Wilson Stands Tall in Detroit At nearly 6'4", Justin Wilson towers above most of the other drivers in the IndyCar Series, and at The Raceway at Belle Isle on Sunday, the Newman Haas Lanigan driver once again stood head and shoulders above ...
Wilson Stands Tall in Detroit
At nearly 6'4", Justin Wilson towers above most of the other drivers in the IndyCar Series, and at The Raceway at Belle Isle on Sunday, the Newman Haas Lanigan driver once again stood head and shoulders above the field, setting the two fastest laps of the race in the closing minutes of the two-hour contest to win the Detroit Indy Grand Prix.
Starting on the outside of the second row in fourth, Wilson gained one position when pole qualifier and early race leader Scott Dixon's Target Chip Ganassi Racing team made the unusual call to pit the championship points leader during an early, Lap 18, caution. That dropped Dixon deep in the field, and he did well to recover to fifth by the finish. Wilson then moved up to second during the first scheduled round of pit stops on Lap 32.
Helio Castroneves, who had taken over the lead with Dixon's early stop, dominated the middle stages of the race, pulling out a lead of up to 12 seconds at one point. But after the final caution period of the race, from Laps 66-68, it was clear Wilson had the fastest Honda Dallara on the circuit. On Lap 70, Wilson made a move for the lead, which was firmly blocked by Castroneves.
Upon reviewing video of the incident, IndyCar Series officials penalized Castroneves for blocking, and ordered him to surrender the lead, which he did on Lap 73. Once in front, Wilson promptly extended his advantage by setting the fastest two laps of the race, and a half-dozen more that were nearly as quick, to take his career first IndyCar victory and the second street-course win of the season for his Newman Haas Lanigan team. Teammate Graham Rahal won the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in April.
On a hot day on a tight and twisting city-park circuit, 26 drivers and teams completed 8,350 miles this weekend at the Detroit Indy Grand Prix without a single failure for the Honda Indy V-8 engine used by all competitors in the IndyCar Series. So far this season, the IndyCar field has completed 217,699 miles without a single race-day failure, extending a record-setting season for Honda, dating to when the manufacturer started supplying the entire IndyCar field in 2006.
Today's results sets up a championship-deciding finale at Chicagoland Speedway on September 7 between Dixon and Castroneves, with 30 points separating the pair and a race victory worth 50 points. Dixon can clinch his second IndyCar Series title [his first was in 2003] with a finish of 8th or better, but problems for the points leader combined with a strong finish by Castroneves could still lead to an upset in the championship battle.
Justin Wilson (#02 Newman Haas Lanigan Racing Honda) (Started 4th, finished 1st, first career IndyCar win, also has four Champ Car victories; closes to within three points of Hideki Mutoh in battle for IndyCar Rookie of the Year award: "This is the most important win of my career. A lot of things have happened with the team this year [including the late change from Champ Car to the IndyCar Series, and the death of long-time team member Davie Evans]; and a lot of things are still going on [the health issues of team co-owner Paul Newman]. It's been a long, difficult year and it's just great to repay the team with a win near the end of the season."
Helio Castroneves (#3 Team Penske Honda) Started 2nd, finished 2nd, led a race-high 53 laps, closed to 30 points behind championship points leader Scott Dixon: "I don't have anything smart to say right now [about the call from race control to cede the lead to Justin Wilson]. I had a fantastic car. The good news is we've made the championship [race] tighter. Let's go to Chicago. For sure, we're going to push as hard as we can, just as we do at every race."
Scott Dixon (#9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) Started 1st, finished 5th, led first 18 laps; can clinch his second IndyCar Series championship with a finish of 8th or better at Chicagoland Speedway next Sunday: "It was a tough day. The car was fantastic. But once again we got out of sequence on our pit stops and stuck in traffic. It's very hard to try and dive underneath people here, while saving fuel and not getting caught up in a crash. We had the quickest car all weekend, and should have won but didn't. That's disappointing."
Erik Berkman (President, Honda Performance Development) on today's race: "It's exciting to see the season championship once again going down to the final race in Chicago. Congratulations to Justin Wilson and the entire Newman Haas Lanigan Racing team on their rise through adversity this season and a hard-fought victory today. Congratulations as well to our friends at Firestone for their 150th IndyCar Series victory today. We're looking forward to an exciting season-championship finish next week."