5 July 2009
Wilson wins at Watkins Glen.
Justin Wilson provided Dale Coyne Racing with its first-ever IndyCar Series victory - in the 25-year old team's 558th open-wheel start - in the Camping World Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, fending off the attentions of three of the series' 'big four' in the process.
The Briton, whose only previous top ten finish this year came with third place in the season-opener at St Petersburg, became the first driver outside of the Target Chip Ganassi Racing-Team Penske quartet to win since he last tasted victory, with Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing at Belle Isle last August.
Facing a lap 54 restart with the #6 and #9 cars of Ryan Briscoe and Scott Dixon chasing, Wilson claimed that he was having to hold off 'two goliaths', but superior pace on the red-walled Firestone tyres ensured that 'David' was able to pull away and win comfortably, breaking Coyne's long drought.
"It feels fantastic," said the Briton, who started on the outside of the front row and led a race-high 49 laps, "This is the most important win in my career. Winning with Dale and showing what we can do, it's a fantastic feeling."
Wilson used Firestone's 'alternate' tyres on the final restart to pull away and beat Briscoe to the chequered flag by 4.9906secs, with Dixon, who took over the championship points lead, finishing third. Penske's Helio Castroneves advanced nine positions to finish fourth, while Marco Andretti overcame going a lap down following contact with EJ Viso on lap five to battle back through the field and overtake Mike Conway on the final lap for fifth.
"We've just worked at this all year, and we've put a lot of effort into the road courses so to dominate like we did is fantastic," Wilson noted after bettering the second place finish achieved by Coyne and Bruno Junqueira in the 2007 Champ Car race at Zolder, "I've got to thank Dale for putting me into the car - I didn't think I would be driving this season, and here we are in Victory Lane. It feels great. I was grinning from ear to ear on the last lap. It just felt so good to do that for Dale. We've been trying to build this team up, and we're coming."
Wilson inherited the lead on lap 45 when Andretti made his final stop for fuel and tyres and, while Briscoe closed to 0.4743secs with ten laps left - before a full-course caution period for Hideki Mutoh's contact with the turn seven barrier on lap 52 - Wilson's ability to call on two sets of the Firehawk 'reds' for the race proved to be the key.
"It took too long," said Coyne, who is competing in his 25th year of open-wheel racing as a driver and owner, "We knew Justin was a strong road racer. We almost showed it at St Pete, and we showed it here."
Briscoe, running on the regular compound tyres for the final stint, took runner-up honours for the fourth time this season, and is now tied for second in the standings with Dario Franchitti after the Scot's Polaroid-branded Ganassi entry spun into the gravel in the Inner Loop on lap 23. Franchitti, who held a slender one-point advantage entering the race, returned to the fray, but finished 15th and a lap down. He and Briscoe now sit 19 points behind Dixon at the halfway point of the season.
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