By Aaron Bearden, Open Wheel Editor
INDIANAPOLIS — Stefan Wilson will go down in the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 record books as the 15th-place finisher.
But to any who saw his performance – and especially Wilson himself – the run meant much more than the result.
“It’s really emotional, actually,” Wilson said of his run. “And it’s not because I’m upset or anything, I just feel like this was an incredible month. The team did an amazing job. I can’t thank them enough.
“I just didn’t want to make a mistake. I feel like we did a good job today, just came up a little bit short. We needed that yellow. If that would have happened, my dreams would have been made.”
Wilson found himself in position to potentially steal the ‘Greatest Spectacle in Racing’ after a caution flag flew for the crashed Tony Kanaan on Lap 189 of 200.
At the time the Andretti Autosport driver was running second, holding out for his final planned stop in hopes of a couple well-timed cautions.
With everything to race for, Wilson’s crew kept him on-track instead of pitting. That allowed the Briton to restart in second, behind race leader Oriol Servia.
When the green flag flew, Wilson found his way around Servia to take over the top spot.
For the first time in his life, the 28-year-old found himself in the lead at the Indy 500. And he was there with fewer than 10 laps remaining.
Will Power rose up to third on the prevailing pit strategy after dominating the day, but Wilson had the pace to hold Power at bay. He only had one issue – he was low on fuel, and needed another caution to stretch his run to the end of the race without pitting.
In the end that caution never came. Wilson was forced to pit with just four laps remaining.
“I knew if we were in front and we had the fuel to get to the end, I don’t even think Will Power could have passed me today,” he said. “I knew it was going to be tight on fuel, knew it was only going to be moments away. I was just out there praying for a yellow, because if that happened it would have been amazing, but it didn’t.”
While he didn’t get the end result that he wanted, Wilson’s run still proved to be a dream scenario in many ways.
The Briton joined brother Justin Wilson as siblings that have each led the Indy 500 – a rare group that includes Louis and Gaston Chevrolet, Al and Bobby Unser and Buddy and Jacques Lazier.
Wilson also capped off an emotional journey with a result he felt was worth the wait
His second Indy 500 start was supposed to come last year, but Wilson surrendered his ride so Formula One champion Fernando Alonso could make his shocking trip to Indianapolis for his first Month of may.
“It was almost a dream come true, but I’m still so happy with that result,” he said. “(Finishing) 15th doesn’t look great on the sheet, but it’s good considering we just threw the dice there and were going for it. I knew we were fast enough. Leading those laps just felt amazing. I just kept thinking… If only a yellow would come out.”
With his goal of securing a good run complete, Wilson has just one goal moving forward – finding a way to get back next year.
“We didn’t get the win today, but I’m just happy we finished the race,” he said. “We did all 200 laps. After two years out of the car, that’s all that we could hope for. I just want to get back here next year.
“I have nothing now, nothing planned. No security. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I hope I can come back next year.”