INDIANAPOLIS – Robert Wickens was well on his way to winning Saturday’s fifth annual INDYCAR Grand Prix. The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver inherited the lead for the first time of the day on Lap 26 and was pulling away from the field after. His No. 6 Honda was the class of the race, at that point.
Wickens and the leaders would hit pit road for the second sequence, this was the race changing moment of the day. Wickens, went on the Firestone primaries, Will Power went on the faster alternates.
See, this race doesn’t have much of a difference between the primary tires and the alternate ones. Normally, the alternates are so much quicker but fall off much faster too. If you’re on a long green flag run, like ones we see at Indy, the reds are just as good as the blacks because they don’t have the fall off like they do elsewhere.
So, with Power on reds and Wickens on primaries, Power charged Wickens down and got by with ease. Wickens put up a fight but he didn’t have enough. Then, in the end, he had to go in fuel saving mode and had to settle with a third place run. It was his second podium finish in five races into his rookie season. That’s enough to hang your hat on. Plus, look at the only two guys to cross the famed yard of bricks first.
Will Power (33 career wins) and Scott Dixon (41 career wins). They’re arguably among the best ever in the series. So, for a rookie to have to save fuel while on an alternate strategy to the drivers he was chasing, it’s a great day.
“I have to work on my fuel save game a little bit (laughter),” said Wickens. “Hats off to the Lucas Oil guys – we had a great first stint. We had an even better second stint, and then Will (Power) and I had a great little battle when I was on the blacks (Firestone primary tires), he was on the reds (Firestone alternate). I guess I’m not as efficient at fuel saving as they are, but we made it. Scott (Dixon) got behind me on push-to-pass, and I was instructed not to do much because of fuel save. In the end, I’m really happy to be on the podium. It’s frustrating because it feels like you’re driving so slowly because it feels like you’re lifting for what feels like an eternity before the corner, but then the team was reassuring me that (Alexander) Rossi and (Sebastien) Bourdais had to do the same thing. It wasn’t comfortable by any means. It was the first time in my career I’ve had to save fuel like that, but in the end, happy with the podium. Would have liked to be a bit further up, but hard to complain.”