St. Petersburg, Fla. (29 March 2014) – Justin Wilson will open the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season tomorrow as the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg kicks off its 18-race championship. Teaming with Dale Coyne Racing for the fourth year, Wilson once again pilots the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda.
Unfortunately, challenging track conditions at the temporary Florida street circuit and a balky shifter kept Wilson from getting the start to the season he had hoped for in Saturday’s rain-delayed qualifying session. The No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda will open the race from the eighth row.
Saturday’s qualifying session was postponed for about two hours when heavy rains swept through the St. Petersburg area in the afternoon. With the rain washing away the rubber that had been put down during the previous three practice sessions, the field set out on a very slippery green track.
Though the rain had stopped, the track was still quite wet so the field utilized Firestone rain tires for the qualifying run. But as Group 1 set out for its qualifying session, the track began drying and by the time Wilson began his Group 2 qualifying run, the sun was beginning to shine which further dried the track’s fast racing line. The rapidly drying surface meant that Wilson had a narrow window to lock in a fast lap time, and an issue with the shifter didn’t help the cause.
“We had some shifting problems – it wouldn’t up shift very well so I was struggling with that,” said Wilson. “We only had one timed lap out of the tires before they went off so we have to work out why that is so we can look after them if we need to. The track conditions were changing the whole time, it was drying out but we had already overheated the tires at that point. It’s tricky in those kind of conditions and your first lap out there is your quickest by half a second. It’s weird because you start to push a little bit more in the session but the tires were not there. It’s just how it goes. I’m disappointed with 16th but hopefully we can get the car good in warm up and come back through the field tomorrow.”
The result was not what the group had been hoping for, after having started off the weekend strongly when the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda posted the second quickest time of the first practice.
The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will take the green flag at 3:20 PM (ET) tomorrow and will be televised live on ABC.