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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 job."
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 start."
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 finished 16th.
"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- car field.
"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
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