Justin Wilson: “I was battling hard at the end, there were some close calls out there,”
Sonoma, Calif. – After a frustrating opening segment to the GoPro Grand Prix at Sonoma Raceway, Justin Wilson and Dale Coyne Racing fought back to score their best result of the IZOD IndyCar Series season to date with a run to second place on Sunday in the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda.
Wilson opened the race from seventh on the grid, but had his race plan altered early after contact at turn seven sent him spinning off course. Fortunately, Wilson was able to rejoin the pack and stay on the lead lap, with the other driver receiving a penalty for the incident. After the contact sent Wilson to the back of the pack, Dale Coyne Racing engineer Bill Pappas put an alternative pit strategy in play to find a new way forward with the Honda-powered Scouting.org machine. The decision to stay out as the race hit lap 20 quickly played dividends as Wilson took the lead of the race ahead of a lap 26 restart as others took to pit lane. While the strategy gained track position, nothing was gifted to the Englishman as he had to hold up his end of the deal and, despite being on older Firestone tires, fight to stay in podium position while many around him put their newer tires to good use. A lap 38 pit stop for tires saw Wilson return to the field 21st in the order, but once again his pace and the strategy in play had Wilson back up into the top-five by lap 48, and then up to second position with 55 laps in the books. One last stop on lap 61 from second place had Wilson return to action 11th in the order. But one final caution set the stage for Wilson to take the last restart from second in the order.
Taking the green flag alongside eventual race winner Will Power, Wilson held to the outside line going into the high-speed, high-compression turn one. But the Aussie was able to hold the line and take the point as Wilson came home second. “It was tough, I thought I got a good run on the outside,” said Wilson of the restart. “But when we got to the brakes, Will dove in, and was on the dirty line so I had to just concede at that point. I was hoping he would make a mistake, but it just didn’t come.
It was nice to do this (podium) with strategy, but to also have the pace to back it up. It was a tough battle, but I was pleased with how the team executed. I have to admit, I was scratching my head at one point on the strategy but it all worked out and I just have to thank everyone on this team.” Unlike the Honda 200 at Mid-Ohio, which ran caution-free, the visit to wine country saw a manic race with multiple cautions slowing the field. “I was battling hard at the end, there were some close calls out there,” said Wilson. “I think everyone seemed to come in here with a little bit of frustration and decided to take it out in this race, so it was busy out there!” Wilson, who has raced on every weekend this August with his IndyCar and GRAND-AM commitments with Dale Coyne Racing and Michael Shank Racing respectively, will be back in action next weekend at the Baltimore Grand Prix presented by SRT as the IndyCar Series makes a return visit to Baltimore.