Standing on a podium might not be new to Robert Wickens in his standout rookie IndyCar campaign, but since his third trip to the rostrum this season in Toronto was his first in front of his countryman, it was a special moment for the Guelph, Ontario native.
“Thankfully, I’m not an overly teary guy, but that was really cool,” Wickens said of the enthusiastic reception he received. “I can’t thank these Toronto fans enough. I mean, this whole week has been such a whirlwind of emotions, and to stand on the podium in my first professional home race, I couldn’t ask for anything better.”
Except, the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver couldn’t help but wonder how much better it could have been had his battle for second place with Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud played out a little differently.
“We did have a great car in the race. I don’t think anyone had anything for Scott [Dixon] today — Dixie was kind of in a class of his own — but to go punch for punch with him in the second stint…I thought we really showed some great strides, some great improvements on the Lucas Oil car from warm-up to now.
“The final stint, I don’t if it was damage from the fight with Pagenaud, but I had too much understeer and I couldn’t maintain that pace,” he said. “If not, I think it would have been a fun fight between Simon and I at the end. I thought maybe second was in the cards for me, but it just wasn’t meant to be.”
Teammate and fellow Canadian James Hinchcliffe also got a lot of love from the locals after his fight through to fourth place in the incident-packed race.
“Our start didn’t go great, and obviously we were battling for position with Robbie [Wickens] there and got shuffled back behind Marco [Andretti],” related Hinchcliffe. “That really was kind of the start of the end of a great result for us because we had pace, we just couldn’t get by him. We burned a lot of push-to-pass trying to get by him, but just couldn’t do it. It’s unfortunate to waste so much time in the beginning of the race.
“On that restart melee, we got tagged by Takuma [Sato,] which I should know better than staying on the inside of him in a corner like that. I bent the toe link and from there, it was a bit of a struggle to feel the car out and see how it was going to change with the bend in the suspension. Honestly, the Arrow Electronics car was still pretty great, and in that last stint, we were chasing down the leaders. Who knows what could have been, but ultimately happy with Robbie being on the podium and two SPM cars in the top five.”