WILSON CLAIMS FIRESTONE 550 VICTORY AT TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY

[media-credit name=”INDYCAR/LAT USA” align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]FORT WORTH, Texas (Saturday, June 9, 2012) – Justin Wilson charged from 17th on the starting grid to overtake Graham Rahal’s mishandling car on Lap 226 of 228 to win the Firestone 550 at Texas Motor Speedway

It was the first IZOD IndyCar Series oval victory for Wilson, who led Rahal across the start-finish line by 3.9202 seconds. Ryan Briscoe finished third and James Hinchcliffe was fourth. All four led multiple laps in the fast and furious race.

“It’s just fantastic,” said Wilson, driver of the No. 18 Sonny’s BBQ whose previous best IZOD IndyCar Series oval finish was seventh. “(Team owner) Dale (Coyne) has put so much into making us competitive, so this one is for him and the team. 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.”

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Rahal appeared to be on his way to his first oval victory, but the No. 38 Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing car brushed the Turn 4 wall as he was fighting understeer.

Earlier in the weekend, IZOD IndyCar Series drivers lobbied sanctioning body officials to put the race in their steely hands on the 1.5-mile, high-banked oval instead of relying on an aerodynamic package that has produced the pack racing everyone was attempting to avoid following the devastating accident in October on a similar configured oval.

It worked to produce an entertaining race for competitors and spectators.

“I have to say this is the best racing I’ve ever had on an oval,” said championship points leader Will Power, who also appeared to be on the way to strengthening his championship points lead until he was assessed a drive-through penalty for blocking on a Lap 184 restart. “You had to lift, you had to look after your tires, you had to really drive the thing, it was moving around. That is just the sort of racing that we need at these sort of tracks.”

 

FIRESTONE 550 POST-RACE QUOTES:

JUSTIN WILSON (No. 18 Sonny’s Bar-B-Q Honda, winner Firestone 550): “It’s just fantastic. I have to thank Bill (Pappas)and everyone who works at Dale Coyne Racing.   They work so hard and some long hours trying to get ready. Dale has put so much into it. 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 knew I just had to hit my marks.   (About Graham’s accident): I saw him sliding more and more every lap, and I didn’t think there was no chance, but when I saw him hit the wall, I thought “OK, now it’s time to go.” It was four-wheel drifting all the way into Turn 3 and all the way out of Turn 4. You were having to hang on out there.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 38 Service Central Honda, finished second): “I just made a mistake, you know, I mean the car was pushing through the center 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. You know, I own up to it, and we’ll come back and we’ll win one here, and I certainly feel like it should have been today. Obviously for the entire NTB/Service Central crew, this is going to bother us, but we know we can run with these guys, we know we can win and hopefully we’ll do it next week in Milwaukee.”

RYAN BRISCOE (No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet, finished third): “It was tough. Certainly you needed to work on the set up all night, the balance changed a lot from the beginning of this stint to the end, and man you just had to hang on. It was hard work. My car, the last two sets of tires just went off really badly in the back, so I was battling a loose car, which is hard work. 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. It’s disappointing, but I had a huge moment out there at one point tonight and I’ll take third.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): (About the penalty for blocking Kanaan): “I had (Ryan) Briscoe on the outside and Tony (Kanaan) took me by surprise. I feel bad for him. I ruined his day because he had to come in and change the front wing, and we ruined our own day by getting the penalty. 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. Feel bad for the Verizon guys. Feel like we could have won the race.”

DARIO FRANCHITI (No. 10 Energizer Honda): “That was a long, long night for the Energizer team. My car was really bad to start with after thinking the car was really good last night. From about lap 15 on I crashed about three times and the guys brought me in to disconnect the rear bar. We lost some laps from that and them struggled without grip all night. We just fought as hard as we could for every single point after that.”

MIKE CONWAY (No. 14 ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt Racing Honda): “Really long night. Thought we’d have a good car after yesterday, but it was a real handful from the start. A lot of under steer and we put more front wing into it. Then the circuit changed. We had a problem with the weightjacker, and it got really loose. Had some big moments and so I had to come in and took out front wing. It got better but the track kept picking up front grip even we were taking wing out. Just trying to hang on and count down the laps. Really wanted a good result here but it just wasn’t to be.”

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 27 Team GoDaddy.com Chevrolet): “We obviously had a good car, we ran fast early behind Graham and Scott and then just behind Scott. The guys were awesome in the pits man, I mean we’ve had our problems, my mistakes and other things over the year, but every stop today was on it. We stayed out one time when Dixon was in, and we tried to play it a bit different. We had a tire situation that we weren’t sure if it was going to go our way, and ultimately that might not have been the best call, but you know, happy for the Go Daddy car. Thanks to all the fans that came out and congrats to Justin, that’s an awesome drive from him.”

JR HILDEBRAND (No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing Chevrolet): Starting from 23rd or 24th or wherever we started, I’m definitely happy to come home with a top five. This is place that Panther’s always done well at, so there’s always a little bit of expectation for me coming here that we can work our way up to the front and the boys will give us a good car. The last few stints it was super loose, but we’re able to keep the speed up enough to not lose a lot of laps or positions, and when the car was good we could just hammer on it and catch it all back up. We would have liked for the car to be a little more competitive at the end of the runs, but shoot man, we’ll take it.

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports Honda): “Man, I enjoyed it actually. I didn’t think I would that much. But once I got the hang of it, I had a really, really good race car. It was blindingly fast. I kept adjusting all race long. Unfortunately, I made a big mistake in the pits early, which cost us a lot. Otherwise, maybe, we could fight for the win. The car was that good. But, I’m catching on. I learned alot tonight. I made some good passes. Hats off to the guys. We didn’t start the weekend off that good, and they gave me a really, really, really fast car which allowed me to race well.” (About passing on the outside in Turn 1 twice): “I love the high side when it works. It’s cool. I was very comfortable in Turn 1. But, we had to tune the car to do it because I didn’t have the grip to run high early in the race.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Mouser Electronics/GEICO – KV Racing Technology Chevrolet): “I have to thank my sponsor Mouser, this was their home race and I feel bad that I couldn’t bring home a good result. I also want to thank my crew guys, we had a problem on the first pit stop and they managed to get it sorted and send me back out. Will Power then did the biggest block on me ever. We have been talking about safety and that wasn’t cool. I did go and talk to him after the race and we talked it out. I had a busy night, it was unfortunate that happened because I think we had a pretty good car and hopefully we put on a good race for the fans.”

E.J. VISO (No. 5 CITGO-PDVSA KV Racing Technology Chevrolet):  “We had a strong performance today. We started with a car that was not in the best shape, however stint by stint we made it better. By the third stop we had a pretty good car that gave me the tools to fight my way into the top-six. At that point we had a problem that cut all the power on the car which ended my race. I am very proud of the work my crew had been doing week after week. Unfortunately, our results don’t reflect how strong our performance has been in every race. We all know this a tough sport, so we have to just keep fighting and good times will come very soon.”

ORIOL SERVIA (No. 22 Panther/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet): “We started to have a fuel pressure alarm on the wheel and every lap was just all of a sudden getting worse. I was running full throttle and it just wouldn’t carry any speed. We think we have an injector problem or something, which is rare, but it happened today.”

ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka/Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet): “It’s disappointing because we made our way to the front. We had a vibration during a couple of stints that cost us a lot of time. It was just a weird race. I know we are all worried about pack racing but I prefer the way we raced at Texas before. And I may be on an island in that sentiment. Hopefully the fans enjoyed the race never the less. We worked our way to the front and that we had a good chance to stay there. Obviously, we were hoping better than 12th tonight. We had a little tough luck on our green flag pit stop because, about two or three laps later, the yellow came out when Scott Dixon crashed. But that is racing. We’ll regroup and get ready for Milwaukee next week.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 Team DHL/Sun Drop Citrus Soda Chevrolet): “Injector problem, I don’t know just lost power. We slowly but surely were losing power. It’s unfortunate, it’s really unfortunate. We had a really good start to the season going, really good in points. Now with three straight mechanical issues it’s so unfortunate. These guys work so hard and I think we had a good race car going tonight. I think it might be time for me to cut off the facial hair. I don’t know what to do.”

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda): “We didn’t quite get our set-up right tonight but I think the fact that we were able to finish the race shows how hard SFHR worked as a team. We’re going to continue to work hard and our time will come eventually.” (About racing at TMS): “I think this was a very difficult track for all of us to race on tonight. The track was very sensitive to how people went about things and certain set-ups. It was difficult for us to get a grasp on things tonight but we finished the race, which was great. We were trying to run as fast as we could without hitting the wall and I’m just really happy to finish.”

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 AAA Insurance Team Penske Chevrolet): “What a race, the AAA machine was great. We passed a lot of cars and were able to drive through the field. 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. It’s upsetting because when you have a set up like that because it really gives you a great opportunity. But 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 10.”

 

IZOD INDYCAR SERIES POINT STANDINGS

1. Will Power       256

2. Scott Dixon      220

3. James Hinchcliffe        208

4. Helio Castroneves        203

5. Simon Pagenaud (R)    199

6. Dario Franchitti192

7. Ryan Hunter-Reay       181

8. Ryan Briscoe   177

9. Tony Kanaan   160

10. Justin Wilson   156

 

IZOD INDYCAR SERIES MANUFACTURERS CHAMPIONSHIP

Chevrolet         54

Honda  50

Lotus   28

 

SUNOCO ROOKIE OF THE YEAR STANDINGS

Simon Pagenaud   199

Josef Newgarden  104

Katherine Legge   76

Bryan Clauson     13

Wade Cunningham           13

Jean Alesi             13

 

***

The next IZOD IndyCar Series race is the Milwaukee IndyFest presented by XYQ on June 16 at The Milwaukee Mile. The race will be televised by ABC at 1 p.m. (ET) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network on SiriusXM (XM 94 and Sirius 212). The next Firestone Indy Lights race is the Milwaukee 100 on June 15 at The Milwaukee Mile. The race will be televised by NBC Sports Network at 5 p.m. (ET) on June 21

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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