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Hinch’s Hunch Pays Off Big

| , RacinToday.com Friday, April 17 2015
Thanks to fuel strategy, James Hinchcliffe came up a winner last weekend.

Thanks to fuel strategy, James Hinchcliffe came up a winner last weekend.

RacinToday.com

James Hinchcliffe had a premonition midway through the inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana when his crew ordered him not to make a pit stop like the rest of the Verizon IndyCar Series field leaders at NOLA Motorsports Park.

Hinch’s hunch became a winner when the Canadian took the checkered flag Sunday after an unpredictable series debut on the 2.74-mile road course in Avondale, La., outside New Orleans.

“When we first decided to stay out, I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if we could make this a one-stopper?'” said Hinchcliffe, driver of the No. 5 Arrow/Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Dallara/Honda. “I just never thought it (would happen). On one hand, I feel badly that we didn’t have more green-flag laps for the fans and everybody here at NOLA. But on the other hand, those guys (on his crew) called it awesome.”

Hinchcliffe won for the fourth time in his IndyCar Series career _ and first since June 2013 on the Iowa Speedway oval _under a full-course caution ahead of Helio Castroneves in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet. The race, run in changing track conditions after heavy morning rains, ended after 47 laps due to the 1-hour, 45-minute time limit.

The race began with a wet track, but the first 15 laps were run caution-free as the entire field started on grooved Firestone rain tires. Teams began switching to dry-condition slicks on Lap 11. But with portions of the 13-turn circuit still wet, numerous on-track incidents forced six full-course cautions for a total of 26 laps over the final 32 circuits

Most of the frontrunners came to the pits on Lap 33 during a full-course caution. Running ninth at the time, Hinchcliffe remained on-track and inherited the lead. The race would see only three more green-flag laps the rest of the way, allowing Hinchcliffe _ whose lone pit stop came on Lap 13 _ to keep the field at bay. Hinchcliffe scored the fifth win for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, the team he joined this season after exiting Andretti Autosport.

Castroneves, meanwhile, logged his second straight top-five finish to open the 2015 season. The Brazilian now has 120 top-fives for his domestic Indy-car career, breaking a five-way tie for sixth on the all-time list.

“The Hitachi car was solid, but sometimes you’d rather be lucky than good and today we were lucky,” Castroneves said. “Second place feels like a win right now.”

James Jakes, Hinchcliffe’s teammate, placed third in the No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Dallara/Honda to earn his second career podium finish. Simona de Silvestro, driving the No. 25 Andretti Autosport Dallara/Honda, placed fourth to equal the second-best finish of her IndyCar career.

“The car was pretty good and the tricky conditions kind of played in our way and the team made a great call to come in at one point,” de Silvestro said. “It’s really cool, especially to be back here in IndyCar and especially with Andretti. It’s my second race with the team and finishing fourth, it’s great.”

Juan Pablo Montoya, who won the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg to open the season on March 29, finished fifth in the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet to retain the championship point lead with 84. He holds a 10-point advantage over Castroneves.

Results of the Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana Verizon IndyCar Series event at the 2.74-mile NOLA Motorsports Park in Avondale, La.,, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, chassis/engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1. (16) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara/Honda, 47, Running
2. (4) Helio Castroneves, Dallara/Chevy, 47, Running
3. (22) James Jakes, Dallara/Honda, 47, Running
4. (18) Simona de Silvestro, Dallara/Honda, 47, Running
5. (1) Juan Pablo Montoya, Dallara/Chevy, 47, Running
6. (3) Tony Kanaan, Dallara/Chevy, 47, Running
7. (2) Will Power, Dallara/Chevy, 47, Running
8. (11) Graham Rahal, Dallara/Honda, 47, Running
9. (12) Josef Newgarden, Dallara/Chevy, 47, Running
10. (9) Luca Filippi, Dallara/Chevy, 47, Running
11. (15) Scott Dixon, Dallara/Chevy, 47, Running
12. (14) Carlos Munoz, Dallara/Honda, 47, Running
13. (10) Marco Andretti, Dallara/Honda, 47, Running
14. (21) Charlie Kimball, Dallara/Chevy, 47, Running
15. (17) Gabby Chaves, Dallara/Honda, 46, Running
16. (24) Carlos Huertas, Dallara/Honda, 46, Running
17. (20) Stefano Coletti, Dallara/Chevy, 44, Running
18. (19) Sage Karam, Dallara/Chevy, 44, Running
19. (7) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara/Honda, 43, Contact
20. (5) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara/Chevy, 43, Contact
21. (6) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara/Chevy, 43, Contact
22. (13) Takuma Sato, Dallara/Honda, 39, Contact
23. (23) Francesco Dracone, Dallara/Honda, 23, Contact
24. (8) Jack Hawksworth, Dallara/Honda, 19, Contact

Race Statistics
Winners average speed: 71.995 mph
Time of Race: 01:47:19.4896
Margin of victory: Under caution
Cautions: 6 for 25 laps
Lead changes: 3 among 3 drivers
Lap Leaders: Montoya 1-13, Castroneves 14, Montoya 15-32, Hinchcliffe 33-47
Point Standings: Montoya 84, Castroneves 74, Power 70, Hinchcliffe 65, Kanaan 63, de Silvestro 44, Jakes 43, Rahal 43, Filippi 42, Pagenaud 41.

 

| , RacinToday.com Friday, April 17 2015
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