Dale Coyne Racing Kicks Off 2014 in St. Petersburg
March 30, 2014
St. Petersburg, Florida - This race weekend marked the first IndyCar competition for Dale Coyne Racing driver Justin Wilson in 2014 and was the first time driver Carlos Huertas had driven the Honda powered #18 car for DCR. It also was the first time Huertas has put in any laps at the 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary street circuit in St. Petersburg, Florida.
On track action started on Friday with a morning and afternoon practice session. Wilson had a strong first practice session finishing in the second position . Turning laps and learning the track was the primary focus of Huertas. His lap times improved consistently during the practice sessions. Qualifying was delayed by severe weather that struck the gulf shore of Florida on Saturday afternoon. The conditions were still wet in the first qualifying session which saw Huertas only turn one timed lap in the 10 minute session due to two red flags for other cars sliding into the barriers. Justin Wilson ran in the second session on wet tires but failed to advance as one of the top six in the session. He ran a hot lap early on that placed him in first position but the Firestone tires went off after that and his position dropped. Wilson started 16th on the grid while Huertas started in the row behind him in 17th position.
The race began at a rapid pace with Justin Wilson moving up to 12th only 11 laps into the race. After 30 laps and the first cycle of pit stops, Wilson had moved up to fifth position. When commenting on the early charge Wilson said, “the Dale Coyne Racing guys did a great job giving me the clear track early on because the car was fast. I was just hoping to get a bit more of a clear track. With the alternate strategy, we were running hard in clean air and I was just trying to make the most of it. It was a tough balancing act trying not to use up too much of the car early on.” For the remainder of the race Wilson’s #19 Boy Scouts of America car stayed near the 8th place in which he finished and felt it was “really difficult to get by people today.”
Carlos Huertas ran a solid race in his Verizon IndyCar debut. He kept out of trouble and turned consistent lap times throughout the whole day. “Finishing the race was the main goal and I did that,” said Huertas. The #18 car nearly gained track position when the first caution came out. They made the call to bring Huertas into the pits right as the caution came out. Unfortunately, IndyCar officials deemed his pit entrance to be just after the pits had closed. A drive through penalty was issued shortly later which put Huertas to the back of the lead lap where he remained until the checkered flag flew. He brought the car home in 18th position.
The next race for the Verizon IndyCar Series is in two weeks in Long Beach, California. The 40th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach will take place on Sunday, April 13 at 4:40 PM ET and will air live on NBC Sports Network.
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Trevor J. Moore