Justin scores podium on his Dale Coyne debut at St. Pete Justin and Dale Coyne Racing celebrated a 3rd place finish in the Honda Grand Prix of St Petersburg on their first outing together. Starting from 2nd on the grid, Justin led the race from...
Justin scores podium on his Dale Coyne debut at St. Pete
Justin and Dale Coyne Racing celebrated a 3rd place finish in the Honda Grand Prix of St Petersburg on their first outing together. Starting from 2nd on the grid, Justin led the race from the first corner, took the honours for most laps led and posted the fastest lap of the race. But a full course caution at one third distance negated his advantage and despite a spirited fightback to re-take the lead, he was outgunned on a restart by race winner Ryan Briscoe (Team Penske) and second place driver Ryan Hunter-Reay (Vision Racing).
Although unable to bring home what would have been a stunning victory, Justin was quick to recognise the significance of the achievement this weekend, both for himself and the whole Dale Coyne Racing team.
"It's a great result for the #19 Sonny's Bar-B-Q team," said Justin. "Having led the most laps and been so fast, I'm disappointed not to get the win. But under the circumstances I'm very pleased with third place. We've been working hard all weekend, we've got some good people and the great thing about this series is that on tracks like this, that's what allows you to compete."
Justin took the race lead from polesitter Graham Rahal (Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing) going into Turn 1 on the opening lap and built up a six second advantage over the rest of the field before a pivotal full course caution on Lap 33. Briscoe and Hunter-Reay had completed their first pit-stops by then, but Justin had saved enough fuel to stay out for longer. Pitting under yellow on Lap 35, he slipped back through the order as a result.
"It was nice to get the jump on Graham into Turn 1 and from that point on we were just pushing hard, trying to save fuel and do the best we could," explained Justin. "Unfortunately the yellow came out just at the wrong point and that put me back in the pack. I had to work my way back through to have a chance of winning the race."
Justin fought back to 3rd place and then re-captured the lead in thrilling style, leapfrogging Briscoe and Hunter-Reay by the tiniest of margins as he exited the pits after his second and final pit-stop on Lap 70.
"As I came out of the pits, I saw how close it was going to be," recalled Justin. "My tyres were cold, but I knew if I could get through the next couple of corners I'd be able to hold onto it. The tyres just came up to temperature and we were able to hang in there."
It looked as though Justin might be able to give Dale Coyne Racing its first open wheel victory, but on a Lap 86 restart Briscoe had better straight line speed into Turn 1 and Hunter-Reay managed to get by later in the lap. Despite several subsequent full course cautions and re-starts they finished in that order.
"Overall it's been a great weekend," concluded Justin. "With any luck we can get a few more like this."
Hopefully Justin and the team will be able to carry their momentum forward to Long Beach in a fortnight's time.