In a record-smashing race that saw new marks for lead changes, number of different leaders and average speed, Justin Wilson put on an inspiring charge that led the way for Honda in the final laps, posting the fastest race lap en route to a fifth-place finish at Sunday’s Indianapolis 500.
After starting 14th, Wilson took his Dale Coyne Racing Honda Dallara into the top-10 in the early laps, but a blistered rear tire as the 200-lap race neared its mid-point dropped him to the very back of the field and forced the veteran driver to contend with an ill-handling car until the next round of pit stops on Lap 124. Wilson spent the final portions of the race working is way towards the front of the field, reaching fifth place just after the final race restart on Lap 197, when Dario Franchitti crashed to end the race under caution.
A cool, overcast day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway produced a record 187.433 mph race average, bettering the previous record of 185.981 mph set by Arie Luyendyk in 1990. In addition, the 68 lead changes – among a record 14 different drivers – shattered the mark of 34 set just last year.
Behind Wilson, Simon Pagenaud brought his Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports Honda from 21st on the starting grid to finish eighth, while Charlie Kimball posted another top-10 result, running ninth in his Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.
Other Honda drivers encountered problems in today’s 97th running of the Indianapolis 500. Alex Tagliani was an early top-10 competitor, but dropped off the lead lap after brushing the wall on Lap 168 and having to pit for repairs. The Target Chip Ganassi Racing duo of Franchitti and Scott Dixon suffered from gearing and handling issues throughout the race, with Dixon finishing 14th and Franchitti crashing without injury on Lap 197 to end the race under caution.
The IZOD IndyCar Series now enters its annual June swing of four consecutive race weekends, starting with the June 2 Belle Isle Grand Prix in Detroit, Michigan, followed by oval track races at Texas Motor Speedway, The Milwaukee Mile and Iowa Speedway.
Justin Wilson (#19 Boy Scouts of America Dale Coyne Racing Honda) started 14th, finished 5th, turned fastest lap of the race: “We kept having to come up from the rear of the field, and just ran out of time and laps. The car was great. We were trimmed out to go quick at the end, which made the car a bit difficult early in the race, but it was fantastic at the end. Our biggest problem was a blistered rear tire on our third stint, we lost 10 mph every lap, and dropped right to the back of the field. I was just hanging on until the next [scheduled] stop. Then, we just kept working our way forwards. On the final [Lap 197] restart, I thought we had a good shot at a top [three] finish, but the last yellow [for Dario Franchitti’s crash] ended our chances. Still, I’m really pleased with Honda and our team today. We never stopped fighting.”
Simon Pagenaud (#77 HP Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports Honda Dallara) started 21st, finished 8th: “It was an exciting race, and I’m pleased with our finish in just our second race here. Our biggest problem was our qualifying position. We started so far back that we had to leave a lot of downforce in the car, and that held us back at the end of the race. Otherwise, I think our car was good enough to win. It was a solid result for us, and I think it will help us in the chase for the championship.”
Art St. Cyr (President, Honda Performance Development) on today’s race: \"It was a disappointing result. Everyone at HPD and our partner teams worked extremely hard to score our 10th consecutive Indy win today, but it just wasn’t in the cards. Several of our teams produced strong finishing runs, but track position and other events hindered their efforts. Congratulations to Tony Kanaan, a long time Honda driver earlier in his career, on his well-deserved victory today. Days like this make us even more determined to improve in the future. We need to take a good look at everything that took place during our time at Indianapolis, and see what we can do to produce a more successful effort next week at Belle Isle.”