Justin 10th after tough race in St. Petersburg
Justin and Dreyer & Reinbold survived a chaotic Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg to finish 10th in the No. 22 TranSystems car. Dario Franchitti (Chip Ganassi Racing) took victory in the first race of the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series, with Will Power (Team Penske) and Tony Kanaan (KV Racing) rounding out the podium. Justin’s rookie team-mate Ana Beatriz (No. 24 Ipiranga) finished 14th.
The race was marred by four yellow caution periods in the first 15 laps, including a major pile up in Turn 1 on the opening lap following contact between Marco Andretti (Andretti Autosport) and Helio Castroneves (Team Penske), which also effectively ended the races of Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Racing), Ryan Briscoe (Team Penske) and Mike Conway (Andretti Autosport).
Justin, who started from 6th, was forced to steer a wide line around the outside of the Lap 1 carnage and ended up a net 6th after the race was restarted. Further cautions flew due to restart-induced accidents. With an inside or outside restart position determined by track position, the early phase of the race featured plenty of damaged wings and suspension parts.
“It was a tough day,” said Justin. “We were trying to be patient in that first half and managed to avoid all the mess in the first few restarts. But there was some pretty crazy driving going on and eventually we got collected on the restart on Lap 13. I had someone swerve at me and put me on the grass going into Turn 1.”
This first incident didn’t cost him too much track position, and he was keeping his head down in 5th place until the first round of pit-stops on Lap 38. The fifth and final yellow flew on Lap 39 and it was the restart from this that proved to be the turning point in Justin’s race.
“As we were coming into Turn 1 someone turned into the side of me,” explained Justin. “I went on the inside curb to try and avoid him, but he caught and bent my front suspension. At the same time I got hit on the rear which cut one of the tyres. We hung on as long as we could trying to stretch it out, but it continued to deflate and eventually we had to come in and swap it out and do an extra pitstop. Up until that point the car was pretty quick, but it was a real handful after that. Nothing went our way today, but I think we’re in pretty good shape for the season. We just need to keep working at it.”
Justin made that extra pit-stop from 8th on Lap 56, dropped back to 11th and pitted again with the rest of the field for fuel and tyres on Lap 71. From there he spent most of the rest of the race chasing Oriol Servia (Newman/Haas Racing), eventually crossing the line in 10th.
Justin and the team have a fortnight to prepare for the next race, the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on April 10.