10 June 2012
Wilson claims maiden oval win at Texas
It certainly cost him his shot of what had looked like a very real chance of a rare oval victory: "I do have to say, that's the best racing I've ever had on an oval. The car was moving around. And that's the sort of racing we need at places like this," he said. "Feel like we could have won the race."
That drive-thru handed the lead to Briscoe with the third Penske driver Castroneves alongside him in second. But Briscoe's time in front was short-lived, because by now Graham Rahal had resolved his mid-race handling issues and was back on it, breezing past both Penske cars to take the lead on lap 199. He was the last Ganassi man left standing (excepting Franchitti trudging around at the back of the field) and had to pick up Dixon's fallen standard and carry the team colours to the finish line.
Briscoe tried to stay with Rahal, but behind him it was clear that Castroneves had a problem as he lost places to Justin Wilson and James Hinchcliffe in rapid succession.
"Unfortunately we had a lot of vibration and lost a lot of rear wheel grip towards the end, we just couldn't hold the top three and finished seventh," he said afterwards. "It's upsetting because when you have a set up like that because it really gives you a great opportunity."
However, Castroneves was still walking away from Texas with a solid sense of satisfaction in the weekend's work. "We passed a lot of cars and were able to drive through the field," he said. "I will take seventh with a big smile on my face because I've crashed many times out there and so I'm happy we were able to finish in the top ten."
With a dozen laps remaining, Rahal was still in front and Briscoe trying to close the gap, but then he found himself overtaken by a charging Justin Wilson. Even so, it seemed that the Englishman could do nothing to charge down the race leader 2s down the road and would have to settle for second place.
Rahal's car had looked a handful earlier in this final run but had seemed to settle down again into a drivable groove. At least, right up to lap 225, three laps from the chequered flag, at which point Rahal's car decided it could no longer resist the attraction of smacking the wall out of the exit of turn 4.
"I just made a mistake," admitted Rahal. "I mean the car was pushing through the centre of 3 and 4 pretty well the last stint, and it would kind of grip up for me late in the corner and I kind of stayed with it because they told me Justin was coming. So I was trying to pick up the pace a little bit, and honestly it just never gripped up, and I didn't give myself enough of a margin for error."
"I saw him sliding more and more every lap," said the man with the best seat in the house of Rahal's accident, Justin Wilson. "I didn't think there was no chance, but when I saw him hit the wall, I thought "'Okay, now it's time to go.'"
Miraculously the car wasn't fatally damaged by the rough kiss and Rahal was able to gather up his wits and keep on running, but it was the opening Wilson needed to blast past and take the lead. The lanky Brit needed no further invitations and held the top spot until the chequered flag came out less than two minutes later.
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