Justin survives São Paulo Indy 300 to finish 7th
Justin finished 7th in the Itaipava São Paulo Indy 300 when it concluded on Monday. Sunday's attempt had been red-flagged due to heavy rain and standing water, but Monday’s race was just as much of a roller-coaster for Justin. He took the restart in Dreyer & Reinbold Racing’s No. 22 HP car from 17th, climbed to 9th, spun and dropped back to 17th before clawing his way back into the top 10 by the finish. Will Power (Team Penske) won the race, with Graham Rahal (Chip Ganassi Racing) and Ryan Briscoe (Team Penske) joining him on the podium. Justin's team-mate Ana Beatriz was classified 24th when it proved impossible to restart the No. 24 Ipiranga car after it got stuck in gear and the engine died.
A heavy downpour shortly before the original start on Sunday meant a wet race and a three car shunt at Turn 1 on the opening lap brought out an early yellow. Starting from 8th, Justin emerged unscathed and moved up to 7th, but when the race restarted on Lap 7 he was one of a number of cars to spin in Turn 1. The IndyCar Safety Team got him re-started, but he dropped to 18th. Shortly afterwards, on Lap 9, the race was red-flagged for the first time. After a 2 hour 23 minute delay the cars headed back out on track behind the safety car in an attempt to dry the track and test out the conditions. But with the rain still falling it was judged too dangerous to re-start the event and the race was red-flagged again on Lap 14. Justin was running 17th at that point.
On Monday morning the race was restarted on Lap 15. As soon as the engines fired for the start of the race the rain began to fall, so when the green flag waved all 26 cars pulled into pit lane to switch to wet tyres. Justin immediately gained positions, moving from 17th up to 11th after the stop and settled into a groove, saving fuel. By Lap 20 the rain became a downpour and on Lap 22 the yellow flag came out for two spinning cars. As the race re-started on Lap 25, Justin moved up to 9th before a further yellow flag flew when another car spun. On Lap 29 the green flag waved again, but Justin lost control of the No. 22 car in Turn 8 as a result of the still-slick conditions. Fortunately he was able to keep going, but had to wait until the field passed before he could get back under way in 17th.
“I went into Turn 8, turned in and as I got to the middle the front just gripped up and I just couldn't get the clutch in in time to stop the slide,” explained Justin. “I thought that I’d caught it once and then it went a second time and then I spun. It was driver error in difficult conditions and I had to wait for the whole pack to get by before I could get going again”
It was a fun race, but it was tough because it was so slick out there.
On Lap 35 Justin came in for fuel, emerging in 15th. A combination of on-track passing and others ahead pitting allowed him to move steadily up the timesheets and he took the chequered flag in 7th.
"It was a fun race, but it was tough because it was so slick out there,” said Justin. “It was really, really hard not to spin out every corner – simple as that. Literally you turned in and you didn’t think you were going to be able to stop and you didn’t think the car could turn, then when it did turn you just tried to get out of the corner. They were very difficult conditions. I'm glad that we got the race in and it’s nice to get a finish. I feel like we've done something now, but obviously there's potential for a lot more and we’ll keep building on that.”
Justin was full of praise for the overall quality of driving given the treacherous conditions. “It was tough trying to survive through those re-starts,” he added. “It's hard enough doing those re-starts side-by-side, but this time we were doing them when you can't see the guy in front of you, behind you or alongside you! Everyone has their feelers out trying to guess where we are on the race track. It was tough and we survived that and I think that everyone did a really good job. I know that there were a few incidents, but considering the lack of visibility, I think it was a pretty good day."
Justin and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing now begin their preparations for the 100th Anniversary of the Indianapolis 500 on May 29th.