Justin 22nd after tough day in Long Beach
After another strong performance in qualifying, Justin and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing were all set for a good battle at the front of the pack at Long Beach and had hopes of a podium finish. But contact from another car and a subsequent late-race spin while trying to make something from an ambitious alternative fuel strategy left Justin a disappointed 22nd at the chequered flag. A number of the other front-runners were caught up in accidents or mechanical problems, but Justin’s 2010 team-mate Mike Conway (now with Andretti Autosport) steered through the trouble to take his maiden IZOD IndyCar Series victory. Ryan Briscoe (Team Penske) and Dario Franchitti (Chip Ganassi Racing) rounded out the podium. Justin’s team-mate Ana Beatriz was 19th in the No. 24 Ipiranga car.
As the green flag dropped, Justin maintained his 5th place starting position and settled into a groove behind 4th placed Oriol Servia (Newman Haas). Though the Spaniard was dropping back, and Justin was initially able to pressure him, the No. 22 Z-Line Designs car itself struggled to maintain pace through the stint. On Lap 23 Justin was biding his time, waiting for the first pit-stops, when Helio Castroneves hit him from behind on the entry to the Turn 11 hairpin, causing Justin to spin right at the apex. Justin was able to keep the engine going and get the No. 22 car underway again, but the incident dropped him from 5th to 14th position.
“Oriol started to drop back and I tried to put the pressure on, but then I started to slip back from him,” explained Justin. “We were three to four laps from our pit stop and I just got rammed from behind at the hairpin and spun around which wrecked the day. It was disappointing to get taken out of 5th place from something as silly as that.”
Justin pitted on Lap 27 for the No. 22 Z-Line Designs crew to check out the car while taking on board fuel and tyres. Fortunately, there wasn't any damage done to the car and he was able to get back out on track in 13th place. From that point on, it was a matter of trying to play catch up. The Z-Line Designs crew decided to take an alternate strategy to gain some positions and called Justin in again on Lap 42 for fuel and tyres. This dropped Justin back to 23rd, but put Justin in some clear air and for a time he was able to demonstrate his true pace by running faster than the rest of the field. However, Justin still needed to pit again on Lap 60. Knowing he had a huge amount of ground to make up, after his stop he pushed as hard as he could on cold tyres, but locked up on the entry to Turn 8 and made contact with the tyre barrier. Justin was able get the No. 22 car back to the pits under his own steam where the rear wing and front right toe-link were replaced. He went back out again to try and secure as many points as possible.
We were three to four laps from our pit stop and I just got rammed from behind at the hairpin and spun around which wrecked the day.
“It was a tough day,” lamented Justin. “We were trying to make something happen and we tried an alternate strategy. I was pushing really hard on cold tyres and locked the right rear as soon as I hit the brakes going into Turn 8. I thought that I was slow enough for it to unlock and that I’d make the corner, but as soon as I turned in it didn't come unlocked. It was my mistake and I put it in the fence there and that lost us four or five laps. At that point we got the car back out and collected as many points as we could. The Z-Line Designs guys did a great job fixing it in the two laps. That's just how it goes. It was a tough day and we were trying to make something out of nothing at that point.”
Justin and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing will be hoping their luck turns as they head to Brazil for the Sao Paulo Indy 300 on May 1st.