Robert Wickens Earns Runner-Up Finish At Phoenix

Robert Wickens is interviewed following a runner-up finish in his oval racing debut. (Photo Credit: Chris Jones)

Last month, Verizon IndyCar Series rookie Robert Wickens experienced a near-perfect weekend on the streets of St. Pete.

In fact, the 2011 Formula Renault 3.5 Series champion won the pole and led a race-high 69 laps. However, a late race caution for the set the field up for a two-lap sprint to the finish.

On lap 109, Alexander Rossi attempted a bold move on the restart to the inside of Wickens. Unfortunately, the two drivers made contact ending Wickens’ promising weekend. While Rossi finished in third-place, Wickens placed 18th.

“There’s positives I’m sure but, at the end of the day, when you are running up front the entire race and then you don’t even finish it doesn’t matter how your day goes, you never want that to happen,” said Wickens.

Despite disappointment in the season opener, the focus shifted to ISM Raceway, the first oval race of the Canadian’s career.

In February, Wickens participated in the pre-season open test at the same track. Even with a limited oval racing background, at least some familiarity would be present heading into the race.

After qualifying sixth, Wickens put together another spectacular performance. The rookie displayed the drive of a series veteran to take the lead for the first time on lap 149. In all, he led a total of 44 laps.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Ed Jones crashed to bring out a late-race caution, Ultimately, resulting in a seven-lap shootout for the victory in the desert.

Wickens, teammate James Hinchcliffe, and Rossi remained on the track. Meanwhile, the lead lap drivers behind pitted for fresh Firestone tires.

As it were, a battle of old versus new tires determined the race winner. Reigning series champion Josef Newgarden passed Wickens on the outside heading into turn 1 in the closing laps. Therefore, leading to the first victory of the 2018 season for Team Penske and Newgarden.

A runner-up finish for Wickens ended a night filled with success in his oval debut.

“It’s a dream come true, Wickens said. “All I wanted to do was finish every lap of my oval debut.”

“So, to come home P2 and even lead tonight, you can never expect that as a rookie.”

Nevertheless, the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver looks to keep the momentum rolling into the streets of Long Beach on April 15.

Kobe Lambeth

My name is Kobe Lambeth and I am a sophomore at UNC-Charlotte. I have been a NASCAR fan since 2007, and my dream is to work in the motorsports industry. In June 2017, my journey began as a freelance journalist and social media specialist for RockinghamNow covering high school sports, and leading a Twitter project in hopes of providing expanding coverage throughout the community, with a goal of significantly increasing the number of followers on multiple accounts. At The Podium Finish, my goal is to provide professional coverage of various disciplines of motorsports such as NASCAR, IndyCar, and the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship.

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