Robert Wickens took a shock pole position for the first round of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar series, pipping Will Power in a session full of drama and where fellow rookies Mathieus Leist and Jordan King also starred
Wicken’s progressed into the fast six along with Leist, King, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Takuma Sato and Power and the session saw the drivers trying to set a fast time on a damp track on dry tyres. The end of the fast twelve saw the track conditions worsen dramtically in the dying minutes after the qualifying hour started with a dry track. This caught several big names out, with Simon Pagenaud and Scott Dixon among the big losers in that fast twelve session as they elected to start the session on primary black tyres, the rest on alternate reds. The rain came down just as they switched to reds, meaning they had no chance of getting a faster lap in. Reigning champion Josef Newgarden didn’t even escape the first qualifying group and only lines up 13th behind Alexander Rossi, who provisionally made it through to the fast six but was penalised for allegedly blocking Tony Kanaan.
Leist and King had been impressive throughout practice and the early stages of qualifying, Leist had even topped the first practice session of the weekend. Having made it through to the fast six the pair exceeded all expectations and qualified third and fourth respectively, Leist on the front row until the dying moments of the session. It looked like he would start alongside Power who was sitting on the pole, but Wickens produced an amazing lap right at the death to knock Power off the top spot and take his first ever IndyCar pole in his first race in the series, and the first pole position for the Schmidt Peterson team since the 2016 Indy 500. Teammate James Hinchcliffe had a solid session and starts in seventh for the race on Sunday.
Another star of the day was Gabby Chaves for Harding Racing. A scruffy start to the weekend had the Colombian worried, but thanks to a couple of penalties and a very strong session for the one car team, he will line up in eighth place as the Harding team embark on their first full time campaign in the series. The race gets underway at 12:30pm local time and 4:30pm UK time.