Jacob, thanks so much for your time. How did the deal to run for Belardi Auto Racing at Kentucky come together?
JW: Well I wanted to make the next step forward in my career and jump into the Indy Lights series, and with all things accounted for it seemed that Belardi was a great fit. After doing some research on the series it was apparent that everyone thought very highly of the ownership, engineering and team. I was hopeful all along that I would be fortunate enough to run some races with Belardi after passing the rookie test and when this opportunity arose I jumped on board.
How did you feel your test at Kentucky went, and what are your overall impressions of the track?
JW: I feel the rookie test at Kentucky went extremely well. I wondered how I would adapt to the car and driving style but with some coaching I learned very quickly. We ran consistent lap times and never had a moment where the car felt out of shape or wrong all day. Kentucky was the biggest track I've ran to date at 1.5 miles so the speed and momentum were a couple things I needed to adapt to. Watching the races on TV, you'd guess the tracks are very smooth but this wasn't the case. Kentucky has quite a few places in the track where the asphalt "ripples" and makes things a little hairy, but the car's downforce really makes driving through them fairly simple.
|Wilson testing at Kentucky|
What do you feel INDYCAR can do to make itself more of an option for grassroots and short-track American drivers?
JW: The organization is doing a good job promoting their ladder system (Mazda Road to Indy) and accepting drivers from other forms of racing like USAC. Just this year there have been three sprint car drivers attempting to make the jump to the Indy Lights platform. The problem comparing the two series is there really isn't a comprehensible comparison. No downforce on a quarter-mile with 850 horsepower is nearly impossible to relate to a car planted by downforce on a 1.5 mile circuit, with roughly half the power.
What’s been your best moment as a professional driver?
JW: There have been many high moments in my career but there is one race I recall above the rest. Winning the 49th annual Joe James/Pat O'Connor Memorial at the famed Salem Speedway in my rookie year in a USAC Sprint Car was a surreal moment. After being the fastest qualifier and overcoming adversity in the race with a brake failure, the team and I pulled things together to lead the final 21 laps and win my first race at that level. It was special to me looking back at the list of drivers to have won that race including A.J. Foyt, Ed Carpenter, Parnelli Jones, and fellow Indy Lights driver Bryan Clauson as well as many other greats.
What’s a pre-race superstition or tradition you have?
JW: I've never been the superstitious type, but I usually have green on my race cars or enjoy some peanut M & M's in the pits. I usually have a pre-race prayer I go through before each race that I picked up in my karting days. If nothing else a couple jokes before climbing in the cockpit always seems to calm any jitters as well.
Lastly, what sort of goals or benchmarks have you set for yourself and your team over these two Firestone Indy Lights races?
JW: The team has been successful all year and has ran well on many occasions, and I look forward to continuing that. With the confidence I gained at the test and my desire to make the best out of every situation, I feel like things will go well over the next couple races. Joining two drivers that have ran the full schedule, I'll have a wealth of knowledge that I can learn from and apply to situations I have yet to come across. "To finish first, first you must finish" will certainly be tucked away in my mind throughout the races, and I look forward to making a run for the front of the field at Kentucky and Las Vegas.
Make sure to follow Jacob on Twitter as he begins his time in Firestone Indy Lights, as well as the folks at Belardi Auto Racing! Thanks again, Jacob!