At the rate Robert Wickens is going, the Verizon IndyCar Series might consider pulling the rookie stripes from his car and promote the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver to veteran status.
The Canadian wasn’t as fortunate as the opening round of the 2018 season where he stunned the field with pole position, but his run to sixth – on his oval debut, no less – Friday at ISM Raceway in Phoenix could be the more impressive of the two feats.
With two flying laps to use on the daunting one-mile circuit, Wickens says, surprisingly, the lessons learned in his former series – the German DTM touring car championship – prepared him for the challenge.
“I really like the format of this qualifying; it reminds me of the DTM where you had one lap to get it done,” he told RACER. “If you made it to Q4, the tires were so peaky, you only had one lap and had to execute. The whole getting up to speed and doing it blind – I’m used to it, which might be helping me now. This whole thing was nuts; it’s an adrenaline rush, you sit in the car and wait and wait, and then you have your 40 seconds of fame.”
On the topic of looking like he’s been a top-tier IndyCar driver for years, Wickens gave credit to his team. The St. Pete pole, a dominant drive that came up short laps shy of victory, and another qualifying performance on par with teammate James Hinchcliffe could also have something to do with the person piloting the No. 6 Honda.
“It’s definitely going better than expected,” he acknowledged. “You can’t underestimate anything in any sport. All I can say is that the team has done an amazing job getting me up to speed, I have the guy who must be the best teammate in the paddock, and it’s been a massive learning curve. We’ve been super fortunate, and we’ve had great cars. We’re both up at the front, and leading up to this, I felt very prepared.
“The team has been a big part of it, and I’m a very analytical person, so I’ve been home, watching YouTube for hours on end. It’s just been a great experience, I’m loving life here in IndyCar, and hopefully it’s this kind all the time.”