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Journalism failings forced Wickens family to act

Norris McDonald
Written by Norris McDonald

This is about  journalism. It is not about politics. It will be about racing, in a moment.

Once upon a time, before newspapers published anything that people weren’t supposed to know about – let’s use Watergate, for example – they had to have rock-solid confirmation that what they were printing was true.

Continuing to use Watergate an example, the Washington Post would not publish anything from their two ace reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, until they had three (count ‘em, three) independent confirmations of the facts.

Translation: if “Deep Throat “ told them something, the two reporters had to go out and find three people to say that what they had been told was true. They could not find three friends who would agree with each other. It had to be three independent confirmations.

It took a lot of work, but what went into the Washington Post, as a result, was rock solid.

That doesn’t happen any more. Gossip, rumour and innuendo have taken over, thanks largely to social media. What’s disturbing for an old newshound like me, though, is that the rush to publish has meant there is largely no verification of facts any more and just about anything that pops up on Facebook, Twitter and, to a lesser extent, Instagram, is treated as gospel.

I mean, one of those two legendary reporters – Woodward – who used to have to jump through hoops to get confirmation from three people before his editor, Ben Bradlee (who must be rolling over in his grave), would even consider publishing something he’d written, has just come out with a book about the president of the United States based entirely on second-hand information.

The mind, frankly, boggles.

Which brings me to Robert Wickens (above).

Wickens suffered his horrible accident at Pocono on Aug. 19. Almost immediately, some people on social media had him up and about and one of his fellow drivers even suggested they meet at the gym two days later for a workout.

It went on from there and the surprising thing is that many legitimate websites and publications went with this stuff. Yes, I am not naive: websites, radio and TV, and newspapers are all in competition with each other and always want to be first with the news. However, I have always adhered to the principal of “get it first, but first get it right.” Unfortunately, I seem to be in the minority these days.

The Wickens family finally had had enough of the distortions and misrepresentations being bandied about and decided last week to issue a definitive statement on the extent of Robert’s injuries. I am printing it here in its entirety:

“Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver Robert Wickens underwent surgeries this week at IU Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis to repair fractures to both of his legs and hands from injuries sustained in a crash during the IndyCar event at Pocono Raceway on Aug. 19. The surgeries were completed without complication.

Wickens is expected to be transferred to a rehabilitation center in the coming days to begin the recovery process. The severity of the spinal cord injury he sustained in the incident remains indeterminate and under evaluation. Physicians stress it could take weeks or months for the full effects of the injury to be known.

“We want to thank everyone for the outpouring of love, prayers and positive energy that has been sent our way since Robert’s accident,” the Wickens family said in a statement. “We are blown away by the strength of this IndyCar community and the support within it. While Robert’s recovery and rehabilitation continue over the coming weeks and months, your loving messages will certainly be a source of encouragement for him.

“As unverified sources immediately following Robert’s accident inaccurately and without permission portrayed his condition as less than severe, in an effort to remain transparent and open, we are providing a list of Robert’s injuries to truly showcase the severity of what our son / brother / fiancé / friend / teammate has gone through and will be recovering from in the months to come.”

Among the injuries Wickens sustained were:

  • Thoracic spinal fracture
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Neck fracture
  • Tibia and fibula fractures to both legs
  • Fractures in both hands
  • Fractured right forearm
  • Fractured elbow
  • Four fractured ribs
  • Pulmonary contusion

“The IndyCar community has been nothing but supportive the last few weeks,” Ric Peterson and Sam Schmidt, co-owners of SPM, noted in a statement. “We are grateful for their support as well as the exceptional care given to Robert by the AMR IndyCar Safety Team, the IndyCar Medical Staff, the surgeons and nursing staff at Lehigh Valley Hospital – Cedar Crest and everyone at IU Health Methodist Hospital.

“While Robert continues his recovery, we want to make it clear that the No. 6 entry is for Robert Wickens and him only. No matter the amount of time it takes for his full recovery, we will hold that seat for him. Carlos Muñoz, the named driver for the last two events on the 2018 calendar, is doing a great job for us to keep the No. 6 owner championship points alive, and we very much appreciate all the hard work he’s putting into helping us finish the season.

“The road to Robert’s recovery will be a long and tough one, but we hope you’ll be alongside us cheering him on. BETTER. STRONGER. FASTER.”

“An update will be provided when Wickens has been transferred to his rehabilitation facility. Further updates will come from Wickens. Alongside the team, he will document his recovery process and share updates at appropriate times. SPM, the Wickens family and Robert ask everyone to respect their request for privacy at this time.”

So, there you have it. After that, the weekend racing report doesn’t seem all that important, does it?

But, here goes:

The storm that settled over the Midwest scuttled two days of activities at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The Monster Energy Cup race, the Brickyard 400, will now go to the post Monday afternoon at 2 p.m.. The Xfinity Series race will get the green Monday morning at 10 a.m. I am sure TSN will carry them both.

Weather permitting, of course.

There were no weather worries at St-Eustache, Que., Saturday night when the NASCAR Pinty’s Series made its annual trip to Autodrome St-Eustache. For Team 22 Racing driver Marc-Antoine Camirand, it was a night six years in the making.

Several weeks ago, at the Grand Prix of Trois-Rivieres, Camirand dominated the first half of the race before losing in a heartbreaking finish to teammate Alex Tagliani.

A late-race pileup Saturday night set up a thrilling NASCAR Overtime finish. This time, Camirand got the job done. He took the lead on Lap 239 just before a big crash would occur involving points leader L.P. Dumoulin, Kevin Lacroix and Tagliani, forcing overtime.

Camirand’s No.22 GM Paille Chevrolet held of hard charges from teammates Tagliani and Donald Theetge to finally claim his long awaited first NASCAR Pinty’s Series victory in the Lucas Oil 250.

The 39-year-old driver from Saint-Leonard-d’Aston, Que., led a total of 116 laps en-route to scoring his first win in 34 starts. He also becomes the third first-time winner this season, joining Cole Powell and Theetge.

Camirand also becomes the first driver to take the legendary No.22 car to Victory Lane since car owner and four-time series champion Scott Steckly retired at the end of the 2015 season.

Tagliani  navigated his way through the Dumoulin-Lacroix wreck and was able to rebound finishing second, for his seventh podium finish of 2018. Powell found his way through the late race carnage and, despite missing a front bumper, was able to finish third, notching his seventh top-five finish of the season.

Kerry Micks was fourth, scoring his first top five since Toronto in 2016, while Theetge rounded out the top five.

David Michaud notched his best NASCAR Pinty’s Series finish in sixth, followed by D.J. Kennington in seventh. Andrew Ranger, Jostens Rookie of the Race Steve Cote and points leader Dumoulin rounded out the top 10.

Following the frantic last laps at St-Eustache, Tagliani was able to cut Dumoulin’s points lead to only five heading into the season’s penultimate race at New Hampshire in two weeks. Powell is in third in points followed by Kennington and Camirand.

The Lucas Oil 250 will air on TSN on Saturday, Sept. 15, at 3:30 p.m.

The IMSA WeatherTech Series race at Laguna Seca in California was won Sunday afternoon by Pipo Derani and Johannes van Overbeek with Colin Braun/Jon Bennett second and Dane Cameron/Juan Pablo Montoya third. Those are overall results. Conor De Phillippi and Alexander Sims won the GT LeMans class in a BMW; Alvaro Parente and Katherine Legge won the GT Daytona class in an Acura.

Saturday at the same track, Hugh Plumb, co-driving a TGM Mercedes-AMG GT4 with Owen Trinkler, won the Continental Tire race and the ageless Scott Maxwell of Toronto, who co-drives with Ford development driver Ty Majeski, finished second in a Multimatic Motorsports Ford Mustang GT4.  Sliding into the third-place spot on the podium was the No. 39 Carbahn Motorsports Audi R8 of Tyler McQuarrie and Jeff Westphal.

At Ohsweken Speedway on the Six Nations Reserve, Dylan Westbrook won the track championship. Someboldy should sponsor him and send him out on the World of Outlaws trail – he’s that good.

Speaking of the Outlaws, Rico Abreu won $15,000 and the Gold Cup at Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico, Calif., Saturday night.

Back at Ohsweken, Clayton Johns reports that Insta-Panels presented Sprint Car Championship night and the Brock Leonard Memorial as 124 cars signed in across four weekly divisions on Friday. It was the final points night of the season for Kool Kidz-Corr/Pak 360 Sprint Cars and the Strickland’s GMC Crate Sprint Cars. It was also the prestigious 50-lap Brock Leonard Memorial for the Middleport Mechanical Thunder Stocks/Insta-Panels Duel on the Dirt Series.

On the track, it was Rockwall, Texas, native Sam Haferetepe Jr. (left) who claimed his fourth career win in the Kool Kidz-Corr/Pak 360 Sprint Car Feature. Sixteen-year-old Josh Hansen scored his first career Sprint Car win in the Strickland’s GMC Crate Sprint Car and Action Sprint Tour combined Feature.

For the stock cars, it was Chris Hale who became the eighth different winner in as many races for Thunder Stock Brock Leonard Memorial while Jason Tolton closed out the night with a win in the HRW Automotive Mini Stock Feature.

Haferetepe has to be considered a favourite toi win the 14th annual Arrow Express Canadian Sprint Car Nationals at Ohsweken next Saturday night.

nmcdonald@thestar.ca