IndyCar's Eternal Underdogs Finally Win
This Sunday however at Watkins Glen, two tales of perseverance combined for a well-deserved victory, as Wilson came out with a dominating win. It was his 2nd career IndyCar Series victory, and the first ever for Coyne after 25 years of racing.
Justin Wilson is known for being one of the nicest guys in the paddock, as well as his extreme height for an open wheel race, 6-foot-4. Like most young European drivers, Wilson hoped to make it to Formula One. While his results warranted an F1 ride, his height and a lack of funds made it difficult, the former keeping him from a late season drive in 2002. The next year though, his management came up with the idea of selling shares in Wilson for 500 pounds a share. This raised 1.2 million pounds, enough to get Wilson a ride with Minardi in 2003.
Unfortunately, Minardi did not have nearly enough cash to compete in F1, and as such Wilson’s chances were success were minimal. However, he did enough to get noticed by Jaguar, who signed Wilson to replace a struggling driver for the final five races. With Jaguar, Wilson would get his only World Championship point, an 8th at the US Grand Prix. However, Jaguar needed funds for 2004, which Wilson couldn’t provide, and so out he went.
The F1 door closed, Wilson headed state-side to Champ Car. He acquitted himself well, finishing 11th in the points as a rookie, followed by a 3rd and two 2nds the next three years. In four Champ Car years, Wilson won four times and finished on the podium 15 times. For this success, it looked like Wilson would finally get his big break. Sebastien Bourdais, who had won four straight Champ Car titles, was heading to F1, and his team, Newman/Haas/Lanigan, had hired Wilson to replace him. Thus, Wilson looked like the favorite for the 2008 championship, until fate interfered in the form of unification with the rival IndyCar Series.
Instead of being at the top of the heap, Wilson and N/H/L found themselves having to learn new cars and new tracks on the fly, all while up against long time well-funded IndyCar teams. Wilson in particular had to learn oval racing for the first time. While it was a struggle at first, things started to come together as the season went on, and the effort was rewarded with Wilson’s first career IndyCar Series victory at Detroit. It was the final win for the late Paul Newman.