By David Morgan, Associate Editor
At Indianapolis, the smallest mistake can have wide reaching repercussions and an early race incident on pit road by Stefan Wilson would cause a ripple effect that would involve two of the biggest names in the field – pole sitter Scott Dixon and Alexander Rossi.
The issues began as green flag pit stops were underway on lap 35 and Wilson was bringing his No. 25 Andretti Autosport Honda to the attention of his crew. As soon as he reached the start of the pit road speed limiter, his car took a hard right turn and smashed into the pit road wall, sending pit crew members scrambling and bringing an early end to Wilson’s day in his return to Indianapolis for the first time since 2018.
“We were having a good stint. We were moving forward, just passed (Will) Power,” Wilson explained. “We got the call to pit a little bit late, but that wasn’t really the issue. Just as soon as I went to the brakes, there was nothing there. That entire 30 lap stint, the brakes had been knocking back. I was trying to pump them up as quickly as I could and I just couldn’t get enough pressure. Eventually on one of the pumps, it locked the rears and I was a passenger at that point.
“I’m just devastated. This is not how I wanted my day to end, but I hope I get another chance here at Indy.
With Wilson’s incident coming during a pit stop cycle and his car blocking pit road as the track safety workers attended to getting things cleaned up, the drivers that had yet to make their pit stops, including Dixon and Rossi, were excruciatingly close to running out of fuel.
Though the two were able to make it to pit road to get fuel under emergency conditions, the engine being starved of fuel caused issues with getting them re-fired. Both Dixon and Rossi sat helplessly on pit road while their crews rushed to get the engine back up and running, but by then the damage had been done and both drivers had fallen a lap down.
They would return to the track with their work cut out for them to be able to get back in contention, but that didn’t keep Rossi from signaling Dixon that it was go time for the remainder of the race.
By lap 122, Dixon had raced his way back on the lead lap, eventually finishing the day in 17th, while Rossi was never able to rebound, finishing two laps down in 29th.
“You don’t want to be the favorite here,” Dixon joked after the race. “We probably called it a little too close, but honestly, it was just a bit unlucky with that yellow. As soon as it goes yellow, the pits are closed and obviously the crash was in the pits as well, so we couldn’t come in to get fuel. Once we ran the car out of fuel, the problem was trying to get it re-primed, which we lost a lap doing that.
“Just an unfortunate day for us. I think it hurt maybe a few of us from the team in that same sequence there. It was unfortunate. The car felt great. We were just kind of sitting there trying to go a bit longer, which we did on the fuel, and that got us in trouble.
“The frustrating part was just that it came so early. You knew from that point, once you’re a lap down, the day is pretty much shot. I had a long time to calm down. I had a lot of laps to kind of just cruise around.”