Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Robert Wickens in the No.6 Lucas Oil Honda started his debut oval race at the Desert Diamond West Valley Casino Phoenix Grand Prix at ISM Raceway from 6th place on the grid.
The Canadian made a great start to the race and was battling with team mate James Hinchcliffe at the front of the field all night and finished the race in second place picking up his first Verizon IndyCar Series podium finish ending the race just behind race winner Josef Newgarden.
Wickens ran well all night and led the race for a time. Speaking following the event he commented by saying:
It’s a dream come true. 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. It’s so hard here but the Lucas Oil team did a great job. The car was great all day. James [Hinchcliffe] and I were quick, so I think it’s really encouraging for things to come.
James Hinchcliffe in the No.5 Arrow Electronics Honda started the race from fifth place and like his team mate Wickens ran up front all day and led the race. The Canadian was left disappointed however as he finished the 250 lap event in 6th place and speaking following the race he commented by saying:
Not the ending we wanted, but that last restart starting second – huge credit to the team. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports have done an incredible job since the test here in February when we were at the bottom [of the time sheets], to get two cars in the top six in both qualifying and the race. Huge congrats to Robbie [Wickens] on his first podium. I think the Arrow Electronics guys really did an incredible job today, picked up a lot of spots on pit lane which is huge for a short oval like this. Restarting second on that last restart, I thought maybe we had a shot at it. We took a gamble, other guys took a gamble – it’s tough to tell how it went in terms of stopping for tires on the last restart; Alex [Rossi], Robbie and I decided not to. Ultimately the new tire guy won, but track position is key at a place like this, and we made a call – that call was right. I’m proud of the guys. Stinks to lose a couple spots so late in the race like that when we were running at the top all day, but good points day, and huge for the team.
The result on Saturday shows that Schmidt Peterson Motorsports are a force to be reckoned with in 2018. In the first two races of the season they have secured three top ten finishes and head to the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach next weekend as the defending race winners with James Hinchcliffe having taken victory there in 2017, the team will be hoping the can challenge for another win and to carry their great momentum from the previous two races to Long Beach.