FORT WORTH, TX – Heading into the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season, I don’t think too many people had ever heard of Robert Wickens. Nothing against Wickens, but he made a career racing overseas. He hasn’t been on the radar over here in quite sometime. So, forgive fans stateside for not knowing much about him. What he’s doing though in the first eight races of his INDYCAR career, well that is nothing short of amazing.
Wickens, has really never seen any of these race tracks before. While I’m sure he’s watched some of the races on TV, it’s not like he’s ever raced of them. Despite that, the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver heads into Saturday night’s DXC Technology 600 (8 p.m. ET/NBCSN/INDYCAR Radio Network) at the Texas Motor Speedway sixth in the driver standings.
He nearly won his first ever race in the series back at St. Pete in March. He qualified on the pole and led a race high 69 of the 110 laps. If not for contact on a late race restart with Alexander Rossi while leading in Turn 1, he likely would have won that day. In his second ever race, his first ever on an oval, Wickens qualified sixth and would bring his No. 6 Honda home runner-up in Phoenix. He led 44 more laps that night.
Just let that soak in for a moment.
The Canadian rookie has been to or raced at either St. Pete and Phoenix before and here he was in the hunt to win both races. He led a combined 113 laps in those two races and could have easily been to victory lane in both too.
After a disappointing result in Long Beach, Wickens finished fourth in Barber, third in the INDYCAR Grand Prix, ninth in the Indianapolis 500 and eighth and sixth respectively in the doubleheader weekend in Detroit. Six top 10 finishes in his first eight series starts.
Now, this weekend in Texas, he’s showing his skill even more. Wickens, was P1 in the first practice session of the day on Friday afternoon setting a top lap in speeds of excess of 220 mph. In qualifying, he was best in class as behind the trio of Penske drivers, he was best.
For a guy that’s never raced on an oval before, he finished second in Phoenix, ninth at Indy and will start fourth for Saturday’s race at Texas.