Race Recaps

VICS: Ace Strategy Nets Win For Hinch At NOLA

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Winning is never easy and it not always pretty, but if you were to ask James Hinchcliffe and his team owner Sam Schmidt whether that lowered the meaning of the Canadian’s victory Sunday in a rain-shortened Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana, the answer would be simple: No. Although the inaugural appearance of the Verizon IndyCar Series in New Orleans was marred by iffy weather that cancelled qualifications on Saturday and left a large area of doubt among teams, drivers, and fans on Sunday, an outstanding strategy call by Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports created the window of opportunity for a victory for a smaller, non-power team.

While a rash of caution flags and accidents ruined Sunday afternoon for several drivers, it allowed some of the sport’s small fries an opportunity to claim a better than expected results, including multiple Honda-powered teams, who were soundly outrun by the Chevrolet-propelled runners two weeks ago in St. Petersburg, Florida. The cautions, of course, reduced the amount of green flag racing that Louisiana’s IndyCar fans were hoping for. However as severe weather continued to draw closer and closer to the New Orleans area, it gave SPM and Hinchcliffe a glimmer of hope that their strategy would work out to their benefit, before the Arrow Electronics Honda’s gas tank went dry. In fact, once the race was declared official at lap 44, the popular driver’s car had to literally be pushed to the winner’s circle.

The victory is the first for Hinchcliffe since the Iowa Corn 250 at Iowa Speedway in 2013, a year in which he won three races for Andretti Autosport. Hinchcliffe was not the only driver to take advantage of the bad weather. Helio Castroneves claimed his second top five finish of 2015 by claiming runner-up honors for Team Pesnke. It marked a well-played gamble following contact earlier in the race with one of the Dale Coyne entries. Hinchcliffe’s SPM teammate James Jakes also played the strategy game perfectly to earn a third-place finish, the best of his Verizon IndyCar Series career to date. Simona de Silvestro, who is on a race-to-race deal with Andretti Autosport came home in fourth, while Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg winner Juan Pablo Montoya rounded out the top five.

While some greatly profited, the multiple yellows claimed several victims on Sunday. The final yellow prior to the official stoppage of the event saw Ryan Hunter-Reay, Simon Pagenaud, and Sebastien Bourdais eliminated in a crash, denying all three drivers top ten results on Sunday. Both AJ Foyt Racing members Takuma Sato and Jack Hawksworth also failed to finish, the result proving costly for the latter who had finished eighth in the St. Petersburg opener.

Next week, the Verizon IndyCar Series will hope for better luck with the weatherman as they head for the west coast and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

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About Matt Embury

Matt Embury is the Senior SportsCar Writer at Rubbings Racing and can be followed on Twitter (@MattEmbury) for the latest sports car news and opinions. A native of Mishawaka, Indiana, he has been following sports car racing for nearly 20 years.

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