Sunday, June 10, 2012

Justin Wilson steals the Firestone 550 at Texas Motor Speedway

Justin Wilson wins the Firestone 550
Photo by Lisa Janine Cloud/Skirts and Scuffs
Justin Wilson and Graham Rahal may have worked together to help create a handling package for ovals, but that didn't keep Wilson from capitalizing on Rahal's slip on Lap 226 of 228 and claiming his first victory since 2009. The last time team owner Dale Coyne won was with Wilson at that same race at Watkins Glen. The finish of  Firestone 550 might not have been as close as Texas Motor Speedway is famous for producing, but the final laps held enough drama to make it a part of the Texas tradition of some of the best racing on the circuit.

"I just can't believe we managed to pull this off," Wilson said. "The car was fantastic. And on the long runs, it just got better and better." Although Wilson isn't known for his prowess on ovals, he and the No. 18 Sonny's Bar-B-Q machine gave Honda their third win in a row.

Scott Dixon, who led three times for 133 laps, got loose and wrecked on Lap 173. He wasn't injured, but said, "For the last ten laps of that last stint I was just really fighting to hold on." His misfortune allowed Rahal's No. 38 Service Central Honda to shoot to the front, only to brush the wall before the finish. "I just made a mistake, you know," Rahal said. "I kind of stayed with it because they told me Justin was coming, and I didn't give myself enough margin for error."

Ryan Briscoe brought his No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet home third. "It was tough...I'm glad the race is over, you know, the guys put me in position to win tonight. I had the lead, I just didn't have the car to bring it home and stay in front."

James Hinchcliffe, who led eight laps on the evening, finished fourth and JR Hildebrand rounded out the top five.

They wanted the drivers to have control in their own hands. They wanted to limit pack racing. They wanted to not be worried about racing on ovals. They got what they asked for, according to Wilson,  Rahal and Briscoe. "First time on a mile and a half since maybe Homestead 2010, that I felt the driver could make a difference," said Rahal. Despite previous hints that the series should not return to ovals, all three of the top finishers agreed that Texas Motor Speedway should remain on the schedule as long as they keep the package that prevents the pack racing that they all feel is simply too dangerous for IndyCar racing.

Other notable incidents included Will Power's penalty for blocking Tony Kanaan. Power felt bad for Kanaan and agreed that he'd made a mistake that ruined both the drivers' nights.

Dario Franchitti, who started on the outside pole, struggled with handling all night and finally had to disconnect the rear sway bar, which put the Indy 500 champion down several laps.

Complete results: 

Driver Laps Running/Reason Out
1 Justin Wilson 228 Running
2 Graham Rahal 228 Running
3 Ryan Briscoe 228 Running
4 James Hinchcliffe 228 Running
5 J.R. Hildebrand 228 Running
6 Simon Pagenaud 228 Running
7 Helio Castroneves 227 Running
8 Will Power 227 Running
9 Alex Tagliani 227 Running
10 James Jakes 227 Running
11 Tony Kanaan 227 Running
12 Ed Carpenter 227 Running
13 Josef Newgarden 226 Running
14 Dario Franchitti 225 Running
15 Katherine Legge 224 Running
16 Mike Conway 224 Running
17 Marco Andretti 222 Running
18 Scott Dixon 173 Contact
19 E.J. Viso 129 Mechanical
20 Oriol Servia 89 Mechanical
21 Ryan Hunter-Reay 66 Mechanical
22 Takuma Sato 63 Contact
23 Charlie Kimball 29 Contact
24 Rubens Barrichello 0 DNS
25 Simona de Silvestro 0 DNS


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