Friday, March 31, 2023

Stephen Wilson Indianapolis 500. Hired to drive 33rd car in

Indianapolis ( Associated Press) — British driver Stephen Wilson spent an entire year looking for a spot in this year’s Indianapolis 500 field.

The journey proved equally challenging for team owners Don Cusick and Elton Julian – until they joined forces.

On Thursday, the trio announced it had solved two problems by putting 32-year-old Wilson in No. 25 Chevrolet, giving race organizers a 33rd entry and almost certainly a full starting grid for the May 29 race.

“It’s been a journey,” Wilson said. “We started work on June 1 last year. We had these plans that should have been so easy and it just didn’t end that way. I think, there was a time when we all gave up. But I kept working, kept calling.

And now the IndyCar legend will be given another chance to compete in “the greatest spectacle in racing” after finishing 33rd last year.

However, getting here required some unusual twists and turns, including a two-plus hour meeting in the California desert between Julian and Cusick, as Wilson waited anxiously for an answer.

Eventually, Julian’s DragonSpeed ​​team, which put their IndyCar program on hold during the pandemic, and Cusick, who made their first IndyCar debut last May, took a car from AJ Foyt’s stable and decided to give it a shot. .

“I didn’t know those teammates before, although I’m old enough to remember the race AJ won,” Cusick said. “But Larry (Foyt) has been very welcoming and helpful and we are very grateful for everything he has done.”

Wilson brings back a familiar name with emotional ties to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He would attempt to resume his fourth career again using the same number as his older brother Justin after he died of an injury during an IndyCar race in Pocono in August 2015.

This time around, the car will feature a black, blue, red and white color scheme with a full range of sponsors including women’s golf apparel company Lohla Sport, Sierra Pacific Windows and Gurney Premium Cut Jerky.

Wilson will be using a Chevy engine for the first time since his rookie appearance at Indy and could help Cusick and Julian get their long-term plans back on track. Both would like to race more in the IndyCar series.

Julian thought the lingering financial crisis from the pandemic would not allow him to return to Indy until next year, following the sale of his IndyCar equipment to Michael Shank Racing. Brazilian Helio Castroneves won his record-tie fourth 500 last year driving for Shank.

Instead, Cusick and Wilson, who have served on the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup circuit this season, provided Julian with a way back to Indy.

“We’re back to basically a year earlier than expected,” Julian said. “In the back of my mind it was always ’23, ’23 even though it was just 500. I haven’t been thinking about it much this year and I’ve heard everything I want but can’ T, so I put my hand up.”

Wilson has been competitive on the Brickyard’s historic 2.5-mile oval. He led the 2018 race with four laps to spare when his car ran out of fuel, leaving him in a career-best 15th place.

He won’t have much time to get his car fixed with the qualification scheduled for May 21-22.

Wilson isn’t even sure he’ll have enough time to work on Chevy’s simulator. Instead, he will spend these precious few days building relationships with his new engineer, crew members, and other team officials.

This announcement puts an end to speculation as to who will become the 33rd entry. Mark Miles, CEO of IndyCar’s parent company Penske Entertainment, said in April that he expected at least one more car and possibly two 500s in the turn.

Now if the qualifying weekend goes according to plan, the traditional 33-car field should take the green light. And Wilson intends to be prepared for anything, including the prospect of a 34th entry, trying to keep him out of the race.

“We have to execute as a team,” Wilson said. “And I have to execute as a driver.”


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