After a patchwork year of a drive here, a drive there, and a scheduled drive interrupted by circumstances outside his control, Justin Wilson heads to this weekend’s Iowa Corn 300 actually knowing he’s got something to build on after a series of one-offs.
The lanky Englishman, who remains one of the best and kindest drivers in the Verizon IndyCar Series, was well-positioned to finish second Sunday at Milwaukee – he ran ahead of eventual runner-up Helio Castroneves before a mechanical issue in the final 25 laps halted the charge of the No. 25 Andretti Autosport Honda.
“I don’t know what it’s technically called, but it didn’t sound so good,” Wilson told MotorSportsTalk post-race. “I came out of the corner and lost power. It started to vibrate. I just grabbed the clutch, and switched the engine off. It was disappointing.
“But even in the last pit stop, the wheel gun pitched itself and it wouldn’t work. It just jammed. We lost a lap in the pits because of that. That’s the way it goes.”
Still, Wilson enjoyed the dice he had throughout the day with drivers like Ryan Hunter-Reay, Will Power and rookie Gabby Chaves, and furthermore was happy that he actually has another day in the car only five days ahead of last race.
“It’s nice! It’s nice to know you’re working towards something,” Wilson said. “So next weekend, let’s go faster. Let’s sort it out and make it better.
“The balance is everything. Getting the right balance, is so, so sensitive. I can’t explain how sensitive these aero kits are, and how extreme it is. You say it’s sensitive and if you miss by just a fraction, you’re a second off. Maybe it’s not quite that extreme but that’s how it feels. It’s crazy!”
Wilson, who was back to working with engineer Blair Perschbacher after balancing with him and Craig Hampson during the month of May, recapped his own yo-yo ride of a day.
“We were quick. I was really pleased with the car,” he said. “We’d be passing people, then we’d have an issue, then we’d come back and pass more people. And it was then OK, we’re moving forwards. It’s passing. We’re making moves. This was great.
“It was good, I could feel the load in the steering. I could drive it in deep. Guys would hang on the inside and race you to the middle. I had such a good car.”
Wilson finished 13th last year in Iowa. He’ll look to improve on finishes of 24th, 21st and 18th with Andretti Autosport this season, none of which are representative of the talent at his disposal.
Andretti Autosport may be in a good position heading into the race, as one of two teams (CFH Racing) who tested there a couple weeks ago. Marco Andretti and rookie Matthew Brabham took laps as part of Brabham’s rookie test.