Stefan Wilson was left contemplating a bittersweet Indy 500 run on Sunday evening, with satisfaction over the No.25 car’s late pace tempered by uncertainty over his IndyCar future.
Wilson was one of a handful of drivers to find themselves at the front of the field with 10 laps to go after earlier switching to an alternate pit strategy, and he enjoyed the distinction of spending a couple of laps in the lead after passing Oriol Servia on a late restart.
His hopes of still being in first place for the final lap were quashed when the fuel light came on with four laps to go, and he was ultimately classified 15th.
“It’s weird to be happy with a 15th-placed finish, but at the same time, the fact that we were leading with four laps to go… I feel a little bit disappointed about not getting to the end, but I knew we were not going to make it unless a yellow came out,” Wilson told RACER.
“I just wanted to get around and lead laps, and put myself into the position where if it did go yellow, I’d be the guy. But it didn’t happen.
“And at the same time, there were a lot of positives. I got to lead laps at Indianapolis, and got so close… so close to that dream coming true. It’s a little bit emotional, because right now I don’t have any guarantees that I’ll be back here next year. Right now it feels like it was a long battle to get back here, and those could be the last laps that I run at Indy. So that’s a little bit on my mind right now, and I guess if they are, at least it was positive. The team has done an incredible job all month, and I’m so thankful to Andretti Autosport for welcoming me like they did, and I really hope there’s an opportunity to come back.”
When Wilson did have clean air at the end of the race he made the most of it; pulling away at a pace that might have presented a problem for eventual race-winner Will Power had he been able to sustain it.
“I was quick,” Wilson said. “I was very conservative on the restarts – having been out of the car for two years, I didn’t want to take too many risks too early in the race and have people go, ‘Oh, he’s inexperienced.’ That was a little bit on my mind – I just wanted to make it to the end, so I was being a bit conservative on the restarts. But that last one, when it was on the line, I turned it up.
“To get the run I did on Oriol, and get the lead… once we were in clean air the car was a rocketship. We were one of the only cars to pass the eventual winner Power, to get myself back on the lead lap. That felt pretty good. So yeah, a lot of positives, and definitely a good month to build on for next year – if there is a next year.”
Jack Harvey, who was on an identical strategy in the No.60 Meyer Shank car and shadowed Wilson through the final restart, and then into the pits for a late sip of fuel, was delighted with how his afternoon played out, even if the final results sheets showed him 16th.
“We rolled the dice,” he told RACER. “We still led the 500 – I don’t regret a thing. I’m really proud of the team; we did our best, and on another day it probably would have worked. It could have worked out today, but it didn’t.”