Andretti hires Justin Wilson

ST. PETERSBURG, Fl. -- Justin Wilson was not able to land a full-season ride for the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series.

But the month-of-May program he secured with Andretti Autosport is a step in the right direction.

Wilson, a 36-year-old Englishman with seven career wins, will drive Andretti's No. 25 Honda in the Angie's List GP of Indianapolis and the 99th Indianapolis 500.

"We've been working on something for, believe it or not, four or five years to get Justin in one of our cars," said team owner Michael Andretti. "At the moment we were able to get him in the car for a couple races, but the goal is to get him in for a lot more."

Andretti called the 2014-15 offseason a roller coaster and said several potential sponsorship deals to run Wilson fell through.

"Honda was the biggest factor for sure," Andretti noted. "We couldn't have done this without Honda. We're still looking for a primary sponsor, and hopefully that sponsor will want to run Justin in a lot more races. But we couldn't have gotten the ball rolling for these two races without the support from Honda."

Wilson adds another proven race winner to the Honda driver ranks, which pale in comparison to Chevrolet's star-studded lineup that has accounted for 157 race wins and 10 championships.

"Michael and his team have worked so hard to try and put something together over the offseason and I'm really looking forward to these two races," Wilson said. "Right now it's just two races, but it's two of the best races and the Indy 500 is the best race. It's the one race that if you win, it can change your career. If you win that, it changes everything.

"That's the race every driver wants to win, and Michael's team is always competitive there. I just thought this is my best chance of winning."

Wilson appeared to get his big break in Indy cars when he signed with Newman-Haas Racing for the 2008 Champ Car season. When Champ Car was absorbed into the IndyCar Series, Wilson adapted quickly and scored a victory at the Detroit Belle Isle GP.

But Newman/Haas folded at the end of 2009, leaving Wilson to sign with Dale Coyne Racing. Wilson was able to deliver a level of success that Coyne had never achieved, including Coyne's first race win at Watkins Glen International in 2009.

Instead of staying with Coyne for a fourth consecutive season (and fifth overall), Wilson chose to pursue a ride with Andretti, even knowing that it might not be full time.

"Dale and I are still good friends and I have to thank him," Wilson said. "Winning for him meant a lot, but it was time for him and myself to look at something different.

"Honda have been great supporters. They pushed everyone to try and make something happen. I also have to thank all the fans for the support out there. There's been a lot of people making a lot of noise in the background on social media and it's been pretty humbling to see that."

Simona de Silvestro is driving AA's No. 25 car this weekend in the Firestone GP of St. Petersburg, and Andretti confirmed that he wants to run her in the Indianapolis 500.

"The goal is to run five cars, for sure, at Indianapolis," Andretti said. "We're pushing very hard on that front to try to get her in a car for more than just this race. She just ran her first test for us a couple days ago and I have to say that every single person that was at the test was really impressed with what she did -- not only her pace on the track, but what she was able to offer outside the car."

With Wilson and possibly de Silvestro running Indianapolis alongside Andretti's regular drivers Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Carlos Munoz, the Honda lineup just got significantly stronger.

As did Andretti Autosport.

"When you have multiple cars, you have to look at how his personality is going to fit with everyone else," Andretti said. "Justin's perfect -- I mean, everybody loves Justin!

"He's going to fit right in and work well with the group we've put together. He's going to bring a lot to the party in the month of May."