Robert Wickens was again in contention to take his maiden Verizon IndyCar Series win during Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio.
The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver ran in the top five in the opening stint and assumed the lead on Lap 30 after Alexander Rossi made his first pit stop – Wickens pitted much earlier, on Lap 16, and used clean air to run fast laps and reduce the gap between them, which allowed him to move to the lead when Rossi pitted.
And even though Rossi was on a two-stop strategy compared to Wickens’ three stops, Wickens appeared to be better positioned in the first half of the race, as he was building the gap between them to nearly 20 seconds in his second stint.
However, Wickens was unable to make the gap big enough to stay ahead of Rossi after his second stop, and during his third stint, Wickens was balked behind the lapped cars of Tony Kanaan and Takuma Sato.
Unable to pass them – they were on the alternate red tires, while Wickens was on the primary blacks – Wickens could not increase the gap between he and Rossi, and ultimately lost time to him on track.
And by the time everyone had made their final stops, Wickens sat in second, nearly 20 seconds behind Rossi.
Further, his No. 6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda team asked him to conserve fuel in the final stint, preventing him from putting in fast laps to bring the gap back down.
In the end, Wickens had to settle for second, a chance at a maiden IndyCar victory again slipping away.
Still, despite missing out on victory, Wickens believes the three-stop strategy was the right call.
“We stuck to our guns. The strategy worked out, the problem was on my third stint there I just got stuck in a whole gaggle of cars,” he explained to NBCSN’s Jon Beekhuis post-race.
Wickens continued, “They were on reds, I was on blacks and I couldn’t make it through and lost loads of time. I was probably losing a second a lap for a good 10, 15 laps. It’s unfortunate, I think our three-stop (strategy) could’ve worked. It would’ve been racy. Probably in the last couple laps, I would’ve caught (Rossi), but nevertheless, P5 to P2, hard to complain.”
Wickens entered Mid-Ohio sixth in the championship, and remains in sixth exiting the weekend, 19 points behind fifth place Ryan Hunter-Reay.