This week for IndyCar Flash back, we examine the 2009 Camping World Indy Grand Prix at the Glen. One of the most storied race tracks in America, Watkins Glen International has provided a litany of memories throughout its history. The 2009 IndyCar race on the 3.4-mile road course in upstate New York would be no different. Here’s a look at what made the race so memorable.
Wilson Scores Long-Awaited First Win for Dale Coyne Racing
In a repeat of the 2008 edition of the race, Penske’s Ryan Briscoe would again start on pole for the race. Joining Briscoe on the outside of the front row would once again be Justin Wilson, who had switched to Dale Coyne Racing for 2009 after running with Newman Haas Racing the previous season.
Despite 2008 race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay colliding with the wall on the first lap, the first handful of laps in the race went by without a yellow flag. Briscoe used the top starting spot to grab the early advantage, leading the first three laps of the race. Wilson, who had been aggressive in his pursuit of the lead from the green flag, took over the top spot on lap 4 and would lead the next 14 laps.
On lap 19, Richard Antinucci brought out the first caution of the day, when the Curb-Agajanian / 3G Racing driver spun in turn 1. The yellow, which occurred during the first set of pit stops, would have Wilson retian the lead from Briscoe after the field had pitted.
The Briton held serve in front for the next 20 laps, with yellow flags coming out for a lap 24 spin involving Ganassi’s Dario Franchitti in turn 5 near the Bus Stop chicane and then a lap 30 crash in turn 7 involving KV Racing’s Paul Tracy.
Wilson continued to lead, but on lap 41, Briscoe’s teammate Helio Castroneves would use the final cycle of stops to gain the lead on lap 41, Briscoe would take back the lead on the following lap, and three-time Watkins Glen winner Scott Dixon would lead on lap 43 before Wilson took back the lead.
With no more pit stops and only a two-lap caution for Andretti Green Racing’s Hideki Mutoh crashing in turn 7 on lap 52 slowing things down, Wilson pulled away from the field. He would go on to win the race, finishing 4.990 seconds ahead of Briscoe. Dixon, Castroneves and Andretti Green’s Marco Andretti also included in the top five finishing order.
The win was the sixth of Wilson’s career and the first since his 2008 triumph at Belle Isle, but would be the first for team owner Dale Coyne. After starting in 1984 as an owner/driver, Coyne finally earned his first career IndyCar win.
Nearly a decade has passed since the 2009 event at Watkins glen, but the race has proved to be significant for the drivers and teams that headlined the race. Here’s a look at how things have progressed since.
Wilson, who drove for Dreyer and Reinbold Racing in 2010 and 2011 would return to Dale Coyne Racing for the 2012 season, and would win for the team in their first season back together at Texas Motor Speedway in June, the first oval win for both driver and team.
After two more seasons with Coyne, Wilson would move on to a part-time schedule with Andretti Autosport. The highlight of the 2015 effort would be runner-up finish to former Newman-Haas teammate Graham Rahal at Mid-Ohio, where Wilson led six laps. Tragically, he would be struck by crash debris three weeks later during the IndyCar race at Pocono. Tragically, Wilson passed away a day after the accident from his injuries.
The native of Sheffield, South Yorkshire native is remembered as one of the nice guys in the IndyCar paddock, a legacy that continued when the donation of his organs after his passing helped save six lives.
Dale Coyne Racing
After their breakthrough win at Watkins Glen, the Illinois-based team would not see victory lane until Wilson’s triumph at Texas.
The next few years proved to be prosperous for the organization, as the team scored victories in the second of two Belle Isle races with Mike Conway in 2013 and the first of two events on the Houston street course with Carlos Huertas the following year. In his first race returning to the team in 2017, Sebastien Bourdais stormed from 21st to win at the Grand Prix of St. Pete in 2017, breaking a dry spell of nearly three years for his team.
Wilson’s biggest competition of the race, the Australian would win on the ovals at Kentucky and Chicagoland that year. In 2012, Briscoe won the pole for the Indianapolis 500 and scored his last IndyCar win at Sonoma in August of that year. Briscoe would drive with Chip Ganassi at Indy in 2013, and run six additional races with Panther Racing.
After returning from a wrist injury late in 2013, Ganassi would run Briscoe full-time for 2014, with a best finish of fourth at Pocono in July. 2015 would be Briscoe’s last year in IndyCar to date, as he drove in eight races substituting for an injured James Hinchcliffe. Briscoe would record a top five in his last race at Sonoma.
Now a full-time sports car driver for Chip Ganassi Racing’s IMSA team, Briscoe scored his first class win at the 24 Hours of Daytona in January.
The 2009 race more than lived up to Watkins Glen’s racing legacy, and helped to grow that of some of the sport’s most talented teams and drivers in a race that will be remembered for a long time.
Images courtesy of INDYCAR Media.