Detroit: Justin Wilson runs away from Castroneves

Justin Wilson romps home in Detroit

Helio Castroneves drove hard, raced smart, and even blocked to protect his lead, but nothing could prevent Justin Wilson from winning the 2008 Detroit Grand Prix at Belle Isle. Helio finished second, followed by Tony Kanaan and Oriol Servia. Points leader Scott Dixon finished fifth, but failed to clinch the points championship.

Wilson passed Helio Castroneves with about 15 laps to go and pulled away to win the Detroit Indy Grand Prix presented by Firestone by 4.4 seconds. Castroneves was blocking the obviously faster Wilson and IRL officials made him give way to Wilson. From there Wilson just waltzed away from the slower Castroneves.

Wilson noted that the win was the biggest of his career to date, and also dedicated it to the ailing Paul Newman in the post-race interview.

Tony Kanaan was a distant third.

Justin Wilson celebrates his first IndyCar win
Mark Scheuern/

Today’s victory was Wilson’s 5th Champ or IndyCar win and 1st in the IndyCar Series. His Champ Car wins include: 2005 – Toronto, Mexico City; 2006 – Edmonton; 2007 – Assen (Netherlands) and his IndyCar Series wins include: 2008 – TODAY. It was his 15th IndyCar Series start.

"It was a tough race and a lot going on for relatively little overtaking on track," said Wilson.

"We just had to keep working on the fuel mileage and the final yellow saved us. Then we could race for the win. The Firestones were working great. We just got more and more grip as we went on, and that's a great feeling for a driver – to feel the car saving you and holding you in on all these bends. It was a lot of fun. If there was a downside to the tires, it's that they had so much grip that I couldn't do donuts at the end. The car just went forward instead of spinning."

As soon as the race got started, Bruno Junqueira brought out the first caution of the day when he bumped Milka out of the way. Both soldiered on. Milka finished 23rd, and Bruno recovered from a "back of the field" penalty for avoidable contact to finish 7th. In the ensuing pit stops, Tomas Scheckter dropped out after breaking halfshafts. His crew was blunt — "Driver problem," noting that Tomas did the same thing during the Indy 500. Eventually Scheckter went back to racing, but finished 21st.

The green flag fell, and per prognostication, Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves took off to settle the first part of the race between themselves. Seeing that he wasn't competitive with the two leaders, Dan Wheldon took fuel early on lap 10. Unfortunately, when you run with backmarkers you crash with them, and Wheldon tangled with Jaime Camara on lap 18, bringing out another caution. Camara finished 25th, the last of the cars that started the race.

In the ensuing pit stops, Helio didn't pit, while Dixon did. Entering the race, the only hope that Helio had of winning the points championship was to win the race, lead the most laps, and hope that Dixon had bad luck. When the race restarted, Dixon was in 18th, Helio was in the lead.

On lap 31 the leaders all pitted, then got lucky as the caution flag came out on lap 33 for an incident involving Danica Patrick and Vitor Meira. Vitor came to stop in turn 8, Danica in turn 11, and EJ Viso hitting the wall in a seemingly unrelated incident in turn 12. Vitor and Danica returned to the race, but EJ's day was done, finishing 24th. Vitor finished 17th, one place behind Danica.

When the race resumed, Helio was leading Justin Wilson, and Wilson quickly showed that his car was every bit as quick as Helio's. While Helio would clinch the 3 bonus points for leading the most laps, it was clear that Wilson would not be denied. Wilson pitted on lap 56, falling some 15 seconds behind Helio, but a caution — caused when Wheldon missed a corner on Turn 7, and Morales missed turn 8 on lap 66– bunched the field back up. Wheldon finished 20th, and Morales finished 15th.

The IRL has used its blocking penalty before, but never before was it used in a race for the lead, nor in a case where the championship points lead was at stake. It was, however, used on lap 72 of today's race. The green flag waved on lap 69, it was obvious that Justin Wilson was going for the win, and in the words of Helio after the race, had nothing to lose. Equally obvious was that Helio was racing for the championship. And, there was no doubt that Helio did more than simply take his line with "one move" — in other words, he blocked. However, the IRL normally gives warnings on the first block, and Helio expected that he would simply be warned as he pulled away. President of Competition Brian Barnhart, however, simply issued the command for Helio to give the position to Justin, which he did on lap 73. After that point, Wilson pulled away, winning the race by over 3 seconds, setting fast lap of the race as he pulled away to the checkered flag. Helio later commented, "Consistency is the only thing I ask for. I've been in this series since 2002… we always have a warning… it was uncalled for."

– With the win, Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing has won 2 races, the same number as "big 3" team Andretti-Green Racing.


JUSTIN WILSON (No. 02 McDonald’s Racing Team, first): “It was a long tough day, but we managed to stay clean, and we got great strategy and good pit stops. The McDonald’s team was doing a fantastic job. I was so desperate to get a victory this year, my first one in IndyCar (Series) and my first one with Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing. This means a lot. It’s the most important win of my career." (About competition with Castroneves): “Helio was racing hard. The first yellow, I was right behind him and that’s how it goes. It was just hard racing. The second time I got a good run out of (Turn 12) and started to overlap, and I had the inside for the next corner. Before we got halfway down the straight, he started to come across and I had to lift or we both were going to crash. I was a little upset at the time, but I was relieved w hen the officials put it right."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske, second): “We finished second for the eighth time, but the point is we’re still in the hunt for the championship, and Team Penske is going to try everything we can to win it." (About penalty): “Consistency is the only thing I ask for. I’ve been in this series since 2002, and we never had a situation like this. We always have a warning, and then if you do it again, then you’re going to be penalized. All of the sudden, I didn’t get any warning. It was, ‘Move over, or you’re going to be black flagged.’ It was uncalled for. I know that (Brian Barnhart) is trying to put pressure on and make everyone disciplined, but two races to go for the championship, I don’t think it’s the right thing to do."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven, third): “I have a bad flu, but starting eighth and finishing third is not bad. We’re in a battle for third place in the championship, and Dan (Wheldon) didn’t finish. It was a good result for us, and for the championship it makes it exciting, not just for first and second, but third and fourth as well."

ORIOL SERVIA (No. 5 KV Racing Technology, fourth): “I am happy with fourth, but when you are so close to a podium it just feels like it is not enough. The KV Racing Technology car was good, especially towards the end of the race. At the beginning, we were just not fast enough. The KVRT crew did a great job this weekend, and we are getting there, still fighting with the top three teams, and eventually we will get them."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, fifth): “I don't think it was much of a race, to be honest. It was pretty pitiful. The car was clearly quicker than anybody's. We were saving a ton of fuel up front and sort of having a merry old day, and that changed pretty quickly. We left with a half tank after that caution. I think I was probably the only person or maybe a couple of others. It's just a hard situation when you're in that point when nobody else pits and you have a lot of slower guys that pitted early on and have a lot of fuel and you have to try to pass them. That was pretty much the race. From that point on, we were just trying to pull up there."

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 17 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Ethanol, sixth): “We needed a drama-free race day and we got punted again, but we were able to rebound and salvage something good out of it. It was a good day in the points, and we had to have that today. It takes discipline to be racing and saving fuel, and sometimes it’s not the most enjoyable way to spend a day, but we really helped ourselves in the points by doing it."

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA (No. 18 Z-Line Designs, seventh): “I’m very pleased with our results today. We didn’t have the fastest car out there, but we did what we could with it. We worked our way up with lots of passes and took every chance we could on the track. I’m very happy with our results, especially after what happened yesterday. The team worked all night repairing the car, so it’s nice to be able to repay them with a good result."

WILL POWER (No. 8 Aussie Vineyards-Team Australia, eighth): “I think the Aussie Vineyards–Team Australia crew did a great job. The car was really quick, but I was just unable to pass (Ryan) Hunter-Reay. I tried in Turn 7, got a run on him, then backed out at the last moment, which I shouldn’t have done and lost the front wing. The guys did a great job in the pits getting me back out. I think at best we could have finished fifth or sixth, so it cost me a couple of spots, but still it was a great day, and I was happy to have a good fun race. I enjoyed it a lot.

RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske, ninth): “We had a little miscommunication on our first pit stop. We probably should've stayed out on the first yellow, but we came in instead. After that point, I spent the entire race running with slower traffic; in fact I don't think I got one clear lap during the whole race. We tried to recover and get creative with our pit strategy. I think Team Penske did a good job getting us back into the top 10. It would've been nice to be able to have run up front with the faster traffic, but at least we were able to bring it home in ninth. The best news from today is that we were able to clinch fifth place in the championship. I'm proud of my guys, and I think that's the mark of a successful season.

A.J. FOYT IV (No. 2 Lilly Diabetes/Vision Racing, 10th): “We had a good strategy, a good car and a good result. Everything worked pretty well for us today. We really needed a day like this where everything went our way for a change. We haven't had too many of those this year. It's great for the team, but it's great for this Lilly Diabetes crew. They've worked hard, and we needed a bit of a boost, and we got that with a good result today. It's nice to have finished twice now in the top 10. The difference this year is we had an even better car. The result also helps lift everyone up to get ready to head for Chicago where we're hoping for a really good result."

BRIAN BARNHART (President Operations and Competition, Indy Racing League): “We talk about blocking every week in the drivers’ meeting and tell them what they can and can’t do and what the code of conduct is on the racetrack. (Helio Castroneves) clearly moved his car to impede the progress of a following car (Justin Wilson) and moved his car in response to the actions and the line taken by a following car. That’s what I tell them in the drivers’ meeting every week. We made the same decision early in the race with the (Darren) Manning and (Bruno) Junqueira cars, and unfortunately you have to call it like you see it. I think Helio and everyone associated knows that it’s not what’s expected and not what’s accepted of how we race out there. We want to race clean and fair and we need to call them like we see them." (Did the championship figure into the call?): “You can’t officiate based on points or who’s involved or what position they hold. You have to do it out of fairness and competition."



Driver Start Pos Diff Gap Best Time Status
1 Justin Wilson (02) 4 –.—- –.—- 1:13.0537 Running
2 Helio Castroneves (3) 2 4.4058 4.4058 1:13.1921 Running
3 Tony Kanaan (11) 8 17.6815 13.2757 1:13.7857 Running
4 Oriol Servia (5) 3 26.5468 8.8653 1:14.1893 Running
5 Scott Dixon (9) 1 27.7185 1.1717 1:13.2314 Running
6 Ryan Hunter-Reay (17) 7 28.2688 0.5503 1:14.2246 Running
7 Bruno Junqueira (18) 24 28.6815 0.4127 1:14.2574 Running
8 Will Power (8) 12 28.8776 0.1961 1:13.5696 Running
9 Ryan Briscoe (6) 5 35.5244 6.6468 1:14.1243 Running
10 AJ Foyt IV (2) 17 38.1040 2.5796 1:14.7538 Running
11 Hideki Mutoh (27) 16 38.3811 0.2771 1:14.8657 Running
12 Darren Manning (14) 15 44.6662 6.2851 1:14.7515 Running
13 Graham Rahal (06) 6 47.8028 3.1366 1:14.3951 Running
14 Ed Carpenter (20) 20 1 lap 1 lap 1:15.1026 Running
15 Mario Moraes (19) 19 51.2089 51.2089 1:14.5605 Running
16 Danica Patrick (7) 10 1:05.4165 14.2076 1:14.3873 Running
17 Vitor Meira (4) 14 5 laps 4 laps 1:15.2577 Running
18 Marco Andretti (26) 13 6 laps 1 lap 1:15.2560 Mechanical
19 Buddy Rice (15) 18 11 laps 5 laps 1:15.2130 Mechanical
20 Dan Wheldon (10) 11 23 laps 12 laps 1:14.8593 Running
21 Tomas Scheckter (12) 26 32 laps 9 laps 1:14.0834 Running
22 Alex Tagliani (36) 21 33 laps 1 lap 1:13.8305 Mechanical
23 Milka Duno (23) 23 41 laps 8 laps 1:20.5197 Handling
24 EJ Viso (33) 9 55 laps 14 laps 1:14.8026 Contact
25 Jaime Camara (34) 22 71 laps 16 laps 1:16.5257 Contact
26 Marty Roth (25) 25 87 laps 16 laps -0.0001 DNS

Race Statistics

Winner's average speed: 89.911 mph
Time of race: 2:00:10.7618
Margin of victory: 4.4058 seconds
Cautions: 4 caution flags for 11 laps
Lead changes: 4 among 4 drivers
Lap leaders: Dixon 1-18, Castroneves 19-58, Servia 59,
Castroneves 60-72, Wilson 73-87.
Point standings: Dixon 606, Castroneves 576, Kanaan 481,
Wheldon 464, Briscoe 412, Patrick 359, Servia 345, Andretti
339, Hunter-Reay 338, Mutoh 334.

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