Justin rues missed opportunity at Mid-Ohio Justin was hopeful of a strong result in the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio, but although he showed great pace in the No. 02 McDonald's car he had to settle for 11th after being tapped into a spin and...
Justin rues missed opportunity at Mid-Ohio
Justin was hopeful of a strong result in the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio, but although he showed great pace in the No. 02 McDonald's car he had to settle for 11th after being tapped into a spin and forced to make a recovery drive from a lap down. Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves scored a 1-2 for Team Penske, with championship leader Scott Dixon rounding out the podium for Chip Ganassi Racing. Justin's Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing team-mate Graham Rahal finished 16th.
Heavy rain fell an hour before the race and all 26 cars started the race on treaded Firestone wet tyres. But the sun was shining on a rapidly drying track and within two laps it was clear that slick tyres held the advantage. Starting from 4th, Justin showed his prowess in damp conditions by moving into 3rd place on Lap 1 and 2nd place on Lap 2 and he passed Helio Castroneves for the lead during Lap 5. He pitted at the end of Lap 5 for slicks, but lost out to Castroneves and Dixon in the race off pit road. Keen not to lose further ground, Justin pushed the cold slicks beyond their limit on his out-lap and speared off onto the grass.
"After I left the pits, I was just trying to get the tyres up to temperature," said Justin. "I was in a damp part of the track and spun off one of the rear wheels. It grabbed and turned me hard right and the slide off the track lost us a few places."
The loss of momentum dropped him back to 16th on Lap 7, but the No. 02 McDonald's car was quick and when the leaders pitted early during a full course caution on Lap 27, Justin stayed out and put the hammer down. The aim was to build a sufficient lead under green flag conditions to be able to move up the order at his next pit-stop. Between Laps 30 and 37 he built an impressive 4.4 second gap over the rest of the field. But before he could capitalise on it, another full course yellow on Lap 38 bunched up the field.
"We'd opened up a nice gap and I thought we were in good shape," explained Justin. "The team started the countdown of laps until I pit and the lap before we were due to come in, the yellow came out and just squashed the nice gap that we had. The timing couldn't have been worse. We thought we would come out much higher in the field. But the yellow meant that we were right at the back of the pack and trying to pass cars."
After pitting under yellow, Justin emerged in 16th position. Further misfortune struck during the re-start on Lap 42 when Justin was tapped into a spin while going round the outside of a backmarker. In the ensuing chaos, the Dallara-Honda of Marco Andretti (Andretti Green Racing) got underneath the back of the No. 02 car, sending its rear end into the air and stalling it on impact.
"One of the backmarkers said he was going to let me by on the restart," said Justin. "So when it went green I thought he was going to let me by at the last corner, but he just punted me around. That lost us a lap and bent the car, so it was a hard battle from then on to get back on the lead lap."
Justin spent the last 40 laps of the race working his way back through the field, unlapping himself during a full course caution on Lap 62 and, after a 13-lap battle, finally getting past Danica Patrick (Andretti Green Racing) for 11th position on Lap 83.
Afterwards, he reflected on the missed opportunity. "It's really frustrating," said Justin. "The McDonald's car was quick from the start. I felt that we were doing a great job and should have been up there in the top four or five."
Justin is hoping that a return to Edmonton's City Centre Airport track will bring better luck next weekend. The Rexall Edmonton Indy in Alberta, Canada is on Saturday 26th July.