A Conversation With Justin Wilson

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Justin Wilson is driving the number 25 Honda for Andretti Autosport.  Justin has 7 wins and 93 top 10’s in his IndyCar career.  He qualified 6th for this year’s Indy 500 and was the highest qualifying Honda.  Justin is one of the most respected drivers in the Series and many fans were happy when he signed a two race deal with Andretti Autosport.  I had the privilege of talking with Justin about his new teammate’s and the Indy 500.

Courtesy: Andretti Autosport

Courtesy: Andretti Autosport

So Justin, I want to take you back to pole day.  What was the biggest challenge? “The biggest challenge was the aero-kit change and you were in a position of a one day, one shot deal in qualifying so that you had to make it count.  Before, you could have multiple attempts to get into the fast nine or if you knew you couldn’t make the fast nine, you could make it into the field on Saturday, come back Sunday and focus on trying to get the best starting position.  Now it was a one shot deal so you had to get everything just right and that was tough when all the specs changed; the downforce level and the power, try to change gear ratios and you try to guess on everything the best you can.  That was the challenging part and the guys on my car did a fantastic job!  All the credit goes to the Andretti Autosport team.”

Did you find that it was tough waiting for IndyCar to make a decision on qualifying?  “Yeah, it was tough waiting, not because of the decision, but just because of the time.  You’re ready to go out and qualify for the Indianapolis 500.  My car was a little bit nervous,  it was a little bit loose so you sat there for many hours, thinking about going out there and doing these four laps on the edge and knowing that it’s one chance.  You’ve got one opportunity to get it all right; the right gear ratio, the balance of understeer/oversteer so it was way too much time to think about it.”

What’s it been like to have RHR, Marco, Carlos and Simona as teammates for this Indy 500?  “It’s been great.  They’ve been great teammates and having good teammates makes everything so much easier and more comforting as a  driver.  You have good people to rely on.  If you make a mistake and go the wrong direction with the setup, you can call upon their experience and rectify that mistake.  But when you are a one car team or have a rookie as a teammate and you go the wrong direction, you’ve led the whole team the wrong way.  The pressure that puts on you in that situation is tough.  If you have five good cars, you know you can push the boundaries a little bit and try things you normally wouldn’t try and still have time to come back and get a good race setup and qualifying set up.”

Is there anyone on the team that has a similar setup or driving style like you have?  “We are all pretty close.  A month ago we started out with identical cars and gave identical feedback so that was reassuring at the start of the month.  From there we all went slightly different directions but not too far different.  There might be 2-3 changes on the car that’s different between each car but I’d say this…there’s 2 maybe 3 items different on my car to Marco’s car and maybe a different couple items between my car and Ryan’s car and the same for mine and Carlos and mine and Simona’s.  We are all only two changes away from having the same setup.”  I’m sure a lot of fans would be surprised with that as I know I am.  I thought maybe you and Ryan may have similar setups but it has to be reassuring that all of you are on the same page.  “Definitely.”

Switching gears a little bit, what makes the Indy 500, the Indy 500?  “The fans!  The buildup to it all.  We are here

Courtesy: Andretti Autosport

Courtesy: Andretti Autosport

for a month and we’re testing, the speeds that we are dealing with and driving the cars to the edge.  Obviously the history behind it and driving this two and a half mile track with these corner radius’s, it’s just a lot of fun.  For me it’s the most important auto race of the year or in any motorsport.  I love it and it’s what its all about!”

I talked to your brother Stefan at the Indy GP and learned that he is spotting for you at the 500, so what’s it like to have your brother talking to you during the race?  “It’s good.  Last year on race day, we made a last minute change on spotters and I asked Stef to come in and spot for that race.  No warmup, no practice, no anything and he did a great job.  He was on the radio Monday, he’ll be on the radio for carb day and then on race day.  It’s good having him there and having that little bit of continuity from last year to this year, it helps.  I’d prefer he was on the race track and we were racing together, but it’s good to have him up there.”  He’s definitely someone you can trust, who knows what you are looking for and knows your style so I would think that would be an advantage.  “Yeah, definitely.  He’s emotionally involved, he’s thinking about it, about what I’m thinking, he’s giving me a lot of information because it’s what he would be wanting at that moment.”

How many more races are you looking at this year to compete in?  “Right now my deal is just the month of May.  I’d love to do more races with Andretti Autosport but at this minute it’s just for this month.  We’ll just have to see what happens here and see how it all works.”  So maybe if you win the Indy 500… “I’m sure that would help.  I’ve really enjoyed being a part of the team and working with them.  It’s not as easy as what I want, somehow you have to get the green stuff to pay for it all.”  This is the first time you’ve had to experience this has it been difficult?  “Yeah, it’s never easy watching from the sideline but it’s just how it goes.  It gives you a new perspective on things.  I’ve focused on taking my fitness level higher than ever before so that if I do get the opportunity to get in, I’m prepared.  It’s been great to do these races but as a driver you always want more.”  

Well I wish you the best Justin.  You are one of the good guys in racing and a fan favorite.  Hopefully you will be right there at the end of the race with an opportunity to win it.  Thank you for taking the time to talk with me and share your experience over the course of this month.  Have a great weekend.  “You as well David, and I will speak with you soon.”

 

Tony Tellez

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