Wilson Charges to the Front while Rookie Huertas Shows Consistency for Coyne
April 27, 2014
Birmingham, Alabama - Dale Coyne Racing’s Justin Wilson and Carlos Huertas took to the track at Barber Motorsports Park this weekend for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. Wilson was looking to improve on past performances at this event while Huertas visited the circuit for the first time in his career. Huertas welcomed the chance to race on the 2.38-mile, 17 turn dedicated road course after the first two races of the season were run on temporary street circuits.
Justin Wilson was eager to get on track in more favorable weather conditions after participating in the two day open test at Barber Motorsports Park in March where temperatures were nearly 40 degrees cooler than race weekend. This difference in conditions proved to be a challenge during the practice sessions and in qualifying. Wilson would start the race in 16th position having failed to advance out of his qualifying group.
The start of the race was delayed for severe weather and when the drivers finally made it out on track all were forced to start on Firestone rain tires. The weather and the change to a 1 hour and 40 minute timed race forced the teams to abandon their original strategies for the planned 90 lap race.
The water spray made things difficult in the opening laps as demonstrated by the second lap caution. By that time Justin Wilson had gained four positions and ran 12th overall. “You couldn’t see a thing,” said Wilson of the tricky opening race conditions. “You were getting on the brakes on the straight because you couldn’t see where you were going and you were hoping the guys behind you were in the same boat and fortunately they were,” commented Wilson.
Conditions began to dry and The Boy Scouts of America #19 team brought Wilson in for sticker red tires on lap 25. The stop was slower than usual because Helio Castroneves mistakenly stopped in the #19 pit box just moments before Wilson arrived for service; this cost Wilson a top 5 finish. Track grip was hard to come by at first, but Wilson continued to improve his position and into the top ten. In the end Justin and his team would be rewarded for their efforts with a 6th place finish. Said Wilson, “I’m pleased with it. I think this was a good day but obviously, we’re already thinking about the next one.”
Carlos Huertas acclimated to the track quickly with improving lap times in each of the practice sessions. His IndyCar career best qualifying performance meant he would start just ahead of his teammate in 15th position. Despite his satisfaction with his qualifying position, Huertas knew it would take a lot of patience to move to the front of the field saying, “I think there is probably only one corner to overtake on this circuit. It will be a difficult race.”
The start of the race saw Huertas drop a few positions but he stayed right with his more experienced peers. The only part of the day that frustrated him was a spin shortly after going to the red Firestone tires in drying conditions. “The conditions were tricky on those tires and the first couple of laps on them were not easy,” noted Huertas. He continued, “thankfully, I stayed on the lead lap and managed to finish 16th." Another solid performance from the youngster can be nothing but pleasing given the challenges a driver new to the series faces. In a series full Colombian talent, Huertas can be proud tonight knowing he outperformed all of his fellow countrymen.
The Verizon IndyCar Series returns to its roots by visiting The Indianapolis Motor Speedway next. May will be kicked off with the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis which will utilize the road course layout of The Speedway. The series will then shift focus to the Indianapolis 500 later in the month. The Grand Prix of Indianapolis will be on Saturday, May 10 at 3:30 PM ET and will be aired live on ABC.
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Trevor J. Moore