By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer
ELKHART LAKE, Wisconsin — Robert Wickens has not raced at Road America since 2007 but the Verizon IndyCar Series rookie didn’t look like he was out of place as he pushed his No. 6 Lucas Oil Honda to fifth position in qualifying for Sunday’s Kohler Grand Prix.
Fifth was the number of the day for the Canadian. Wickens was fifth in his group during the first round of qualifying and repeated that performance in the second round to advance to the Firestone Fast Six.
“I thought Q1 went well,” said Wickens. “The track was quite a bit different than it was in practice 3, but we made some small changes to the car to try to improve and try to keep changing the track, and I think maybe we should have just left the same car because I was a lot happier with the car in final practice than I was through qualifying. We just kind of never got the balance back to where I was fully confident to challenge for pole position.”
Wickens’s first lap in the final round of knockout qualifying was good enough at the time for third fastest but then fell to sixth as more drivers started to turn laps. Wickens then set his last lap of 1 minute, 43.7121 seconds, averaging 139.332 mph to climb one position over 2007 Road America winner Sebastien Bourdais.
“Luckily we made it to the Fast Six,” Wickens said. “Starting fifth tomorrow, anything can happen, but I think it’s hard to be like really happy with the result because I guess we’ve been fairly strong all weekend, and I think we all expected to be at least in the top three this afternoon. But nevertheless, fifth isn’t the end of the world. I’d happily start here compared to sixth or seventh, so we’ll see.”
Wickens was fourth in the Friday morning practice session and second in the afternoon session. Saturdays’ practice had the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver on top of the time sheet.
Wickens’s teammate James Hinchcliffe will start 16th for Sunday’s race that is scheduled to start broadcasting at 11:30 a.m. CDT on NBCSN.