Hinchcliffe claims first IndyCar win at St. Pete|
St. Petersburg, FL (Sports Network) - James Hinchcliffe claimed his first
victory in the IZOD IndyCar Series by winning Sunday's season-opening Honda
Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
Hinchcliffe, who drives the No. 27 Chevrolet-powered car for Andretti
Autosport, passed Helio Castroneves for the lead after a restart on lap 85. He
then held off Castroneves for the remaining 26 laps around this 1.8-mile
St. Petersburg street circuit to earn his first win in his 32nd IndyCar start.
He became the first Canadian driver to win an IndyCar race since Paul Tracy
took the checkered flag for the 2007 CART Series event at Cleveland.
"As soon as I crossed the finish line, I burst into tears," Hinchcliffe said.
"I never thought that would happen when I won my first. That was a hard
battle, fighting off those Penske cars (Castroneves and Will Power). They were
so strong. To get this car into victory lane and to get this first IndyCar win
is so special."
Hinchcliffe overtook Castroneves for the lead after the final restart when
Castroneves went wide into turn one.
"I knew (Castroneves) was on red (tires), so I wasn't sure if I was going to
be able to hold him," Hinchcliffe said. "I just didn't make any mistakes, and
that was the key."
Castroneves challenged Hinchcliffe for the lead in the closing laps but ended
up finishing 1.1 seconds behind him in the runner-up spot. The Team Penske
driver won at St. Petersburg for the third time last year.
"It's a shame, because we had a great car," said Castroneves, who led the most
laps with 42. "It's a shame we let that one go, but Hinch did a hell of a
Marco Andretti, who is Hinchcliffe's teammate, finished third, while Tony
Kanaan and Scott Dixon rounded out the top-five.
"Congratulations to James, first and foremost," Andretti said. "For me, it
feels like a win, with the struggles that I've been having. It's a good
Simona de Silvestro, making her first start for KV Racing Technology, was
running third in the closing laps, but de Silvestro dropped in the field with
worn tires to finish sixth. She qualified a career-best third on Saturday.
"It's been a good weekend for us," said de Silvestro. "Unfortunately, we lost
a few positions at the end there. We kind of ran out of tires at the end. I
think we can be pretty happy with sixth."
E.J. Viso, Takuma Sato, Justin Wilson and Alex Tagliani completed the top-10.
Power, who started on the pole for this race a fourth consecutive time, led
the first 26 laps before his teammate, Castroneves, took the top spot away
from him following a restart. During the last caution, Power was running third
before J.R. Hildebrand ran over him, causing a flat rear tire and slight
damage to his Penske car.
"I was changing my knobs and talking to my team about what our fuel strategy
was going to be, because we were going to pit on that lap," Hildebrand said.
"I slowed up sort of abruptly and was looking down at the steering wheel, so
when I got going there, I ran into him. It was totally my fault, and I feel
really bad for Will."
Power made multiple pit stops to repair the damage. He encountered more
problems shortly after when his car clipped the tire barrier in turn 4. Power
"It's too bad because the car was definitely fast," Power said. "(Hildebrand)
came over and apologized after the race. He said he was just looking down at
his steering wheel, and he just ran over the top of me. It's just a mistake,
but that happens in racing. Then I made another mistake there at the end, and
it cost us four more places."
Defending IndyCar champion Ryan Hunter-Reay encountered problems on an early-
race pit stop and fell out of contention. Hunter-Reay later suffered a
mechanical issue with his car, which ended his day with an 18th-place finish.
Hunter-Reay started and finished third at St. Pete last year, en route to his
first IndyCar title.
Dario Franchitti crashed into the wall right after he made his first pit stop
on lap 19. Franchitti, the four-time series champion, finished last in the 25-
"We had been struggling with the car, and that's what I was telling (team
owner) Chip (Ganassi)," Franchitti said. "I had to make it up somewhere, and I
just stepped over the line there on cold tires. I hit a bump in (turn) 3 and
went into the marbles and then the wall. Totally my fault."
03/24 18:10:54 ET