(via INDYCAR) – Two races in two days? No problem, says Robert Wickens.
The Canadian may be new to the Verizon IndyCar Series but he’s not inexperienced when it comes to multiple races on a single weekend. That’s why he feels confident going into today’s second half of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear doubleheader. It also helps that Wickens will start second in the No. 6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda.
Wickens joined Schmidt Peterson Motorsports this season to team with long-time friend James Hinchcliffe after driving the past six years in Europe’s DTM touring car series. Doubleheaders weren’t uncommon there, so when the subject of the only two-race weekend on the INDYCAR schedule is broached, the 29-year-old takes it in stride.
“I’m very familiar with doubleheader weekends, actually,” said Wickens, who will start alongside Verizon P1 Award winner Alexander Rossi on the front row in Race 2 on the Belle Isle Park temporary street circuit. “In the DTM for the last three years, we’ve had doubleheader races – race Saturday, race Sunday. This is nothing new to me.
“It’s a lot of fun. After finishing eighth (Saturday), I was happy we could get another shot at it today.”
This marks the sixth straight year that Detroit plays host to a doubleheader weekend. Since 2015, it’s the only one on the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule.
Scott Dixon, who won Race 1 on Saturday to climb into a tie with Michael Andretti for third on the all-time victory chart (42), has driven in every Detroit doubleheader plus those held in Toronto and Houston in 2013 and ’14. Familiarity with the process doesn’t make them any easier, particularly on the notably bumpy Belle Isle course.
“Probably being one of the most physically demanding courses and then having to double up, by the end of Race 2, you definitely know about it,” admitted Dixon, who goes for the sweep from the fifth starting position today in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. “I think it’s a lot of fun. It’s kind of cool to have two races and something that’s unique to Detroit. I really enjoy it.”
“It’s bumpy, it’s very bumpy,” he said. “But it has character, that’s kind of the cool thing about it. It’s very unique. I’ve never driven on a track like it in my career. It’s hard to put the lap together and, as a driver, that’s kind of what brings you to the track in the morning, is the adrenaline of putting together a perfect lap. It’s honestly a lot of fun.”
Rossi won the pole in wet conditions this morning following a torrential downpour. Chances for more rain during the race have decreased significantly, so a dry race is expected with overcast skies and temperatures in the low 70s. Those are ideal race conditions, which means the competition should again be fierce on a track that is constantly demanding.
“There’s just not a whole lot of time for rest,” Dixon said. “When you have rest, you have kinks in the straight and also it’s really bumpy. There’s a lot of (steering) correction going on and you don’t really get too much time to chill out. The straight from (Turns) 2 to 3 is about it. Even then, you’re trying to go from about 130 mph down to a first-gear corner at about 45, so it’s definitely a big split.
“It’s a lot of fun, man. It’s definitely a busy track and the walls keep you confined a bit.”
Today’s race will be the 25th on the Belle Isle track. Only Helio Castroneves has won the event three times. Dixon, Sebastien Bourdais, Will Power or Graham Rahal could join Castroneves with a triumph this afternoon.
With the bonus point earned for winning the pole, Rossi takes a five-point lead into the race over Dixon. Power is eight points in arrears. Josef Newgarden is 22 out of the lead but will start 19th after crashing in qualifying.