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He crashed during Friday afternoon’s practice and didn’t put down a lap during Saturday’s qualifying session, but Justin Wilson was still able to improve 21 positions — the most of anybody in Sunday’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach — and finish P3 for his third career podium finish at the legendary street circuit.
The Englishman was unable to set a time in qualifying because the rear wing on his No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda was missing required vinyl wrapping that teams use instead of painting the cars and his Dale Coyne Racing team ran out of time to put the wrapping on. As a result, Wilson started 24th for today’s race.
But as it turned out, the qualifying problems turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Wilson since he didn’t use up as many alternate ‘red’ tires as he would have. He pitted on Lap 4 and managed to rise through the field before ensconcing himself in the Top 5 during the second half of the event. A pass on Dario Franchitti at Lap 56 would be enough to claim a podium position.
“We just went out there and pushed hard the entire race,” Wilson said. “I think that helped, having an extra set and being able to pick a few people off. It’s great to get this result for the Boy Scouts of America and everyone at Dale Coyne Racing. They worked hard to put the car back together on Friday, so I have to thank them. It’s also good for Honda here at Long Beach to get 1-2-3-4. I think it’s fantastic.”
Wilson’s third-place effort is his best since scoring an upset win last season at Texas Motor Speedway and his second podium since the 2010 season.
MotorSportsTalk continues its review of the Verizon IndyCar Series field, driver-by-driver, with a look at Ryan Briscoe. Despite not having a ride to start the year, Briscoe ended strongly courtesy of a series of strong runs at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.
Ryan Briscoe, No. 5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda
- 2014: 11th Place, Best Finish 4th, Best Start 4th, 1 Top-5, 11 Top-10, 5 Laps Led, 12.8 Avg. Start, 10.6 Avg. Finish
- 2015: 18th Place (8 starts), Best Finish 5th, Best Start 2nd, 1 Top-5, 4 Top-10, 10 Laps Led, 17.8 Avg. Start, 12.0 Avg. Finish
For those who slag on Briscoe as being undeserving of top level equipment, his 2015 second half provided a friendly reminder of his overall ability level in what might be less than the best machinery.
Briscoe was thrust into the No. 5 car under trying circumstances to begin with, getting all of an hour’s worth practice replacing the injured James Hinchcliffe ahead of the Indianapolis 500. But subsequent drives on the ovals there, Texas, Fontana, Milwaukee and Iowa – even if the results were less than ideal – showcased a driver determined to show to the paddock he still had it, and then some. His defense against Juan Pablo Montoya in Sonoma was nothing short of brilliant, and courtesy of double points he actually finished ahead of full-season driver Stefano Coletti.
The Australian immediately gelled with the SPM team, engineer Allen McDonald and race strategist Robert Gue. He continues to prove he’s an asset, as he has enjoyed multiple opportunities to extend his career in various arenas of motorsport in both open-wheel and sports cars, the latter of which he won at both the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring with Corvette Racing this year.
Following an early retirement for Mercedes AMG Petronas teammate Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton has closed even more on his third Formula 1 World Championship.
View it above in the race recap from the 2015 Russian Grand Prix.