Robert Wickens made his intentions very clear today during a media availability at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

“The goal is to get back into an Indy car,” he said. “We won't know till I try it to see if it's a reality.”

Wickens suffered a spinal cord injury in a grisly crash at the Pocono Raceway last August. He has since been at Craig Hospital in Edgewood, Colorado. He has regularly highlighted his progress to walk again on social media.

Prior to the accident, the former Mercedes DTM driver had a solid rookie season going. He was sixth in points on the heels of four podiums. He took the NTT Data IndyCar Series world by storm at St. Pete last year by becoming only the fourth driver to claim the pole position in his first race. He led 69 laps but contact with Alexander Rossi while racing for the lead handed the win over to Sebastien Bourdais.

Since starting rehab, he has made fantastic progress and can stand up on his own, pedal an exercise bike but still needs support while walking.  While his ultimate diagnosis is not definite, he is happy to have recovered as much as he has and is determined to continue the journey.

“From my front, I'm getting some stuff back, getting better each day,” he said. “You feel like you're on that road trip, it's the 100-mile road that's a straight line the entire time without any scenery, and you're just working as hard as you can to get to the end.

“We're getting there one step at a time. The thing with a spinal injury is you never know when that day comes where you won't progress anymore. I think right now we're trying to utilize every day we can to get as healthy as I can.”

While his rehabilition journey is far from over, the 2018 IndyCar rookie of the year plans to attack it with the same strong work ethic and optimism that has served him well throughout his life while keeping everything in perspective.

“Honestly, the spinal cord injury, every single person is different,” he said. “I'm working my butt off doing everything I can because my whole philosophy in life is the harder you work, the better results you'll get. Make sure you're the hardest working guy out there, and you won't be beat. "That's been my philosophy from day one of my entire life, how my parents brought me up.

“I don't know if it's right or wrong. There could be a person beside me with the same spinal cord injury eating fast food and sitting in their hospital bed all day, and they might walk sooner than me.

“I think all we can say, the doctors know I'm working too hard, they're telling me to rest. On the same token, they're kind of telling me to keep doing what I'm doing because it's working. It's kind of that fine balance of I am doing four to six hours a day six days a week. It's tough. I enjoy my day off on Sunday.”

That diligence is fueled by the very thing that he has his sights set on – driving a race car.

“It's all I know,” he responded. “I mean, that's the biggest thing. From such a young age, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life. I told my parents when I was like nine or ten that I want to be a racecar driver. They laughed at me and told me that night in bed, our kid wants to be a racecar driver.

“Everyone told me early on, if you can't race again, you're still going to do something great with your life. I'm a hard worker. I know I'm going to land on my feet somewhere. I wasn't happy with that answer. Like, I don't want a nine-to-five job hustling somewhere new. I want to hustle as a racecar driver.”

“Even if I had to learn something new, like hand controls, I know it's something I'll work hard with.”

Another motivation for Wickens comes from Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team owner Sam Schmidt. Schmidt himself was paralyzed in a testing crash at the Walt Disney World Speedway in 2000, and beaten the odds himself and worked his way to team ownership. He has also supported his driver throughout the challenge.

 “Sam's been super helpful throughout the whole thing,” he said. “I mean, just the fact when the injury happened, he already knew basically like the good doctors, the good surgeons. Before I would get to the hospital that I was going to, he already had vetted it for me.

“At the time I wasn't in a space to recognize. But he was always making sure I would get the best care possible. Nothing dodgey, but everything legally. He just knew so much because of his injury, because of his research and everything he's done with his paralysis. He's been to so many rehabilitation hospitals, that when that became a reality for me, he knew the ins-and-outs of every hospital, every rehab facility we were looking at.

“It's hard to put in words really what he's done. I think he did a lot that I still don't realize, because I was in a state that I wasn't able to realize what he was doing.”