10 June 2012
Wilson claims maiden oval win at Texas
Justin Wilson was the last man to come into pit road on lap 124: he'd been hoping that a yellow would have come out in the meantime while the others were effectively a lap down, which would have given him a nice buffer zone. But that wasn't to be, and in fact the caution came out just six laps too late on lap 130 for EJ Viso pulling down to the front stretch infield area at pit exit and coasting to a dead stop.
"We had a problem that cut all the power on the car which ended my race," he explained. "I am very proud of the work my crew had been doing week after week. Unfortunately, our results don't reflect how strong our performance has been in every race. We all know this a tough sport, so we have to just keep fighting and good times will come very soon."
With the previous pit stops still so recent in the memory, there was a mixed view of whether to come in again or not; Dixon took the opportunity but Hinchcliffe stayed out to assume the lead. Helio Castroneves was in but probably wished he hadn't bothered, when he ended up colliding with Josef Newgarden who had overshot the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing pit stall. The two of them locked together proved a headache for Tony Kanaan to manoeuvre around when he exited his own pit box.
Graham Rahal, JR Hildebrand and Alex Tagliani all stayed out and duly got the lap back they had mislaid during the previous pit stop sequence, but Simon Pagenaud lost that opportunity and wasn't able to jump ahead of Hinchcliffe at the restart to get his lap back the old fashioned way, either.
Dixon was also soon passed the lapped Frenchman in pursuit of Hinchcliffe, and on lap 141 the Kimi trumped the Canadian to resume the lead of the race, leaving Hinchcliffe fending off the advances of Penske duo Will Power and Ryan Briscoe who were moving into ominous position for a late-race strike on the top spot. In fact, the Mayor of Hinchtown was struggling with fading balance and would have to make an early pit stop for urgent tweaks once the car lost that sweet spot in the set-up.
It hadn't been quite the flag-to-flag domination for Dixon that he'd enjoyed six days ago at Belle Isle, but it was still looking pretty solid for Dixon after leading 133 of the 174 laps so far as the likely final round of pit stops arrived. Dixon's paced dropped and he moved to the low line as Power duly took the lead; and then the Ganassi snapped around and went for a kamikaze strike against the wall. Everyone blinked: no one had been expecting that, not for the safest pair of hands in IndyCar to lose it while in a commanding position.
"We just got loose," signed a disappointed Dixon afterwards. "We had been getting loose at the end of stints. For the last ten laps of that last stint I was just really fighting to hold on. That time there I kind of got into the middle of few people we were trying to lap and I was trying to get back up to Power there. I turned in and the rear just started to slide and I kind of dipped down onto the apron and shut around again. I feel bad for the guys. We had a really good car and I think we had a good chance to win here tonight."
That put the race under yellow for the next ten laps while everyone sorted out their final pit stops of the night. When the race resumed it looked like it was going to be a Penske civil war between Power and Briscoe to determine who would get to claim the chequered flag, but then Tony Kanaan came into the picture and made a play of his own. Power slammed the door shut with an instinctive block that cost Kanaan his front wing.
Upstairs in race control, Beaux Barfield was not impressed. Although the new race director has done much to loosen up the rules allowing drivers to defend their lines within reason, that didn't include blatant blocking on a speedway at speeds of over 200mph. It was far too dangerous, and Barfield had no hesitation in handing the race leader a drive-thru penalty for his actions.
"I had Briscoe on the outside and Tony took me by surprise," admitted Power. "I feel bad for him. I ruined his day because he had to come in and change the front wing, and we ruined our own day by getting the penalty."
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