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.