ELKHART LAKE, Wisconsin – Robert Wickens has hovered near the top of the speed chart all weekend at Road America. He reached the pinnacle in today’s final practice before Verizon P1 Award qualifying at the KOHLER Grand Prix.
Wickens whizzed the No. 6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda around the high-speed permanent road course in 1 minute, 42.9915 seconds (140.307 mph) to pace the 45-minute session, the last before three rounds of knockout qualifying later this afternoon to determine the pole sitter and 23-car starting grid. Qualifying begins at 4 p.m. ET and streams live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com, youtube.com/indycar and the INDYCAR Mobile app. A same-day telecast airs at 6:30 p.m. on NBCSN.
KOHLER GRAND PRIX: Practice 3 results; Combined practice results
“It’s been a kind weekend to us so far,” admitted Wickens, the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports rookie who got his first race-weekend taste in an Indy car a year ago at Road America as a substitute for Mikhail Aleshin in practice.
“We haven’t been out of the top five yet, but practice means nothing. The car feels good, Honda’s making good power, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports is doing a good job with the balance.”
Wickens earned the pole position in his first Verizon IndyCar Series race, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in March, but the 29-year-old Canadian wasn’t about to proclaim himself the favorite for the Verizon P1 Award today.
“This track’s tough because it’s always a compromise of how trimmed you want to go (in car setup),” he said. “And the trimmer you go, the more unhappy I think the driver is. It’s always one of those balances of trying to find the good compromise for the whole track.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay was second in the practice with a lap of 1:43.1725 (140.061 mph) in the No. 28 DHL Honda for Andretti Autosport. Simon Pagenaud was third in the No 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet (1:43.1793, 140.051 mph). Pagenaud and teammate Will Power (sixth fastest) were the only Chevy drivers among the top 12 in practice.
“I’m having a great time, loving the Menards car,” Pagenaud said. “Doing a great job with Chevy to find the best way to extract more out of the engine. So far, so good.
“I think the (No.) 22 team’s giving me what I need this weekend. Just going to have to put the lap together in quali.”
Josef Newgarden, the reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion and third member of Team Penske, set what remains the fast lap of the weekend in the second practice on Friday. His lap of 1:42.6279 (140.804) came with the advantage of the softer, faster Firestone alternate tires that will be available again in qualifying.
Qualifying consists of three rounds. In Round 1, the field is split into two groups based on the speed chart in today’s practice. Each group receives 12 minutes of track time, with the fastest six cars in each group advancing to Round 2.
The second-round session is also for 12 minutes, with the fastest six advancing to the decisive Firestone Fast Six round. There, the six drivers get eight minutes of track time (with five guaranteed green-flag minutes) to decide the pole winner.
After that, the cars sit idle until Sunday’s race that airs live at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.