Wilson enters Texas ready to defend, and brimming with confidence

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It says something about the caliber of driver Justin Wilson is, and the caliber of team Dale Coyne has put together in the last few years, that Sunday’s second race of the Chevrolet Indy Dual at Detroit was disheartening.

“We’re looking for more. We were disappointed with Race 2, only getting one car on the podium. It was a big disappointment. That was a nice way to look at things,” Wilson said Wednesday in an INDYCAR teleconference.

A double podium finish in race one, with Mike Conway following up on Sunday, has seen Coyne’s team at stratospheric heights it hasn’t been anywhere previously in its 30-year history in the sport.

So Wilson enters this year’s race at Texas not as an underdog, but as the defending champion. His oval game has improved, as has Coyne’s, thanks to the work of engineers Bill Pappas and John Dick.

The win last year did wonders for Wilson’s confidence and validated both team and driver on ovals, thanks to IndyCar’s technical adjustments that made the cars tougher to drive.

“It meant a lot, not only with the recognition but in the confidence,” Wilson said. “That’s the biggest thing, is having the confidence on an oval.  I felt like I knew what I was doing, but I still wasn’t classed as an oval driver.  I was kind of disregarded.  From that point on, I felt I had the confidence to go out there.  I knew what I was doing, knew what I was trying to achieve with the car in the race.”

Come this year, the aero is again slightly different, with the speedway aero configuration as used at Indianapolis and Fontana on for Texas, not the hybrid package as was used last year. Wilson explained what that can do.

“It’s going to be interesting.  They took the downforce away, made it harder to drive,” he said.  “But that was good because we weren’t flat out.  This year, I’ve been told they’ve taken even more downforce away, so I think we’ve lost another 300 pounds, if I’m correct.  I think that’s going to make it challenging again. It’s having that balance that saves the tires, and you can run longer in the stints.  That’s what we’re looking to do. We weren’t the quickest car outright, so people would pull away at the start of the stints, but we tried to manage it and be quicker over the full stint.”

Wilson will have his third different teammate in the No. 18 car in as many weekends, with Pippa Mann following Conway and Ana Beatriz.