Gearbox problem forces early retirement for Justin at Kentucky
Justin retired from the Meijer Indy 300 after 82 laps around Kentucky Speedway when the No. 02 McDonald's car was struck with gearbox-related problems. His Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing team-mate Graham Rahal was similarly afflicted. Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Racing) won the race after a thrilling last lap pass on Helio Castroneves (Team Penske) who lost a late-race fuel strategy gamble. Marco Andretti (Andretti Green Racing) was third.
For Justin, in his older and slower Dallara chassis, the No. 02 car wasn't quick enough to challenge for the podium, but the car had enough pace to run competitively in the midfield. Justin used it to good effect by recovering strongly from an early loss of momentum after being held up at the start by the erratically driven AJ Foyt Racing entry of Darren Manning.
"It was a tough race for the McDonald's team," said Justin. "I was held up at the start by the guy in front of me. He couldn't make his mind up whether he wanted to go on the green flag or if he wanted the bottom lane or the high lane. I think I was about second to last by the time I came out of the back straight. It was a frustrating start, but then we just picked them off one by one and worked our way back up."
By Lap 7 Justin was back up to his qualifying spot of 19th and he moved up three more positions to 16th by Lap 18, two laps after Graham Rahal pitted for the first time with his gearbox problems.
"I was feeling comfortable and was catching the pack," said Justin. "Then I saw Graham have his problem and I didn't know what had happened. About 10 or 15 laps later I couldn't keep up with the pack I had caught and I was slowly dropping back. I guess that was the first sign, but I didn't realise it at the time. I thought maybe everyone else had picked up some speed, but in fact we were getting slower."
Justin held onto 16th place through the first green flag pit-stops on Lap 49, but although he continued to fight for that position until Lap 83 the car was already in trouble. As he prepared to pit for the second time, the problem became terminal.
"As we were coming into the pits on the yellow, I was in Turn 2 and downshifted from sixth to fifth and got neutral," explained Justin. "I couldn't get a gear after that, so that was the end. The team had to come and get me at pit in and push me back to the pits to figure out what had gone wrong. After the team's hard work at the test and this weekend it's obviously a really disappointing result for everyone. I'm looking forward to the next road course race."
Fortunately Justin won't have too long to wait. The IndyCar Series heads west to Infineon Raceway, California for the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma County on Sunday 24th August.