MotorSportsTalk continues its driver-by-driver 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series review. In P15 was Justin Wilson, who struggled through a trying season.
- Team: Dale Coyne Racing
- 2013: 6th Place, Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 4th, 4 Podiums, 7 Top-5, 13 Top-10, 19 Laps Led, 12.2 Avg. Start, 8.9 Avg. Finish
- 2014: 15th Place, Best Finish 4th, Best Start 6th, 1 Top-5, 7 Top-10, 25 Laps Led, 13.1 Avg. Start, 12.4 Avg. Finish
The biggest mystery of the 2014 season to me, by far. The loss of longtime engineer Bill Pappas was always going to be difficult for Justin Wilson and Dale Coyne Racing to overcome, but to the degree Wilson and new engineer Michael Cannon struggled together – as two of the higher-rated folks in the paddock – was not something I or I’m guessing they could have seen coming.
Wilson headed into Fontana last year fourth in the points, on the strength of four podium finishes. He had the devastating accident and while he recovered well over the offseason, his on-track form wasn’t able to match the recovery. To be fair, the qualifying wasn’t too different – there was a slight drop from 12.2 to 13.1 in terms of average grid position – and after only making one Firestone Fast Six a year ago, he didn’t make it once this year.
But the race day heroics are where things really went missing. Wilson – a guy, again, many in the paddock consider one of the top five or six drivers in the series – posted only a single top-five finish this year, and plummeted from sixth (2013) to 15th (2014) in the points. Wilson probably said it best when he told me in Milwaukee, “We have speed at the races we need luck, and we don’t have luck at the races where we had speed.”
It’s been a yo-yo in the standings as Wilson was 15th in 2012 as well. After three years, Wilson desperately needs a change of scenery, but he’s running out of time for top-flight chances. All told, a lost year, as neither his luck nor speed matched the circumstances required.