By Brian Eberly, Contributing Writer
NEWTON, Iowa — Battling four-wide with 15 laps to go in Sunday’s Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway, Robert Wickens got around Spencer Pigot for the third position and everything looked set for the Canadian duo to share the podium as his Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammate James Hinchcliffe was poised to earn the team’s first victory of the 2018 season.
That all changed when the caution flag flew for just the second time of the race with seven laps to go when Ed Carpenter got sideways in Turn 2. When pit road opened, Wickens came down for fresh Firestones as did several other cars, thinking there were enough laps left to take advantage of the fresh rubber.
However, there wasn’t enough time for the race to return to green and while Hinchcliffe took the win under the yellow, Wickens was relegated from the podium to a fifth-place result.
“It wasn’t my call, the team told me to pit so I did. I don’t understand what happened. I saw there were only two laps to go and then we pit for tires, so I honestly don’t know,” a dejected Wickens said of the call to hit pit road.
“I just need to sit down with the team and fully understand what happened. When you’re running third and you get to the late yellow and then they just end it after we come into the pits. The series said there was going to be a green-white-checkered so we pit for new tires because we knew how big the advantage was and we honestly thought we could do stuff and make things happen and gain some spots.
“We thought we were going for the win or at least kind of P2 and it didn’t work out. I think there is a lot of explaining to do and I wish I knew more before I spoke to you guys because I’m kind of lost for words on what happened and why it happened.”
While Wickens is having a strong rookie campaign with two podium finishes (ISM Raceway in April and the Indianapolis Grand Prix Circuit) and a sixth-place position in the championship standings after Iowa, he has become frustrated with the lack of execution at the finish of multiple races this season.
“I’m just getting really sick of saying would’ve, could’ve because there’s been so many races this year where we could have been on the podium and we weren’t,” Wickens said. “It’s frustrating when you put yourself in good positions all the time and you come out on the worst end. I’m just getting tired of it.
“Overall, it was a good day. I guess in hindsight, P5 was still strong. You see how many people couldn’t keep on the lead lap. But still, the underlying thing is we missed out on literally a for sure podium.”
The Verizon IndyCar Series heads north of the border to the Streets of Toronto next weekend, which will be a “home game” for Wickens, from Guelph, Canada. Wickens was also happy to see Hinchcliffe pick up the victory at Iowa.
“I feel so good for Hinch,” he added. “He drove phenomenally all day, all weekend. He loves this place. He’s quick around here and he should be a three-time winner by now but at least he has two. He and Newgarden were just a step above everybody else all day.”