Wilson Surprise Winner At IndyCar Firestone 550
FORT WORTH (Sports Network) – Justin Wilson benefited from Graham Rahal’s encounter with the wall in the closing laps to win Saturday night’s IZOD IndyCar Series race at Texas Motor Speedway.
Rahal led the way in the late stages of the Firestone 550 but made contact with the wall with just two laps remaining. That allowed second-place runner Wilson to catch him and take the lead for good on the backstretch.
Wilson, who started 17th in the 25-car field, claimed his seventh career IndyCar win but his first on an oval. His most recent victory in the series came in the July 2009 road-course race at Watkins Glen, NY (44 races ago).
Wilson gave Dale Coyne Racing its maiden win in the series at Watkins Glen. Following the 2009 season, he drove for Dreyer and Reinbold Racing the next two years before returning Coyne’s team in 2012.
“It’s just fantastic,” said Wilson, who led a total of 11 laps in the 228-lap race. “(Team owner) Dale (Coyne) has put so much into making us competitive. I just can’t believe we managed to pull this off. The car was fantastic, and on the long runs, it just got better and better. I saw people sliding around, and I knew I just had to hit my marks.”
Rahal grabbed the lead from Ryan Briscoe with 29 laps remaining and then pulled away from the field in hopes of capturing his second IndyCar win. His first victory came in 2008 at St. Petersburg, FL. Rahal was 19 years old at the time.
When Rahal scraped the wall coming out of turn four, he managed to complete lap 226 as the leader. But he lost momentum from there, as Wilson made the winning pass on him.
“I saw him sliding more and more every lap, and I didn’t think there was much of a chance,” Wilson said. “But when I saw him hit the wall, I thought, ‘Okay, now it’s time to go’.”
Rahal, who drives for Chip Ganassi Racing, finished 3.9 seconds behind Wilson in the runner-up spot.
“I just made a mistake,” a disappointed Rahal said. “This will haunt me until I win.”
Rahal’s teammate, Scott Dixon, put on a dominating performance for most of the event by leading 133 laps, but Dixon spun out and backed it into the outside wall on lap 173. He ended up finishing 18th.
“I just got loose,” Dixon said. “For the last 10 laps, I was really fighting to hold on…The rear just started to slide, and then it kind of dipped down onto the apron and shot around.”
Last Sunday, Dixon led all 60 laps to win the shortened race on Detroit’s Belle Isle. The street-circuit event was cut 30 laps short due to track surface damage.
Will Power took the lead from Dixon just prior to Dixon’s accident, but after a late-race restart, Power received a drive-through penalty for blocking Tony Kanaan while Kanaan was battling him for the lead.
“I had Briscoe on the outside of me, and Tony took me by surprise,” Power said. “I feel bad, because I ruined his day.”
Kanaan, who sustained a damaged front wing after he made contact with Power’s tire, ended up finishing one lap behind in 11th. After the race, Kanaan and Power peacefully discussed their on-track incident.
“We talk about safety all the time,” Kanaan said. “But that move was unacceptable to me.”
Texas was the first IndyCar race held on a 1.5-mile track since eight months ago at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where two-time Indianapolis 500 winner and former series champion Dan Wheldon lost his life during a horrifying 15-car crash. Texas and Las Vegas are very similar with its high banking in the turns.
Earlier this year, IndyCar established an aerodynamic baseline for the new 2012 Dallara car to be used in this race. The series conducted a one-day test session here one month ago to confirm the race package. But many drivers, particularly four-time series champion Dario Franchitti, expressed their concerns about safety in this event.
“All the drivers put their heads together in this race,” said Briscoe, who finished third. “We knew it was going to be hard. I thought it was a good result.”
Franchitti, who won the Indy 500 two weeks ago and then finished second to teammate Dixon in Detroit, dealt with an ill-handling car throughout the race. Franchitti finished three laps down in 14th.
James Hinchcliffe placed fourth, while J.R. Hildebrand bounced back from a 23rd-starting position to finish fifth.
Power’s penalty resulted in an eighth-place run, but the Team Penske driver widened his points lead to 36 over Dixon. Hinchcliffe is third in the standings (-48). Franchitti fell to sixth in points (-64).
Rookie Simon Pagenaud finished seventh, and Helio Castroneves was eighth. Alex Tagliani, the pole sitter, and James Jakes completed the top-10.
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