Brothers Justin and Stefan Wilson, like most of the IZOD IndyCar Series field, had an eventful Grand Prix of Baltimore presented by SRT. But although both had their moments where they were involved with incidents, the Dale Coyne Racing “Bromates” each achieved their goals.
Justin started fourth following his first Firestone Fast Six appearance of the 2013 season. He ran in the top five early but fell to 12th on Lap 11, as he fought early brake issues. He fell as low as 20th, on Lap 28, and despite a recovery from there got tagged again at Turn 3 by Sebastien Bourdais on Lap 63, while running fourth. That dropped him back to 10th but with more spins and collisions in front him, he made it back to an eventual fourth-place finish, his fourth straight top-10 finish.
“It was a strange race but I’m really pleased that we managed to hang on and get fourth place with the Boy Scouts of America car because here in Baltimore we have a big following,” said Wilson, who was also carrying Dempsey Challenge signage on his No. 19 Honda this weekend. “It was a tough race. I lost the rear brakes completely from about Lap 4. The pedal was going to the floor so I was just trying to hang on.”
Series debutante Stefan started from 21st on the grid but things nearly went south before his race really got going. An early call to pit on Lap 3 to switch tire compounds nearly backfired; Wilson almost left the pits without his left rear tire. However, the team was able to get his car back on track after reattaching the tire. Wilson kept completing laps before slight contact at Turn 7, which wasn’t enough to take him out of the race.
It was almost fortuitous in a sense, because that meant he had a front row seat to most of the carnage that unfolded in front of him the rest of the race. Although he lost a few laps for repairs to the No. 18 Nirvana Tea Honda, Wilson became the third series debutante in the last three races (fellow No. 18 driver James Davison and Barracuda Racing’s Luca Filippi at Mid-Ohio) to finish his debut. On a day when series champions Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon and Ryan Hunter-Reay didn’t for various pitfalls, that was an accomplishment.
“Thanks for all of your support this weekend, been quiet on Twitter, but have read every single message, and it means a lot!” Stefan Wilson said on Twitter after the race. “did math and by Warmup, including time at Barber, Ive had about 4 hours in an @indycar, so this weekend was always going to be a learning xp. Was caught out by the marbles in the race, never experienced something like that, so another lesson learned! Was so pleased to be able to get back out there in the @NirvanaTea car, after that, and had fun in the short green laps we had.”
Justin now ranks sixth in the IndyCar points standings with 393, while Stefan Wilson made a very solid first impression on the IndyCar paddock. Like most in search of another chance, here’s to hoping we see the pair of “bromates” back on track once more.
The two-day Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy Test concluded on Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
Combined times after the two days of running are below, with Nico Jamin (Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires) and Oliver Askew (Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires) remaining on top from Saturday to Sunday, and Darren Keane (Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda) supplanting Andres Gutierrez at the head of that field.
Previous notebooks are linked here (Friday, Saturday), with additional Sunday notes to follow.
Several drivers pulled double duty between series, namely Parker Thompson (Exclusive Autosport in Pro Mazda and USF2000), Carlos Cunha (Juncos Racing in Indy Lights and Pro Mazda) and Aaron Telitz (Team Pelfrey in Pro Mazda, RJB Motorsports in USF2000). Telitz (above) added a run in Pro Mazda in Team Pelfrey’s No. 82 car; the Wisconsinite has done a lot of the series’ testing for the new Pro Mazda Tatuus PM-18, and had hoped to run all three series. We’ll have more meanwhile on Thompson and Exclusive’s double in the days to come; the Michael Duncalfe-led team out of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan was one of three new Pro Mazda teams adding those cars to USF2000 efforts (Pabst Racing, BN Racing) this week.
There were a handful of drivers that changed cars or teams for Sunday’s second day of the test, primarily in USF2000. While Keane ran both days at Newman Wachs, the Brian Halahan-managed team ran David Osborne and Oscar DeLuzuriaga in the Nos. 37 and 38 cars, taking over from Jake Craig and Max Peichel. Osborne switched from Team Pelfrey, where he ran Saturday, and where Jacob Loomis ran Sunday. Justin Gordon ran a second Exclusive Autosport chassis, switching to the No. 90 on Sunday after running the No. 92 Saturday.
The PM-18 best lap set by Askew is more than three seconds faster than the series’ official track record (Pato O’Ward in 2016, at 1:22.8800, 105.941 mph). Askew’s best time of 1:19.8142 averages 110.010 mph around the 2.439-mile circuit. Neither the Indy Lights nor USF2000 cars eclipsed the existing lap records in those categories.
Drivers largely extolled the PM-18’s outright pace and potential with the horsepower upgrade, in what is a significant step forward for the series. “Following prototype testing of the new PM-18, I believed that we had a special race car and this weekend’s testing confirms that,” said Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions. “Based on team and driver comments, this is a fantastic race car and I am very pleased with what Tatuus, Elite Engines and my team have assembled. It fits perfectly in between the USF-17 and the IL-15 in terms of lap times and, more importantly, it takes what a driver learns in the first step and introduces higher HP, higher grip and higher aero. This will be a great training car for years to come, and seeing our program now with three excellent and well-designed cars is very satisfying to me.”
Keane, one of the few veterans (relatively speaking) within USF2000 was plugged in this weekend as the only driver outside Pabst Racing to threaten the top of the timesheets. “It’s a good boost in confidence for me heading into next year. I am really happy with how everything is going with the team. They are a great group of guys and it’s just really good to see us improving and being where we want to be,” he said.
Rinus Veekay hailed the Indy Lights Dallara IL-15 Mazda this weekend in his first test there, although the talented Dutch teenager may well focus on Pro Mazda next season and shoot to win that championship, and continue his battle with Askew established in USF2000. “The car is very nice, quick,” noted VeeKay. “You can really feel the downforce and it was a pleasure to drive.”
The MRTI is done with official running for the year, but the $200,000 MRTI Scholarship Shootout remains in December at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, the former Firebird Raceway, outside Phoenix. The winner of that will get a ticket into USF2000 for the 2018 season.
Full MRTI spring training will take place at Homestead-Miami Speedway in February 2018, with undoubtedly a bevy of driver and team announcements to come over the following months.