(via INDYCAR) – They’re still having a blast together, these playful Canadian teammates at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.
Or as Robert Wickens says of buddy James Hinchcliffe, “So far, we’re still good friends.”
So much so that a Friday chat with media at Pocono Raceway ahead of Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 began with the jovial “Hinch” playing reporter and asking Wickens questions. And he really seemed to get a kick out of it.
“I’m asking pretty good questions, right?” Hinchcliffe said.
“Pretty average. Don’t boast too much,” Wickens said, mockingly monotone. “What was the question, James?”
Wickens had the benefit of a test at this 2.5-mile tri-oval last week, so unlike in the past when the Verizon IndyCar Series rookie has needed to rely on his veteran teammate for data in setting up a race car, the roles could be reversed this weekend.
“Hopefully my work at the test will make your life slightly easier, James, as someone who didn’t take part in the test,” Wickens said with a wry grin.
“That’s also what I’m hoping,” Hinchcliffe said. “I’m going to be really upset if I get in the car and it’s a crap wagon.”
“That’s a possibility,” Wickens said, smiling wider. “I’m not ruling that out.”
Truth be told, Wickens credits the friend he first raced in go-karts back at Goodwood Kartways in Ontario, Canada, for making his first series season so successful. Wickens, sixth in the points in the No. 6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda, has had seven top-five finishes including runner-up results at ISM Raceway and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
“It’s a lot of work and a lot of analyzing that’s getting me there,” Wickens said, “and having a good teammate beside me that I can just lean on a lot and ask the stupidest questions, and he doesn’t lie, I don’t think.”
Hinchcliffe couldn’t let that go without a retort.
“Aw shucks, you make a girl blush,” he said.
Hinchcliffe, ninth in the points in the No. 5 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda, won at Iowa Speedway and has four other top-five finishes this season. He would be significantly higher in the standings had he not failed to qualify for the double-points Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.
They almost shared a podium at Iowa, where Wickens was fourth. It would have been just like old times.
“There was a (recent) picture posted on Twitter the last time we were on a podium together from our karting days,” Hinchcliffe said. “I was lower on the podium, but still taller than Robbie, so don’t forget who your elders are. There was a time when I was taller than him.”
Hinchcliffe, at 31, is also two years older.
There was also the time when they raced each other for a Formula Atlantics win at Portland International Raceway. Wickens won that one, too.
All kidding aside, if it’s at all possible to deviate from frivolity for a few months this day, both drivers admit they foresee an INDYCAR race where they’re pushing each other to that checkered flag.
“At the end of the day, we have an immense amount of respect for each other, on track and off,” Hinchcliffe said. “There’s certainly the added element of being teammates. You have to race your teammates a little bit more differently than someone else, but at the end of the day, when you’re going for the win, it’s kind of every man for himself. The difference in this situation is whoever came out on top, I think we’d be happy for the other guy genuinely.”
Wickens, who has been surprised at how hard teammates race each other in the series, looks forward to that duel.
“Honestly, it’s inevitable that one day we’ll get involved in something on track,” Wickens said, “but I think we’re adult enough to kind of talk it out and move on with life.”
“We’ll fight it out, hug it out, crack a beer and move onto the next one,” he said.
Verizon P1 Award qualifying is set for 1:30 p.m. and air live on NBCSN. A final practice begins at 4:45 p.m. and also streams live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com, youtube.com/indycar and the INDYCAR Mobile app.
Live coverage of Sunday’s 200-lap race begins at 1:30 p.m. on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network. The ABC Supply 500 is the 14th of 17 races on the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule.