If this story’s been written tens if not hundreds of times before, it’s because it has been.
It shouldn’t still need to be, but yet, no matter the success level Justin Wilson achieves at a mid-level to borderline top IndyCar Series team, like Led Zeppelin once opined, “The Song Remains the Same.”
It seems hard to believe Wilson is entering his 11th season of IndyCar racing in 2014, and it remains hard to believe that save for maybe two or three seasons, he’s never had the machinery at his disposal to consistently threaten for wins and championships.
That he only has seven career wins almost beggars belief, but consider two have come with Dale Coyne Racing – two of the team’s three wins in 30-plus years in the sport – and that showcases Wilson’s talent level on its own.
And so 2014 is likely going to be yet another year of “Wilson and Dale Coyne overachieve – again – to challenge the establishment.” It’s not a bad story line; it’s just a chapter that’s been written over, and over, and over again. The difference is in some minor details.
The key for making 2014 a slightly altered story line, compared to the general one outlined above, is how well the push for driver and team to make the necessary improvements actually comes to fruition. As Wilson said yesterday, he and his eponymous team owner have had numerous conversations over the winter to see if they can analyze better; attack better; be more consistent more often.
Key to the Wilson-Michael Cannon driver-engineer balance will be the start of the season. St. Petersburg, traditionally one of Wilson’s stronger tracks, was a place the team struggled in 2013, while Barber was a challenge to master for the pairing in 2012.
“Last year was actually my worst year at St. Petersburg competitive‑wise,” Wilson said. “Before that I’ve always run really well. But we seemed to miss the setup last year and had a slow start to the year. But we recovered well after it. I’d like to think we’ve learnt a lot since then and can come back this year and be near the front again.”
He’s fully recovered from his Fontana injuries, and he’ll get his first bit of racing for 2014 in this weekend at the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
It’s hard not to consider Wilson one of the top five overall drivers in the series. Perhaps this is the year that Wilson’s overall standing and results matches his ability level.