Long Beach, Calif. (13 April 2014) –After being crashed out of the race as he fought for the lead, Justin Wilson was left seething on Sunday following the Toyota Grand Prix at Long Beach in Round 2 of the Verizon IndyCar Series championship.
Wilson’s hopes of a second consecutive podium finish on the streets of downtown Long Beach were dashed on lap 65 as he was hit and forced into the wall by the No. 9 machine of Scott Dixon. The contact ended the race on the spot for Wilson, who was left bewildered by the lack of response from race management when the move went without penalty for Dixon.
Deepening the disappointment was the fact that Wilson was good to go to the finish on fuel, irrespective of caution flags, while Dixon had to pit for enough fuel to make it to the finish.
It was a disappointing result for Wilson and his Dale Coyne Racing team after having climbed through the field from the 10th starting position to run second on the final restart of the race.
Wilson opened the event from the fifth row in his No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda looking to move forward just as he did in last year’s Southern California race event when he drove from deep in the field to finish on the podium in third.
A long green flag run set the stage for the opening of the race and Wilson, who was the only one among the top-10 running on the Firestone Black tires, moved up to second position just before the first full course caution on Lap 27. Unfortunately, the timing of the yellow cost Wilson track position as most of the cars ahead of him in the order had already pitted which saw Wilson emerge from the pit lane buried deep in the pack.
Wilson restarted from 16th and ready to make his move through the field, but contact from behind on the restart saw the No. 19 Boy Scout of America spun around when the race went back to green. Wilson kept the car running and returned to the fray, progressing to 17th in line as he clawed back the lost track position.
When the second full course caution of the race came out on Lap 42, Dale Coyne Racing Engineer Mike Cannon brought Wilson to pit lane for fuel and tires, calculating that the fabled 2-mile circuit would produce more yellows and allow Wilson to go all the way to the finish. That strategy began to come to fruition as an incident involving multiple cars occurred on Lap 56. With the track nearly blocked, Wilson narrowly avoided the incident and moved up to second in the running.
The field circulated under yellow for 10 laps which played into Wilson’s favor as he needed just eight laps of caution to make it to the finish. Fighting for the lead with just under 20 laps to go, Wilson restarted in second and was looking for a way by, but the contact kept him from taking advantage of his fast car as his day ended early.
“The Dale Coyne Racing team did a fantastic job all day,” said Wilson. “We had great pit stops and we had the fuel to make it to the end. We were getting great fuel mileage and I had a fantastic restart. I had a couple of looks (around Dixon) and tried to go into the inside of Turn 1 but got blocked, which is fine, he moved first. Then I jumped back to the outside and got squeezed on the outside and then coming out of Turn 5 the same thing happened. He chose the inside, so I took the outside and nearly got put in the wall then. So I did the old switch back out of six climbing the hill through seven and down to eight. Scott (Dixon) had the inside, but he wanted the outside as well. I got sandwiched between him and the wall. It bent both sides of the car and it was the end of our day. I just feel for the Boy Scouts of America guys. We worked so hard – fantastic strategy. We gambled and could make the mileage and should have made the podium today.”
When IndyCar Radio’s Nick Yeoman asked Wilson if he thought that Dale Coyne Racing had shown that they are a team to keep an eye on, Wison was emphatic.
“I think we’ve got what it takes,” said Wilson. “We’ve got some great people, and we are out there to go and win races. It’s just tough, Long Beach is number two on the list after Indy (500), so it’s a big deal. So to be taken out in a way that is so deliberate and blatant, and not even see a penalty for it, I’m a little confused by it.”
While the race didn’t produce the result that the team had been heading for, there was still a positive start to the event as Wilson proudly carried the Teen Cancer America logo on his No. 19 Honda during the race as part of Roger Daltrey’s WHO Cares initiative (http://whocares.teencanceramerica.org).
Wilson hosted Daltrey and a contingent of Teen Cancer America guests on Sunday morning in the Dale Coyne Racing paddock area and had been hoping to bring home a good result for the organization which is raising awareness about Teen Cancer in the United States.
“It was an honor to meet with Roger Daltrey today and help promote Teen Cancer America with him,” offered Wilson ahead of the race. “He is doing great work around the world and raising awareness about good responses for Teen Cancer and we are very proud to be carrying decals on the Dale Coyne Racing car this weekend.”
Wilson returns to Verizon IndyCar Series race action April 26-27 at Barber Motorsports Park.