IndyCar 2017 – Hinchcliffe wins race of attrition at Long Beach

Henry Kelsall

Two years on from near death at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, James Hinchcliffe took a popular and emotional victory at the Grand Prix of Long Beach, securing his first win in over two years for Schmidt Peterson Motorsport.

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‘Hinch’ became the second Canadian to win the race after Paul Tracy and he was followed home by Sebastian Bourdais for Dale Coyne who extended his championship lead and Josef Newgarden, who took his first podium for the Penske team. Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Scott Dixon all jumped pole sitter Helio Castroneves at the start as he made a terrible getaway from the line. It didn’t take long for the action to be paused as Will Power and Charlie Kimball came together at turn 4, bringing out the pace car. Kimball was out as Power managed to pit and repair the damage to his Penske.

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“It just wasn’t our day. The Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet was really fast but we had a few other problems that kind of ruined the day”

Helio Castroneves

Dixon lead at the restart but was in fuel save mode which kept Huntre-Reay and Hinchcliffe on his tail. Alex Rossi also made great progress in his Andretti-Herta machine and was soon up to third place after Dixon converted to a three stop strategy. This was in anticipation of a full course yellow after Marco Andretti slowed on track but it never came, massively compromising Dixon’s race as Hunter-Reay took control. He made his first stop on lap 28 and emerged behind Dixon but with just one more stop to make compared to Dixon’s two. Hinchcliffe and Rossi had also stopped, the latter losing out to Simon Pagenaud and others on cold tyres. Pagenuad was making up ground having started last due to a qualifying penalty. Dixon’s race was being compromised by traffic, keeping his rivals close behind him and forcing his Ganassi team to pit him early on lap 41 and giving him clean air. Rossi had worked his way back up to third and just before the final stops he vaulted past Hinchcliffe using the push to pass system and was now chasing down Hunter-Reay. But he and Rossi made their last stop a lap earlier than Hinchcliffe allowing the SPM driver to jump them both.

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“I don’t know why it happened, and there was no warning. I just know that it cost us a real shot at victory. We had a fast car and we’d closed the gap [on Hinchcliffe and Hunter-Reay] in the second stint by an obscene amount while still getting our fuel number. We had the right tires for that final stint as well, so I think the battle was going to be down to just me and James.”

Alexander Rossi

Rossi had fresh sticker reds and had a real shot at beating Hinchcliffe. But just a few laps until the end he was forced to retire thanks to engine issues. The caution helped Newgarden and Bourdais out massively and both were ahead of the Ganassi driver, the three stop strategy effectively removing his chances of victory. Bourdais had been one of the drivers to pit right after the Kimball/Power incident. Then, with six laps to go Hunter-Reay dropped out of the race meaning all four Andretti cars were out despite two of them having very high chances of winning. Takuma Sato had pulled out just a few laps earlier. In the last sprint to the flag, Hinchcliffe held on to take a fabulous win ahead of Bourdais and Newgarden, and Bourdais extended his championship lead as Hinch moved into second in the standings. A thrilling race and a popular winner, with a Honda 1-2 in the standings. A shout out as well to Ed Jones, he had a quiet but impressive race and finished a very strong sixth, rounding out a great first two races for the DCR team.

“To do it [win] here and finally at this place, a track that I love so much, a track that’s been very good to me in my career, one that I think is the Indy 500 of street tracks, it’s the second longest running race after the 500. I think because of that history, it makes it a very special event, one that every driver wants to win. The greats have all raced here, the greats have all won here. To get in the winner’s circle was huge.”

James Hinchcliffe

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2017 IndyCar Grand Prix of Long Beach results

 

1 – James Hinchcliffe
2 – Sebastien Bourdais
3 – Josef Newgarden
4 – Scott Dixon
5 – Simon Pagenaud
6 – Ed Jones
7 – Carlos Munoz
8 – Spencer Pigot
9 – Helio Castroneves
10 – Graham Rahal
11 – JR Hildebrand
12 – Mikhail Aleshin
13 – Will Power
14 – Max Chilton
15 – Tony Kanaan
16 – Conor Daly
17 – Ryan Hunter-Reay (DNF)
18 – Takuma Sato (DNF)
19 – Alexander Rossi (DNF)
20 – Marco Andretti (DNF)
21 – Charlie Kimball (DNF)