It was just another one of those days for Justin Wilson. One of those ‘come out of nowhere and finish toward the front’ days.
The Dale Coyne Racing driver started 19th on the grid this afternoon, but ultimately charged 15 spots to finish fourth in the first race of the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit at Belle Isle Park.
That tied Team Penske’s Will Power for the biggest position jump on Saturday; Power started 16th but was still able to capture his second win of the season.
“We just had to be quick where we needed to be, save fuel when we needed to save fuel,” Wilson said. “Tough day, but you’ve got to play it how you’ve got to play it. From 19th to 4th, something was going on in that race.
“We were up and back and then up and back. The guys did great pit stops. We did quite a few of them. That gives us something to work with and we’ll come back tomorrow and try and qualify a little bit better and start close to the front.”
Also adding good vibes for DCR today was their Colombian rookie, Carlos Huertas, who netted an eighth-place finish for a new personal best in the Verizon IndyCar Series.
As we’ve written before, Huertas has been largely anonymous but still reliable. How reliable? Following today’s race, Nick Yeoman of IndyCar Radio pulled out a statistic that might surprise you:
Usually, when you’re in that sort of company, that’s a very good thing.
“The end was really tough because I had to save fuel and defend positions,” Huertas said. “I had to keep turning the engine down all of the time for less power and more fuel mileage and I was still not getting the numbers.
“It was difficult because I was running in the top five but that is what it is. I am hopeful we can improve on eighth place tomorrow.”
After starting 14th, Josef Newgarden was putting together a Top-5 run at the halfway point of today’s race. But on Lap 37, he found the barriers in Turn 7 and was knocked out of the race with a 20th-place result.
The Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing driver took full blame for the incident, saying that he simply locked up the rear brakes before crashing.
“It’s a silly mistake that cost us today,” he said. “We had a great car and were doing a great job. We didn’t really have any complications so days like that you want to finish strong and do a good job overall. I feel like I let everyone down, I feel bad for everyone on our team.
“They’ve done a great job this weekend, especially coming off of Indy with the long stretch that they’ve had. They’ve been working flat out. I hope we have a good day tomorrow. We get another chance to qualify and race so hopefully we can do a better job there and I’ll try and do better for the boys.”
Another competitor that had a strong day derailed was Jack Hawksworth, but instead of a wreck, it was a left-front brake rotor failure that relegated him to a 19th-place finish.
Hawksworth started third, but on the opening lap, he took second from James Hinchcliffe on the inside at Turn 3. He quickly pulled a gap on the Canadian while setting his sights on pole sitter and early race leader Helio Castroneves.
But as the yellow flew at Lap 15 for Mike Conway’s single-car crash, the aforementioned rotor broke on Hawksworth’s No. 98 Bryan Herta Autosport Honda.
The rookie was able to get the car back to the pits for repairs, but those ultimately knocked him four laps off the pace.
“Unfortunately, the front left brake exploded, so that was basically our day gone,” he said. “We did a few more laps of running and got a bit more of a feel for the track so we can have a better day tomorrow.”
Herta said he had never seen a “carbon disc failure” like what occurred on Saturday, and he hoped Sunday would bring a result more representative of their efforts.
“I feel bad for Jack and all the guys because yet again, they did not make any mistakes but somehow we still did not get a result,” he said. “I’m glad we have another race tomorrow and another shot.
“We’ve got a great car, great team, great driver. We’re ready for round two.”