Justin and Dale Coyne Racing made a fantastic comeback from 24th on the grid to take 3rd place in Sunday’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Smart strategy, good pit-stops, Justin’s never-give-up attitude and an additional set of unused red-sidewalled Firestones – the only benefit of not participating in Saturday’s qualifying session – allowed the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda to climb steadily through the field and into podium contention.
The team worked hard after the crash on Friday and then we made a lot of changes on Saturday. Obviously we had the setback on Saturday when we didn't get to qualify, but they gave great pit stops today and great strategy. It was a real team effort and I think it was just a perfect strategy.
On those restarts, everyone else had blacks on and we were able to drive by people. We also had five or six more laps with fuel. When they pitted, we could keep going and do some quicker laps. It was just good strategy and making the most of the situation we were in after the rest of the weekend.”
Justin started on the harder, black-sidewalled primary Firestones but struggled for front grip and the team decided to make an early, off-sequence stop to get him on the sotfer, gripper, "red" option tyres as soon as possible.
After an early first pit-stop under yellow on Lap 4, the No. 19 car came to life and Justin was able to make steady progress through the field, moving up to P17 before the first main pit window opened.
By staying out longer while others around him pitted he climbed as high as P2 on the timesheets before a yellow flag forced him onto pitlane on Lap 30. He emerged in P13, now back on the same strategy as everyone else, but having gained 11 positions in the meantime.
Over the next 20 laps he made a number of passes for position into Turn 1, before pitting from P6 for the third and final time on Lap 51. Pitlane contact involving the cars of Will Power (Team Penske) and Tristan Vautier (Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports) saw Justin jump to P4 before the race went green on Lap 56. On the restart Justin overtook the Chip Ganassi Racing machine of Dario Franchitti into Turn 1 to claim P3, a position he held comfortably to the chequered flag.
Takuma Sato took his maiden IndyCar Series victory for AJ Foyt Racing, with Graham Rahal (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing) the runner-up. Justin’s team-mate Ana Beatriz was 14th in the No. 18 Ipiranga Honda.
The result was Justin’s third podium finish at the famous street circuit and his first in this year’s IZOD IndyCar Series. The valuable points haul vaults him to 5th in the driver standings as the series heads south to Brazil for the Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300 on 5th May.