Justin Wilson was in the right place at the right time after a miscue by Graham Rahal handed him the win at the Firestone 550, his first ever on an oval track.
Wilson had all but resigned himself to being a spectator as the race, at the Texas Motor Speedway, headed into the final two laps on Saturday night. Rahal seemed to have matters in hand, with a decent gap between himself and Wilson, when he went high coming out of Turn 4 and hit the wall. While he fought to regain control, Wilson slipped by and knew his first win on an oval track was just two laps away.
“Toward the end there, I was chasing him (Rahal) down getting closer and closer… and you’re hanging on because every corner you turn in the car goes into a four-wheel slide,” recalled Wilson. “I know we were pushing it pretty hard sideways a lot and, when I saw him brush the wall, that’s when I really knew we had a chance to pull this off.”
Disaster struck just as Rahal was settling in for the win, which would have been his first on an oval track. He was out in front of the field with a 1.5-second lead on Wilson and two laps to go. Rahal, who was fighting understeer all night like many drivers in the race, brushed up against the wall. That was all Wilson needed to get by.
“I just made a mistake,” an obviously-disappointed Rahal said after the race. “We should be in the winner’s circle right now. Something I will learn from and move on… Something I will not forget for some time.”
Even with the finish line, and the win, close at hand, Wilson said he could not get too far ahead of himself. “I passed him coming out of 2. I was actually sideways myself (and) because of that, I had to lift, tighten my line. I was getting pretty loose.”
It was the seventh victory of Wilson’s IndyCar career, but in the end, he was just happy to win his first race ever on an oval track.
“It’s the most fun I’ve had on an oval,” Wilson said, acknowledging that he wasn’t totally comfortable in his car heading into the race. He started from the 17th spot on the grid. “It’s definitely a relief on my side because even after qualifying yesterday, I thought, well, that wasn’t very good.”
Rahal hung on for second place at the Firestone 550. Ryan Briscoe finished third.
After seven races in the IZOD IndyCar season, Will Power continues to lead the series, with Scott Dixon in second and Power’s Team Penske teammate, Helio Castroneves, in third.
The IZOD IndyCar Series now heads for Wisconsin for the Milwaukee IndyFest on Saturday, June 16.