As we inch closer to the finish line of another IndyCar season, we see the younger Alexander Rossi chasing the aged veteran Scott Dixon. Rossi, the 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner is chasing the four-time (five, if you include his 2003 IRL championship) IndyCar champion, Dixon. A Top Three finish in a race is considered a podium finish, so here are the stories that finish on the podium for the 2018 IndyCar season.
Hinchcliffe Bumped From The Indianapolis 500
For the first time since 2013, the Indianapolis 500 saw an entry list that exceeded the 33 spots in the starting field. This, for Indianapolis 500 die-hards meant the return of Bump Day.
The 2018 Indianapolis 500 had 35 entries for the 33 car field, and fans saw drama added to the traditional “Bump Day” in qualifying. There was some discussion among fans whether or not an IndyCar regular should be allowed to be bumped from the field. Speculation ran rampant on if there would be a driver that “buys” himself into the field.
Mother Nature added drama to this year’s Bump Day with a rain delay to qualifying for the race. IndyCar regular James Hinchcliffe had problems throughout the day adding to the drama and fears of Bump Day detractors.
With mere minutes left in qualifying, the fan favorite had yet to post a qualifying speed fast enough to enter the field. Hinchcliffe had scrapped his previous speed in favor of one last run. Less than two laps into the run, he re-entered the pits after reporting vibrations in the car.
Hinchcliffe and one-off driver Pippa Mann failed to make the 2018 Indianapolis 500.
IndyCar rookie Robert Wickens was far from your typical rookie. Wickens, a childhood friend of James Hinchcliffe, had seen success in various racing series across the world. He entered the 2018 IndyCar season for Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports as a replacement for Russian driver Mikhail Aleshin.
Wickens second in the 2009 Formula Two Championship and 2010 GP 3 Series. After winning the 2011 Formula Renault 3.5 Series, he moved on to DTM. But despite six wins, 2016’s fourth-place finish was Wickens’ best during his six years. His only experience in Formula One was to test drive for Marussia Virgin Racing at Abu Dhabi in 2011.
The Canadian rookie’s friendship with Hinchcliffe was well documented, but for Hinchcliffe, it was more than just having a friend as a teammate. “The last thing I wanted people thinking was I just wanted my friend in the car,” Hinchcliffe told IndyStar’s Jim Ayello. “I wanted the best possible guy available, and that was Robert Wickens, no question.”
Wickens proved early on that he was worth the spot.
Wickens took the pole in the season opener in St. Petersburg and was in a position to be the first driver since Buzz Calkins in 1996 to win his IndyCar debut. Wickens had led a race-high 69 laps when Alexander Rossi made contact with him in Turn 1 on a Lap 108 restart.
In 15 races started, Wickens has four podiums and seven Top-5 finishes to go along with the pole in his debut. On the seventh lap in Pocono, Wickens survived a crash in which his car went airborne. However, he did suffer a broken neck and a spinal cord injury that ended his season prematurely.
Drivers have added stickers to their cars and helmets in support of the IndyCar rookie.
Final Race To Decide Championship
While NASCAR has formulated a playoff system to create parity in its series, IndyCar has proved once again that it doesn’t need to manufacture drama in its series. It’s the auto racing version of a Game Seven. It’s not quite winner-take-all, but it’s very close. Dixon holds the championship lead by 29 points over the younger Rossi.
Both drivers seek to end the Team Penske two-year streak in championship wins. Dixon looks to bring Chip Ganassi his eighth IndyCar title, while Rossi wants to give Andretti Autosport it’s first IndyCar championship.
Will Power has an outside chance to win Team Penske its third title in a row, but it would take a miracle for Power and Penske to achieve this.
Rossi has 10 top-five finishes and three wins this season, while Dixon also has three wins to go with finishing no worse than sixth in all but two of his races this season.