enough time at home but still putting full effort into everything that I do. If I couldn’t have put a full effort into running ASA then I wouldn’t do it. And if I couldn’t put a full effort into running the Truck Series with running ASA, I wouldn’t have done it either. At the end of the day my priorities lie with the Truck Series, that’s where I make my living. It was making sure I spent enough time at ThorSport and with Toby back at home and I feel like I found a pretty good balance with that this year and had a lot of success in all fronts.”
Majeski is at a point in his career in which he is content with what he is doing with the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and Super Late Model racing around the country. With full support from ThorSport Racing, he looks forward to what the 2024 season will bring.
“I really look forward to doing a lot of the same stuff. I really enjoy what I’m doing with my career in general, being with ThorSport with the Truck Series and being able to run a decent amount of Super Late Model races. It’s really been a dream come true for me. Duke and Rhonda (Thorson) really enjoy me going out and running with ASA and it’s something they get invested in and watch and follow. It all works, and I hope to be doing something very similar next year.”
For more information on the ASA STARS National Tour, please visit the series website at starsnationaltour.com, or be sure to follow the series on social media (Facebook: ASA STARS National Tour | Twitter: @racewithstars | IG: @starsnational).
ASA STARS PR
The 2023 Hickory Motor Speedway track champion is no stranger to the historic 4/10-mile Diamond of the Southeast short track. Last season, Brown captured the Florence Motor Speedway track championship, which aided him in conquering the South Carolina State Championship.
With more than 40 Late Model Stock Car competitors looking to add a Florence crown jewel to their trophy cases this weekend, Brown would love nothing more than to capture another checkered flag in his anticipated penultimate race of the season.
"I feel really good about heading into this race weekend," said Brown. "Anytime you can return to a track where you have much experience is already a positive. This weekend's race, though, isn't a weekly show; it will be one of the season's toughest Late Model Stock Car races.
"I feel confident in our team that we will not only be able to step up to the challenge but, like Hickory Motor Speedway last weekend, have an opportunity to be a serious contender for the race win."
Over the past two seasons, Brown has visited Victory Lane at Florence Motor Speedway seven times, including a victory earlier this season. With his third South Carolina 400 on deck for Saturday, November 18, and looking to improve on his 14th-place result last fall, Brown hopes to utilize some of the same track fundamentals in his quest for his eighth track triumph.
"Even though the race is 250 laps, I feel like you can apply a lot of the fundamentals of a traditional weekly show into the South Carolina 400," explained Brown. "You definitely have to keep up with the
track changes, lap traffic, and, of course, tire conservation is pivotal.
"There will be comers and goers on Saturday night, but whoever has the best balance and who can keep their momentum up while working both lanes of the race track when needed should be in a good spot. Luckily, we know where we need to be when we unload, so we'll see how practice goes and go from there.
With a stacked field of competitors for Saturday night's race, including NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt Jr., 2024 NASCAR Cup Series Rookie of the Year candidate Josh Berry, Stewart Haas Racing's Ryan Preece and Late Model stalwarts Stephen Nasse, Brenden Queen and Sam Yarbrough, among others.
"In such prestigious races like the South Carolina 400, it is important to know who you are racing with," added Brown. "I always try to race my competitors with respect because I would like that same respect in return. It's also an opportunity to learn from some of the best of the best.
"There are a lot of great race car drivers that are chasing the same checkered flag as me on Saturday. I continue to learn as much as I can with every race. The goal remains the same each race, but the opportunity to strengthen my craft never changes and when you race drivers among the likes of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Josh Berry, Preece and Josh Williams, you inhale every piece of intel you can."
ValAsta, Carolina Driveline, Race City Steel and Puryear Tank Lines will be the primary partners on Brown's No. 23 Chevrolet for the Saturday night showdown.
"I am lucky to have great partners that allow me to go out there all year and live a dream," explained Brown. "Without them, this weekend and this season would not have been possible. Celebrating in Victory Lane for the second consecutive weekend is the biggest thank you that I can give them and a return trip there on Saturday night is what I am aiming for."
Following his 29th race of the season, Brown is tentatively scheduled to complete his season in the Thanksgiving Classic at Southern National Motorsports Park on November 25, 2023.
The 2023 South Carolina 400 at Florence Motor Speedway will be shown exclusively on FloRacing, the streaming home of all NASCAR Roots properties.
FloRacing's coverage of Saturday's action is scheduled to start at 4:30 p.m. ET. That's when qualifying will begin for all three divisions (Street Stocks, Mini Stocks and Late Models).
Pre-race ceremonies are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, immediately followed by feature racing. Twin Late Model heat races will begin the feature action, followed by the Street Stock and Mini Stock races.
The 250-lap Late Model feature will close the night.
Brown's plans for the 2024 racing season will be announced in due course.
Kade Brown PR
While unpredictable at times, Wickens’ comeback was predicted. During his recovery, Wickens appeared at an IndyCar race in March 2019 and talked about returning to racing with a car equipped with hand controls for the brakes and throttle.
“There have been so many remarkable drivers that have succeeded with hand controls,” Wickens said then. “It makes me believe that regardless of how my progression goes, I will be in a race car again. It’s just a matter of which car.”
It happened in 2022, in a specially equipped Hyundai from Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian. At first, Wickens felt he was making rookie mistakes. As time went on, though, he became sharper, quicker and more precise. At 34, he became a champion with an unlimited future.
“I would be more than happy to return back with (team owner) Bryan (Herta) and Hyundai and try to fight to protect our championship,” Wickens said. “I would love the opportunity to get into the (IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship) in some way, shape or form.”
The details of his future are unknown, but the recent past was all about consistency. Wickens and Gottsacker pieced together a championship without winning a race in the No. 33 BHA Hyundai. Six runner-up finishes in a 10-race season have a way of adding up to a championship.
“It just goes to show how strong we were as a team,” Wickens said. “We went through a lot of adversity. We didn't have a perfect season, but we had very good damage limitation when we needed it. I think that really was the deciding factor.”
A few other deciding factors were there, too: A racer who wouldn’t stop racing. A racer who’s still fast and skilled. A racer who has a championship in hand and an immeasurable future ahead. The championship brought it all together – past, present and future.
“For me it hit pretty deep because of what I had to come through over the past five years with injuries, learning a new life and trying to get back to the career I once had,” Wickens told CTV. “I’m not in the business of motivating or encouraging people, but I love the fact that I can raise awareness for spinal cord injury through competing, not through just being there and representing. I want to represent the community by winning championships and competing and showing an injury doesn’t have to define who you are. You can do anything you set your mind to.”
As the championship celebration last month at Michelin Raceway slowed down, BHA chief operating officer Sean Jones put everything into perspective.
“We’ve won a few, but this one is a bit special,” Jones said. “Everyone knows Robert’s story.”