Wickens Claims Pole for Honda in IndyCar Series Debut
• Robert Wickens, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports score first pole of 2018 season
• Ryan Hunter-Reay, Takuma Sato also advance to final qualifying in damp conditions
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (March 10, 2018) – Robert Wickens, a veteran race winner in the highly competitive DTM Championship in Germany but a rookie in Verizon IndyCar Series competition, prevailed in tricky, damp conditions Saturday to claim the pole for Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
Light rain made portions of the 1.8-mile temporary circuit, a combination of city streets and a runway from the downtown Albert Whitted Airport, very slick, including the painted curbing and runway markers. The tricky conditions caught out several competitors, but Wickens advanced through each stage of “knockout” qualifying to take the pole in his IndyCar Series debut.
Takuma Sato and Ryan Hunter-Reay also advanced to the final qualifying round, and will start fifth and sixth, respectively. Scott Dixon will start ninth after advancing to the second round, while Alexander Rossi was penalized for impeding a fellow competitor during the second round, dropping him to 12th in the 24-car starting field. Sunday’s 110-lap season-opener, the race debut of the new Dallara UAK18 Indy car, starts at 12:30 p.m. EDT, with live television coverage on ABC.
Robert Wickens (Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda) pole qualifier, first Indy car race: “I’m a little speechless. Going into the weekend, I was hoping we could make it into the Top 10. When we got into the Fast Six I was like, ‘OK let’s go have some fun’. My team called great strategy, and made the right changes for the track at the end. I didn’t really know where I was [ranked] the whole session, because of the way the track was evolving. So it was a little surprising, but I’m super happy.”