(via INDYCAR.com) – It’s not typical when the driver of a car that finishes lower in a race is more pleased than his teammate who finished closer to the top, but that was the case for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports at Sunday’s KOHLER Grand Prix.
While James Hinchcliffe was happy with the turnaround he and the No. 5 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda crew in getting a 10th-place finish, Robert Wickens was left wanting for more after he placed fifth in the No. 6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda.
While Wickens ran in the top five throughout practice and qualifying at Road America’s 14-turn, 4.014-mile permanent road course, Hinchcliffe struggled to find pace. The 31-year-old Canadian started from 16th position, blaming himself for the lackluster qualifying effort.
In Sunday’s 55-lap race, however, Hinchcliffe tied Simon Pagenaud for the most on-track passes (14) and the most for position (11).
“We had a few different cars throughout the weekend,” Hinchcliffe said. “We didn’t nail a setup and in qualifying I made a mistake. It sucked to start back where we did, but we thought what we wanted out of the race car and nailed it.
“Huge credit to the No. 5 Arrow Electronics Schmidt Peterson Motorsport guys. The car was super strong on the brakes, which helped us pass a lot of cars, which we had to do.”
That’s not to say it was a flawless day.
“Unfortunately, we had a problem in the first pit stop, which hindered more passes and we lost a lot of time and track position, and having no yellows doesn’t help there,” Hinchcliffe added. “I think we definitely had a better car than 10th, but given what we started with, I’m really proud of the whole team and we executed really well.”
It was Hinchcliffe’s best finish in three starts at Road America. Despite missing the Indianapolis 500 and the double points it paid, he is 11th in the standings and just 26 points out of eighth after 10 of 17 Verizon IndyCar Series races.
Wickens, meanwhile, had another strong weekend in what has been a stellar rookie campaign. He started fifth and came home in the same position. While content with his fourth top-5 finish this season, he believed he had more.
“I got up to P3 on Lap 1 and thought, ‘Oh, happy days,’ but Alex (Rossi) got back past me and pushed me off the track. I fell to seventh and it was kind of a struggle from there,” the 29-year-old said.
“We had a great car, but not the track position. With going on the three-stop strategy, there’s no real flexibility as everyone is stopping (to pit) on the same lap. So, in terms of doing something clever, I saw Scott (Dixon, who finished third) jump a lot of people and hats off to him there.
“I think, all things considered today, getting a fifth-place finish is a good result. We struggled with some stuff and worked on the car. To come home fifth is good for us. We had a podium car, but it wasn’t our day.”
With the result, Wickens remained seventh in the championship, four points behind Graham Rahal. Wickens stretched his wide lead in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings to 119 points over Zach Veach.
Hinchcliffe and Wickens are among a group of 13 Verizon IndyCar Series drivers scheduled for a private team test today at Iowa Speedway. It comes in advance of the next race, the Iowa Corn 300 on Sunday, July 8. Coverage begins at 2 p.m. ET on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network. Fans can watch today’s testing for free from RV Hill above the backstretch of the 0.894-mile oval from 1-6 p.m. ET.