10 June 2012
Wilson claims maiden oval win at Texas
Everyone took the chance to come in for service during the yellow, and the pit road was a busy and eventful place: Tony Kanaan's air jack failed, costing him a bunch of positions; Simon Pagenaud misjudged his entry into his box and ended up hitting the tyres laid out for him, netting him a drive-thru penalty and also delaying Justin Wilson in the pit stall ahead; and Will Power was also frustrated after his right rear wheel wasn't fitted properly and he had to make a second stop, meaning he dropped all the way back from third before the caution to 20th afterwards.
But that hadn't affected the control of the race by Dixon and Rahal who resumed as a Ganassi 1-2 ahead of James Hinchcliffe and Marco Andretti at the restart on lap 40. However, in a demonstration of how quickly the new DW12 car could fall out of the "sweet spot" on a track like Texas, Rahal found his handling rapidly deteriorating as the sun set and the night-time took over, and by lap 63 he was 4mph off Dixon's lap times and in danger of losing touch.
The second caution of the night came to his aid and allowed him to make a much-needed pit stop. The yellow was a consequence of Takuma Sato spinning on the backstretch, an odd place to lose the car so far beyond the exit of turn 2: "I don't know what happened in the end. I just lost it in turn 2 when the back end just suddenly slid," said the Japanese driver.
"It was really a shame because up until then we were running strong after starting at the back of the grid and moving up with good strategy," he added. "We had a good pit stop and a good restart and everything seemed to be okay. I was a little loose after the pit stop and I just suddenly lost the rear end."
There were also retirements shortly afterwards for Ryan Hunter-Reay and Oriol Servia, both with technical problems that dropped them well off the pace and forced them to park for the night.
"Injector problem, I don't know - just lost power. We slowly but surely were losing power," explained Hunter-Reay. "We had a really good start to the season going, really good in points. Now with three straight mechanical issues it's so unfortunate."
"We started to have a fuel pressure alarm on the wheel and every lap was just all of a sudden getting worse," said Servia for his part. "I was running full throttle and it just wouldn't carry any speed. We think we have an injector problem or something, which is rare, but it happened today."
For everyone else it was time to get back to racing on lap 72, and this seemed to be Justin Wilson's moment. Having been caught up in Pagenaud's pit stop mishap earlier in the race, the Englishman was really flying now and he was quickly up into the top six. Will Power also looked to be back in the game after his earlier double stop for a loose tyre, and was now back in the top ten and moving forward with a steely resolve.
At the front, the race still seemed like a lock for Scott Dixon. However, he'd lost his team mate wing man: Graham Rahal was still out of the optimal zone he'd enjoyed in the earlier laps and had been overtaken for second by James Hinchcliffe, the GoDaddy.com lime green car now sparkling under Texas Motor Speedway's dazzling floodlights.
A round of green flag pit stops started around lap 112 just shy of the midway point of the race, and Marco Andretti was one of the early takers. However there was a mishap with the refuelling and as he pulled out of the pit box, the back of the #26 was on fire. Literally. Marco hustled the car round a lap, pulled back in and jumped out of the car - only to find that that the fire had by now gone out and had fortunately been limited to a surface layer of fuel on the chassis that had done no significant damage. In fact the bigger problem was strapping Marco back into the cockpit, and by the time he was underway again he was several laps off the lead and out of contention.
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