More of the same this afternoon, as Josef Newgarden runs fastest in the second Friday practice session at Road America, clocking a 1:42.6279 lap, ousting his own morning fast lap by about six-tenths of a second. There was a bit of sunshine in the final 5 minutes of the session, a welcome bit of brightness for most folks. Though if I’m being completely honest with you, I was completely in love with today and all it’s grey beautiful wonder. After weeks of 80 to 90 degree temperatures, whether at home or on the road, this windy cloud-covered day was perfection.
I’m thinking Newgarden was having a similar thought as he swept the Friday sessions in his No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevy. He wasn’t fully confident that that would be the case this morning, but perhaps he was just being coy. He earned a pole at the most recent race, the DXC Technology 600 at Texas Motor Speedway, and he came up with a P2 finish at Road America last season, so things could be lining up for him this weekend. A pole? A win? Both? Very plausible.
Newgarden mentioned Robert Wickens as one of the drivers that he expected to show some speed in the practice sessions today and tomorrow, and he was right on the money. Wickens ran right behind him in the No. 6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda, with a time gap just under three-tenths of a second. This track is the scene of Wickens first behind-the-wheel Indy car experience, when he sat in for Mikhail Aleshin during 2017 practice. Aleshin was having issues re-entering the country after racing at Le Mans the weekend prior and arrived late to Road America for the Kohler Grand Prix weekend.
“A big reason why I agreed to help out the team last year was because it was at Road America, just because it’s such a cool track to drive. Driving an IndyCar on such a good track, it was too good of an opportunity to pass up.
Now I’m a full-time guy. Hopefully we can get some good results this weekend.”
Wickens has nearly had his first win more times than I can count this year. He kicked the season off with a pole at St. Pete, shocked everyone with a podium at Phoenix (his first oval experience ever), has led laps at every IndyCar track he’s competed at except for Barber and Long Beach, and earned respect and props from guys like Will Power, who sees him as a future IndyCar champion. So yeah, the kids got chops.
What’s that you ask? Do I think he’s going to win this weekend? Uhm. Yes. I do. Because I believe in poetic gestures from the universe. But taking my hippie soul out of the mix… seriously, how cool would it be to see Wickens get his first win at the track where he first wheeled an Indy car, just one day off from the anniversary of said piloting? I’m not one to make predictions but I can’t really help it on this one. It’s too good to not become a story.