Justin finishes 12th after uphill battle at Surfers Paradise

After his quick pace in the practice and warm-up sessions, Justin had high hopes of a strong finish in the final race on the 2008 IndyCar calendar, the Nikon Indy 300 at Surfers Paradise. But those hopes were short-lived when the No. 02 McDonald's car experienced gear-selection problems on the opening parade lap. Justin had to pit to reset the gearbox control unit and was forced to start from the back of the field in 24th. In the end, after a total of five pit-stops and an eventful race, Justin had to settle for 12th place. Ryan Briscoe took victory for Team Penske, becoming the first Australian to win the event. Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Racing) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (Rahal Letterman Racing) rounded out the podium. Justin's Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing team-mate Graham Rahal finished 9th.

"About half way around the first warm-up lap the car stopped shifting," said Justin. "We tried to reset the ECU, but that didn't fix it so we had to stop in the pits to sort it out, but that meant we started last. From 24th I worked my way back up to around 12th after eight or nine laps and was back in the game. Then, on our first pit stop, we had trouble flowing fuel so that meant I was last again and had to work my way back up."

In typical JW style, he put up a strong fight and fortunately the McDonald's car was quick enough to allow Justin to scythe through the field. By lap 25, he was in 9th place, but another driver turned in on him as Justin tried to back out of an overtaking move, damaging his front wing and dropping back down the field once more.

"Bruno (Junqueira) blocked Oriol (Servia) going down into Turn 3, but Oriol still got by," recalled Justin. "But it meant they both were very compromised in Turn 3, so I got a run into Turn 4 on the inside of Bruno. He was outside and braked later than I did, so I was on the dirtier side of the track. Bruno won the corner, but didn't give me time to back out - he just turned straight in and went for the apex, crossed in front of me and broke my front wing."

"Even with everything that happened we still had a shot at that point and it really came at the wrong time," added Justin. "It was very difficult to recover from there on. Later in the race we came in to fill up to make it to the end of the race and didn't get all of the fuel in. We did the calculations, but we couldn't make it to the end because there was quite a bit of fuel we didn't get in. So I had to run flat out and try to open up a gap. I passed a bunch of cars which was the same group I'd passed about three times already by this stage, so I passed them again and came in for a splash of fuel, went back out and tried to pass them again."

"If I wasn't laughing, I'd be crying - to be honest so much happened in the race it hard to remember it all," concluded Justin. "It was a long, disappointing day for the McDonald's team."

The race will be re-aired tonight on ESPN2 at 11.30 p.m. EDT. For fans in the UK, Sky Sports will show a full replay of the race on Tuesday at 12.30am GMT (Sky Sports Xtra) and again at 2.30pm (Sky Sports 3).

-credit: justinwilson.co.uk