The race got off to a clean start and Justin, like many of the other runners, was on a new set of the softer, red-sidewalled Firestones. Despite much wheel-to-wheel action Justin was still 8th as the first yellow of the race flew on Lap 9 and he had a great restart on Lap 13, moving up three spots to 5th. With rain falling, Justin showcased the best of his abilities on red tyres on a slick track as he worked his way past Sebastien Bourdais (Dragon Racing) and Simon Pagenaud to move up to 3rd by Lap 19.
At this point strategies through the field diverged. Justin was one of the top 6 who took the gamble to stay out on reds, hoping for a quickly drying track, while others took the safer option of switching to wets. The gamble nearly paid off and the rain stopped soon after, but not before falling more heavily for a time, and the combination of a slick track and heavily used reds caused Justin to overshoot Turn 1, losing him four spots as he rejoined the field. He pitted for scrubbed reds on Lap 23 and by Lap 35 was back up to P7 again, but from Laps 36 to 50 the #18 Sonny’s car struggled for pace and Justin was still P7 when he pitted for the second time on Lap 51. A fuelling problem at the stop lost valuable time and dropped him back to 16th. Now with slower lap times due to the harder “black” Firestones, and many of those around him on the quicker reds, Justin needed a series of late-race yellows to give him a chance of moving forward.
By Lap 66 Justin was back up to 13th, with the possibility of taking advantage of the rash of yellows in the closing stages to finish in the top-10, but he got caught up in a pile-up himself at Turn 4 on Lap 70, five laps from the end. Mike Conway was already in the tyres on the outside of the corner and Justin was part of the following group making their way towards the apex when he was tapped from behind by another car, pushing the #18 machine under the #14 AJ Foyt Racing car. There they stayed for 3 laps while the safety team struggled to decouple the two Dallara DW12s. He made his way back to the pits for new rear tyres and a new rear wing and rejoined to finish the race 17th.
"Today was a tough one for the #18 Sonny's Bar-B-Q Honda team,” said Justin. “We were running at the front of the field at times during the race, but we slipped back a bit around the mid-point of the race. We tried to make few moves and they seemed to be working as we were moving back up through the field. But on the last restart of the race, Mike Conway went into the wall and that tightened the field up. The guys running on the inside must not have seen Mike and that caused us to hit him and wind up underneath his car. It's too bad because we had a pretty good chance to have a top 10 finish today. All we can do now is re-group and finish the season on a high note at Fontana in two weeks."
At Baltimore Justin proudly wore the helmet designed by 14 year old Janelle Sowders from Harrogate, Tennessee in a competition organised by the International Dyslexia Association. Justin, an Ambassador of the IDA, hosted Janelle and her family at the Baltimore race and the helmet’s “Never Give Up” slogan certainly summed up Justin’s approach to Sunday’s race. The helmet will be raffled off at the end of the season, with proceeds benefiting the work of the IDA. Raffle tickets are available from www.justinshelmet.com.
Source: Justin Wilson media