IndyCar » 10 June 2012
Wilson claims maiden oval win at Texas
Justin Wilson claimed his first win on an oval course in the IZOD IndyCar Series with victory in the entertaining and unpredictable Firestone 550 at Texas Motor Speedway.
There had been a sense going into the Firestone 550 at Texas Motor Speedway this weekend that the drivers, teams and series as a hold had a sense of grim determination to put their heads down and get through it, and that no one was expecting anything more at the end of the day than just another entry in the record books.
They certainly weren't expecting a wild, unpredictable rollercoaster ride that confounded expectations and threw up a popular first-time oval winner in the form of Britain's Justin Wilson at the end of a gruelling 228-lap night time race that had the drivers clinging on to their steering wheels for two hours and the rest of us clinging on to the edge of our seats.
It started with the most famous words in motorsport under the setting Texas sun; but with racing legend AJ Foyt uttering them they were never going to be the cookie cutter version, and sure enough his command was "Boys and girls, start your engines."
Only 23 of the 25 cars on pit road complied: the KV Racing car of Rubens Barrichello and the HVM Racing car of Simona de Silvestro refused to come to life, and after a brief panic by their respective pit teams both vehicles were led away into the garage area, done for the day before ever getting going. It was a huge disappointment for Rubens, who had put a lot of effort into getting up to scratch in time for only his second oval race in his long career; but for Simona, it was probably the kinder end to her race day than the dreaded black flag that likely awaited her under-performing Lotus engine.
For everyone else, however, the game was on: polesitter Alex Tagliani initially looked comfortable ahead of a trio of Ganassi cars, but while Scott Dixon and Graham Rahal were soon looking smooth and comfortable after slotting into the racing groove, anything but the same could be said for Dario Franchitti. The #10 car looked intent on driving into the wall at the earliest opportunity and Franchitti was forced to make save after save, all the while falling further and further back.
Finally the Indy 500 champion realised that the problem wasn't going away - in fact it was getting worse - and opted to pit early on lap 20 at the exact moment that his team mates Dixon and Rahal were cruising past Tagliani for the lead - a tale of two races, indeed. The new tyres and set-up tweaks did little to help Franchitti, however, and even another trip to pit lane under caution for more radical changes did nothing to cure the Scot's ills for the night. Franchitti would be left trudging around the speedway for the rest of the night, well off the lead lap, just to carry out whatever point damage limitation he was able to before the chequered flag.
"That was a long, long night," he said afterwards. "My car was really bad to start with after thinking the car was really good last night. From about lap 15 on I crashed about three times and the guys brought me in to disconnect the rear bar. We lost some laps from that and them struggled without grip all night. We just fought as hard as we could for every single point after that."
The early caution that Franchitti had come in for a second time under was on lap 31 when Charlie Kimball spun and hit the SAFER barrier in turn 4, demolishing his left hand suspension but otherwise escaping fairly lightly.
"It's disappointing, the car was going to get better and better, especially in clean air," said Kimball. "I had really good pace but the #5 car of EJ Viso was all over the road in front of me. I had no idea what he was going to do for five laps in a row. I'd go low and then he'd chop me, and I'd take off toward the fence. Then I went on the high side that lap and coming off the corner he moved right up, I got a face full of dirty air and the thing snapped around."
Tagged as: James Hinchcliffe , Dario Franchitti , Ryan Briscoe , Texas , Graham Rahal , Scott Dixon , Justin Wilson , Will Power , Alex Tagliani , Josef Newgarden , tony kanaan
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