(via The Drive) – The word “teammate” typically brings to mind joint efforts and, well, teamwork. However, the truth is that when it comes to professional racing teams, teammates usually evoke thoughts of bitter rivalries, intimidation, and a good dose of psychological warfare. After all, there’s only room for one lead driver, and no one wants to be second-string.
If there’s ever been a competitive team that appears to have two number-one drivers who are equally capable of qualifying and racing competitively, it’s IndyCar’s Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, whose James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens seem to possess the right ingredients that IndyCar needs so dearly as its popularity continues to grow. Charisma? Check. Youthful attitude? Check. Speed? Check. Popular with the fans? Check.
IndyCar’s race at Road America in Elkhart Lake this weekend brings the Canadian duo that much closer to their homeland with Wisconsin, much like Detroit two weeks ago, being just a stone’s throw away from the “Land Up North.” As a result, Wickens and Hinchcliffe will have a larger than usual fanbase cheering them on, but who will be their lead driver? The dynamic duo isn’t too worried about that. In fact, it was Hinchcliffe’s support of Wickens that helped seal the deal at Schmidt Peterson.
When asked about how he helped Wickens “get here,” Hinchcliffe answered: “Well, we simply convoyed up and drove here.” Everyone at the press conference laughed. Of course, the question was referring to Hinchcliffe’s involvement with his teammate’s decision to come to IndyCar after a successful stint in DTM, not how they got to the track.
Hinchcliffe continued, “I knew what he’s capable of so I put my foot down and said ‘this is the guy we need to have in here.’ … I didn’t want people to think I was just trying to get my buddy in here, so I just had them to look at the facts.”
“I was ‘the mole’ inside the team [said in a joking manner],” Hinch added. “But I simply stepped back and let his [Wickens’] results speak for themselves.”
Hinchcliffe has enjoyed a decent 2018 IndyCar season so far, although his 11th position in the championship doesn’t truly reflect that. In addition, his failure to qualify for the biggest race of the year, the Indy 500, has severely damaged his hopes of remaining competitive in the title hunt for the rest of the year. Hinchcliffe’s best finish in 2018 thus far came at Barber Motorsports Park, where he stood on the third step of the podium.
On the other hand, his teammate, countryman, and childhood friend sits seventh in the championship and has been a race contender since his very first race in St. Pete. His maiden IndyCar win has eluded him so far, but Wickens already claimed a second place at the Phoenix oval.
Will the friendship and the laughs continue as the year progresses and the chase for points heats up? Will the pressure from sponsors and racing commitments ever get in the way of the charismatic duo? Only time will tell.