Stefan Wilson used a swimming analogy – and then expanded on it – to describe his debut in the IZOD IndyCar Series this weekend after his first practice session at the Grand Prix of Baltimore presented by SRT (2 p.m. EST, Sunday, NBCSN).
“Going into the weekend I thought it was getting thrown in the deep end of the pool with no armbands. After my first session, now I was thrown into the ocean with no armbands!” he said.
The younger Wilson, 24 next month, teams with older brother Justin at Dale Coyne Racing this weekend and Stefan will race in the No. 18 Nirvana Tea Honda, that has had four other drivers (Ana Beatriz, Pippa Mann, Mike Conway, James Davison) take the wheel this season.
In the opening practice session, Stefan had a minor off course excursion at Turn 5, but otherwise spent the 45 minutes learning the car and learning the track. He actually completed the most laps of anyone in the session, 19, with a best lap of 1:25.2797 on a set of new tires to end the session.
“It’s a huge learning curve, and it doesn’t take much to find yourself in a tricky position,” he said. “But you try not to take too many risks. Earlier today I chose the safer option. Without any testing, I needed to make sure to get the next session in.”
Of all the different elements between an Indy Lights car – Wilson last raced one at Fontana last year, where he finished sixth – and an IndyCar, Wilson said something beyond the typical differences of grip, brakes, and downforce stood out to him.
“I spoke to James Hinchcliffe and Josef Newgarden (fellow Indy Lights alumni) a lot,” he said. “There’s the gap in downforce, brakes and power. But the electronics to me are the biggest thing. It’s a 10-year-old car and it’s very raw. So now there are so many electronics to get used to. The clutch is on the steering wheel. You have all these switches; the pit lane speed limiter. You get a little bit of a feeling on it, but it still feels a little alien to me.”
Justin, 35, took a similar measured approach to the weekend. He has to view his younger brother as a teammate and another competitor.
“It’s mixed emotions for me, because I really want to help, but not compromise him or possibly compromise my own setup. We haven’t had a chance to debrief yet; I don’t even know where we finished,” Justin Wilson said. “I have to race him as I would anyone else. It’s only way to do it.”
For what it’s worth, Justin clocked in 14th in the session in the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda.
Stefan took a lighter note on the whole brother dynamic. The two are the first to race in the same IndyCar race since Buddy and Jaques Lazier in the 2007 Indianapolis 500.
“I want to separate myself from him as a brother and look at him as a teammate. He’s a lot of good ones over the years. I don’t want to be known as the bro that’s ragging on him!”