BELLE ISLE, MI – Despite neither Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver finishing in the top five of Saturday’s first dual of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix race weekend, don’t count out both of their drivers to let that happen again on Sunday.
First off, they have Honda power, the same Honda power that took finishing positions 1-6 in Saturday’s 70 Lap race. After having 1-8 in the first practice of the race weekend on Friday and five of the top six in final practice, it’s a sure bet that the Honda teams will be the ones to beat in Sunday’s finale.
So, why not SPM?
First off, both were strong in final practice and even in qualifying too. Robert Wickens was ninth quickest in the final session on Friday afternoon and even qualified his No. 6 Honda third for Saturday’s race. The fall off on the Firestone alternates that Wickens started on forced him from a two stop strategy to a three stop race, which completely altered their original plans.
That’s why he finished eighth.
“Honestly, it was a tough day… I felt that we had a great car,” Wickens said of his top 10 finish. “For sure there are some areas we need to work on, but we fell off massively on the reds (Firestone alternate tires) out of nowhere. We had to commit to the three-stop strategy pretty early on, and then we lost track position and it was kind of a battle from there. We were able to climb back up to eighth, but I think we could have gotten the Lucas Oil car up in the top five. The good thing is we have another shot at just that tomorrow.”
Hinchcliffe, well his day started off with some bad luck in qualifying then a big mistake on his first pit stop in the race. See, in qualifying, Hinchcliffe was held up by a slower car. So, instead of joining his SPM teammate in the front, he had to start ninth. There’s no doubt that Hinchcliffe had enough speed to challenge for a Row 2 or 3 starting spot.
Then, on his first pit stop, his had a penalty on pit lane for a pit exit violation. That cost him massively. The speed was there. He fought through the field and finished 11th. What would have happened if he started up front and didn’t get a penalty?
“That one was on me… pretty disappointing result,” Hinchcliffe said. “We got hosed in qualifying by a slow car – just a wrong place, wrong time sort of thing – so we started behind where we should have. We had kind of committed to an alternate strategy, the three-stopper. Unfortunately, on that first stop, I just had a pit lane violation – 100 percent on me. Very frustrating, because after that the Arrow Electronics car was really good. We were taking a lot of time out of the guys on the two-stop strategy. Then, that yellow sort of closed it up, but the race had gone yellow-free for so long. I used a lot of push-to-pass trying to get around guys and get that open track we needed. I was kind of a sitting duck on those restarts, didn’t have much to play with. Really disappointed in myself with the pit lane violation. The SPM guys deserve better, they were great on pit lane as always. The car is quick, and we get a chance to try and qualify where we belong tomorrow and hopefully race up front.”
The duo have had great pace on street courses. Now, don’t count them out to finish better on Sunday.