IndyCar: Wilson leads Andretti contingent on a rough qualifying day for Honda


INDIANAPOLIS – The good news first: Justin Wilson is back in an IndyCar, on the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis race weekend, with one of the series’ marquee teams in Andretti Autosport.

The bad news: Wilson is 18th, which means all four Andretti cars are 18th or worse (Ryan Hunter-Reay is 19th, Carlos Munoz 21st and Marco Andretti 24th), and Hondas are struggling mightily with one or more of the following issues: setup, balance, too much/too little downforce and not enough top end speed.

Only Jack Hawksworth and James Hinchcliffe, in 11th and 13th respectively, broke up the 13 Chevrolet entrants from a top-13 lockout. Chevys ran 1-10, 12, 14 and 15 in qualifying; Hondas were 11th, 13th, and 16th to 25th and last.

Friday marked only Wilson’s second day in an IndyCar this year, and when I spoke to him briefly before third practice this morning, you could easily sense the frustration despite his best efforts to mask it.

Still, ever the gentleman and ever the consummate professional, Wilson is keeping his head up despite the circumstances on arguably one of his toughest weekends yet in his IndyCar career, which dates to 2004.

This weekend, he’s racing with a new team and getting his first laps behind the wheel of the new Honda aero kit-equipped Verizon IndyCar. He’ll have Blair Perschbacher as engineer along with Andretti Autosport director of race operations Rob Edwards overseeing the effort. He completed 57 laps on Thursday and today, was right in the thick of things on Friday despite not having been behind the wheel of an IndyCar in road course trim since August 2014.

The positive sign, if any, from the day was how much better Wilson said the car felt on Firestone’s softer red alternate tires, compared to the harder, primary blacks.

“We went out on black tires for the first run and I felt so loose, I thought we over shot this run, but we seem to be on one side of the balance and can’t seem to find that sweet spot right in the middle,” Wilson said in a release.

“When we put the Firestone red tires on the car, it brought the balance to life and we actually started to roll some speed into the corners and we started to get some grip. It was good, I just wish we could be a fraction quicker.

“We’re pushing, we’re trying hard and we have been behind all weekend, but we’re trying to catch up. I’ve been really happy with our tire life, so I’m hoping that is going to continue into race day and play in our favor so we’ll have a good consistent car.”

If results were handed out on positivity, professionalism and persistence alone, Wilson would already be a podium contender on Saturday.

Alas, it might take a bit of rain, a bit of luck, and a bit more pace for the Honda runners for Wilson’s first start of 2015 to bear the result all parties desire.

IndyCar disappointed by delay of video game but aiming to launch at start of 2024

IndyCar video game 2024

An IndyCar executive said there is “absolutely” disappointment that its long-awaited video game recently was delayed beyond its target date, but the series remains optimistic about the new title.

“Well, I don’t know how quick it will be, but the whole situation is important to us,” Penske Entertainment president and CEO Mark Miles said during a news conference Monday morning to announce IndyCar’s NTT title sponsorship. “Motorsport Games has spent a lot of money, a lot of effort to create an IndyCar title. What we’ve seen of that effort, which is not completely obvious, is very reassuring.

“I think it’s going to be outstanding. That’s our shared objective, that when it is released, it’s just widely accepted. A great credit both to IndyCar racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, something that our fans love.”

In June 2021, IndyCar announced a new partnership with Motorsport Games to create and distribute an IndyCar video game for the PC and Xbox and PlayStation consoles in 2023.

But during an earnings call last week, Motorsport Games said the IndyCar game had been delayed to 2024 to ensure high quality.

Somewhat compounding the delay is that IndyCar’s license for iRacing expired after the end of the 2022 season because of its exclusive agreement with Motorsport Games.

That’s resulted in significant changes for IndyCar on iRacing, which had provided a high-profile way for the series to stay visible during its 2020 shutdown from the pandemic. (Players still can race an unbranded car but don’t race on current IndyCar tracks, nor can they stream).

That’s helped ratchet up the attention on having a video game outlet for IndyCar.

“I wish we had an IndyCar title 10 years ago,” said Miles, who has been working with the organization since 2013. “We’ve been close, but we’ve had these I think speed bumps.”

IndyCar is hopeful the Motorsports Game edition will be ready at the start of 2024. Miles hinted that beta versions could be unveiled to reporters ahead of the time “to begin to show the progress in a narrow way to make sure we’ve got it right, to test the progress so that we’re ready when they’re ready.”

It’s been nearly 18 years since the release of the most recent IndyCar video game for console or PC.

“(We) better get it right,” Miles said. “It’s something we’re very close to and continue to think about what it is to make sure we get it over the line in due course.”