In the IZOD IndyCar Series’ first return to Belle Isle since 2008, Justin Wilson brought back the speed that brought him to victory lane at this very track nearly four years ago. Though several circumstances prevented Wilson from regaining his title at today’s Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, he set the record for fastest single lap of the race.
Both Dale Coyne Racing drivers posted promising practice times right up until the last minutes. On Friday, Wilson, driver of the No. 18 Sonny’s Bar-B-Q Honda, lead the pack in speed throughout the day, and ultimately finished as the second fastest of the day. After a fall back in qualifying that would result in starting 9th for Sunday’s race, Wilson reclaimed his chart-topping ranking and left the morning warm-up as second fastest again.
On the first green lap, the rear of the No. 18 Sonny’s Bar-B-Q Honda made contact with the wall. Justin complained of a flat right-rear tire following the contact, but when he pitted on the first lap, the team found that the suspension needed repairs. The dedication of the Sonny’s team allowed Wilson to rejoin the race where he ran the fastest lap of the race (103.407 mph/72.0651 sec). With his speed, he worked to make up his lost laps until debris on the track brought out a red flag to repair the track. When the race finally restarted, Wilson set out to finish the race despite the positions he had lost. However in the closing laps and with some damage from those surface debris problems, they made the decision to end the day. Wilson finished in 22nd position.
“Not a great day,” said Wilson. “We brushed the wall on lap one, bent the wishbone, and I’m really disappointed with that. That ended our day pretty much. The guys worked hard trying to give us a good car and we got caught up. We fixed it, went back out, tried to learn a couple of things. The car was really fast. We had such a chance. It’s just frustrating.”
In his first visit to Belle Isle, driver of the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda James Jakes improved all weekend, running as high as fourteenth during morning warm-up. Once the green flag dropped, Jakes began complaining of trouble with the brakes. On lap 14, he pitted for the first time and the team worked to fix the problem. Though he was able to rejoin the field ten laps later the problem returned and brought Jakes back in for good on lap 36 of the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix. Jakes ultimately finished in 23rd position.
“Such a shame that today ended the way it did,” said Jakes. “Justin and I came here with very high hopes and I think our practices showed that we should have had two top-ten cars. The No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda team did a great job getting me back out on track after I came in for brake troubles and I hoped we’d be able to make a bit of that lost time up. It was not to be, though, and now we just have to look ahead to next week in Texas.”