After 25 years, Dale Coyne finally knows what it's like to win a race.
After a quarter century of trying as both an owner and a driver _ 558 entries in all _ Justin Wilson gave him that breakthrough victory on Sunday with a dominant performance at Watkins Glen International.
Wilson passed pole-sitter Ryan Briscoe early and easily held on after a late restart to win the Camping World Grand Prix by nearly 5 seconds. Wilson led 49 laps of the 60-lap race around the 11-turn, 3.4-mile circuit.
"It took too long," Coyne, three days shy of 55, said smiling in his pit stall. "We've been trying hard. We knew Justin was a good road racer. We almost showed it at St. Pete, and we showed it here today."
And it was a breakthrough, to be sure. Penske and Target Chip Ganassi drivers had won the previous eight races this season, 10 straight overall dating to last season, and 15 of 16.
"To dominate like we did is fantastic," said Wilson, who started second and finished third in the season opener in April at St. Petersburg, Fla. "I was grinning from ear to ear on the last lap. It just felt so good to do that for Dale."
It was Wilson's second IndyCar win. His first came at Detroit on Labor Day weekend last year for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, making him the only driver to break through against the Penske-Ganassi juggernaut in that span.
"We've been trying to build this team up, and we're coming," said the 30-year-old Wilson, who had four wins in five seasons in Champ Car before moving to the IndyCar Series after the two series merged. "This is my most important win in my career, winning with Dale and showing what we can do. It's a fantastic feeling."
Wilson started on the front row alongside Briscoe and had the strongest car from the outset. He attempted to pass Briscoe in the sweeping, high-speed esses on the second lap and failed. Briscoe was warned for blocking and Wilson slipped past him in the same place on the fourth lap.
Wilson caught a nice break on the first caution when Briscoe pitted for a splash of fuel. Briscoe already was committed to stop when the yellow came out and had to pit again the next time around, dropping him out of the top 10.
"We got caught out by the yellow," Briscoe said. "We went a lap further than him in the first stint. That was going to get us the lead back, but unfortunately the yellow came and we had to make two pit stops. That put us back. We had to work hard to come through the field."
Briscoe fought his way back to second behind Wilson on lap 46 but never challenged for the lead.
After the final full sequence of pit stops was completed with 15 laps remaining, Wilson regained the lead by 2 seconds over Briscoe. Hideki Mutoh brought out the fourth and final caution of the race with seven laps remaining to give Briscoe one final chance, but he was no match for Wilson and his sticky, red tires, losing by nearly 5 seconds.
Ganassi's Scott Dixon was third, followed by Penske's Helio Castroneves and Marco Andretti. Series points leader Dario Franchitti was involved in an early crash and finished 15th. That dropped him into a second-place tie with Briscoe and Dario Franchitti, 19 points behind Dixon.
Franchitti, who started fifth, entered the race leading Dixon by one point but his chances ended early. His No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Honda landed in a gravel pit after a spinout on lap 23.
Franchitti lost control when Mario Moreas clipped Ed Carpenter on the way through the chicane with a dangerous move, fell a lap down, and never made the lap back.
Defending race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay had a short race for A.J. Foyt, damaging the left front on the first lap and dropping out of the race. Canadian Paul Tracy, racing for the first time in his career at Watkins Glen, spun out on his own exiting the boot midway through the race, damaging his No. 15 too badly to continue.
This season Firestone introduced alternate tires for all road and street course races. The tires, marked with a red line around the outer edge, have a softer tread compound for better grip but also are less durable than the standards.
Each team was required to use the red tires once Sunday in the 60-lap Camping World Grand Prix, and only two of the 21 drivers _ defending race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay and Robert Doornbos _ elected to start the race on regular tires.
Wilson figured to be in the best position for a victory because he was up front and had two sets of the alternate softer tires to use. The red tires have more grip but are designed to wear out more quickly.
Wilson was able to save a set when Franchitti crashed early in the 10-minute final session of qualifying on Saturday.
"It was pretty exciting at the end with everybody on the softer compound," said Briscoe, who barely held on to second.