Photo: Joe Skibinski/INDYCAR

Hinchcliffe, Wickens start on Row 5 in Toronto; Claman De Melo 23rd

By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer

TORONTO — Canada’s IndyCar racing trio of James Hinchcliffe, Robert Wickens and Zachary Claman De Melo will start ninth, 10th and 23rd ahead of Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto for the Verizon IndyCar Series.

Hinchcliffe and Wickens advanced to the second round of qualifying from their respective qualifying groups but each has had an interesting journey during this weekend.

Hinchcliffe won last week’s Iowa Corn 300 but in the three practice sessions turned the 18th, 10th and 14th fastest laps in the three practice sessions while Wickens was 11th, 13th and seventh in the three sessions. The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports duo were only separated by .0124 seconds. Hinchcliffe was slightly higher in the standings but lost his best lap in the second round because he caused a local yellow flag that impeded one driver on a fast lap after spinning coming out of Turn 8.

“That last lap was everything we had,” said Hinchcliffe. “I made that mistake out of Turn 8 the lap before, which (the) first lap on those sticker (tires), is usually the best. Who knows what that lap could have been… The lap after, we were kind of building on that and we got thrown a curveball, so that’s my fault.

“The Arrow Electronics car was getting better every session and the rain and these conditions kind of threw us for a loop. It’s a shame. I think if we hadn’t had that spin, we might have been able to transfer into the Firestone Fast Six. Proud of the SPM guys – it’s been a bit of a struggle this weekend. We’re keeping our heads honest. We can race from here and try to give the hometown fans a good result.”

Hinchcliffe was also a bit caught off because it was raining during his group but the rain stopped soon after. Wickens’s crew made the decision to go with a dry setup for his group.

“I think being in Group 2 is a bit of a handicap because everyone in Group 1 didn’t end up using any alternates and were quicker in Round 2 with that leftover set of reds (Firestone alternate tires),” said Wickens. “We were the only car that went out there on blacks (Firestone primary tires) on the first run and it started raining. We maybe went a little too early on to the reds to make sure we could get a red lap in for the Firestone Fast Six, but it wasn’t enough today. Tomorrow is a new day, and I’m just looking forward to putting the helmet back on and racing in front of the hometown crowd.”

For Claman De Melo, he was 19th, 23rd and 21st for practice in his Dale Coyne Racing entry and will start 23rd (last) in the field.

“We made the right call by going out with the Firestone reds (alternate tires) on our No. 19 Paysafe car immediately at the start of qualifying,” said Claman De Melo. “There were only a few of us on dry tires and the times were definitely faster on those. Unfortunately, everyone else had the time to come in and change tires and we ended up at the bottom of the timesheet when all was said and done. That said, it’s been extremely fun to drive an Indy car here. The fans are great, the course is great and I’m really excited for the race tomorrow.”

The Honda Indy Toronto broadcast starts at 3:00 on NBCSN with the green flag at 3:42.

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A 2012 graduate of LSU, Christopher DeHarde primarily focuses on the NTT IndyCar Series and the WeatherTech Sports Car Championship. DeHarde has actively covered motorsports since 2014.