IndyCar-No Runoff Needed: Mayor Hinchcliffe Takes GP St. Pete

In an outstanding display of racecraft, James Hinchcliffe took his first IZOD IndyCar Series victory on the Albert Whitted Airport Circuit in St. Petersburg, FL today. Hinch managed to hold off defending race champion Helio Castroneves for over 20 laps near the end of the event, giving Andretti Autosport its first win in St. Pete. Completing the podium was Marco Andretti in the #25 RC Cola Andretti Autosport Chevrolet.

After starting 4th, Hinch ran up near the front of the field all day. Helio Castroneves ended the day with most laps led, but bobbled on a late race restart, allowing Hinch to take the preferred line into Turn 2. Helio pushed a bit too hard coming out of the first turn, pushing his #3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet sideways, opening the door for Hinchcliffe to make his move. Interesting late race strategy by Andretti Autosport had Hinchcliffe on black tires for his final stint while everyone else in the Top Five were on reds.

Marco Andretti made a bold run in the final 10 laps to reach up for third place. After spending most of his offseason improving his skills with a driving coach. Obviously, it worked as he made he made his way around both Tony Kanaan and Simona de Silvestro in the closing stages to round out the podium. With two laps remaining and de Silvestro’s tires completely off the cliff, Andretti made his way around Simona in the hairpin to take second place after pressuring for several laps. Simona ended the day in sixth place, losing in a thrilling drag race to the finish with fourth place finisher and teammate Tony Kanaan, as well as two time series champion Scott Dixon. Rounding out the Top Ten were E.J. Viso in his first outing with Andretti Autosport, Takuma Sato in his debut with A.J. Foyt Enterprises, Justin Wilson in the #19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda and Alex Tagliani in the #98 Barracuda Racing Honda.

As for technical issues, the electrical gremlins came out to play once again. Josef Newgarden was the first victim as clutch issues which plagued him at the Barber Test came back. Not long after, Graham Rahal would suffer the same problems. Defending IZOD IndyCar Series Champion Ryan Hunter-Reay fell victim to throttle issues, ultimately leading to his retirement on Lap 79. Both Sam Schmidt cars were sidelined with mechanicals. Simon Pagenaud went out first with an electrical problem, followed later by rookie Tristan Vautier with a broken header. Ana Beatriz in the #18 Iprianga Dale Coyne Racing Honda also retired with a mechanical issue.

After the race, Hinchcliffe was asked when he knew he had the race won. Hinch replied, “For me the focus was getting out of Turn 10. I knew no matter what I did I was going to be slow compared to him out of the last corner. It was just being absolutely picture perfect lap after lap. I had a couple more overtakes than he did. With four to go I opened up enough of a gap that I could save the fuel I need to save and not make any mistakes.”

James was also asked his thoughts on getting GoDaddy’s first win as a sponsor in the IZOD IndyCar Series after being a longtime sponsor of Danica Patrick.
“I can’t tell you how much that means. They obviously took a big gamble on me. I’d only been in the series a year. We won Rookie of the Year, but hadn’t done tremendous things. For Andretti and Go Daddy to take that chance on us. We were in shouting distance of a win a few times last year. It was that last piece that was missing. Today, beginning of the season, first race, to get that out of the way, get the Go Daddy car in Victory Lane for the first time, it’s awesome. Thankful for Bob Parsons and everybody at the company. Hopefully it’s a match they’ll carry on for a number of years to come.
Certainly following Danica was a big ask. I guess we put a lot of effort into making sure it wasn’t the guy driving Danica’s car. We really wanted to make it our own by playing off her last year, things like that. I hope now, especially after things like this, You’re the guy driving Danica’s car. Hopefully when we get to the races this year, it will be, That’s Hinch’s car.”

Helio Castroneves on his Second Place finish.
“it was a great day for Hitachi cars. If you ask me if I would finish second place on Friday, I would say yes, I would be happy and OK with that. But not today. Today was an incredible racecar that Jonathan (Diuguid) and the entire Hitachi team gave me. Start at the beginning (of the race), we start pushing, saving fuel. I mean, the car was actually pretty good as we were waiting for some of the guys wear out the tire a little bit, just making my move until we were able to get to the lead and never look back. Unfortunately on the restart, it was long yellow. I don’t think I warmed up the tires enough. I was braking pretty much the same place. Unfortunately because of probably the tires are a little bit cold, it locked the rears. Thank God nobody was in front of me because probably would be a big accident. But Hinch was able to hold on, pass me. But we still had 30 laps to go. I didn’t know the red tires would drop off like they did. I was really, really pushing. We had great exit on the corners, but the front was giving up a little bit, especially when you’re behind a guy you do twice the work. It’s very difficult to set up. He was just able to have good exits and not make a single mistake. So compliment for him on that because I was pushing, I was just going for it. Unfortunately towards the end, the tire was just giving up. I had to finish in second. Second is better than nothing. It’s a great way to start the championship. I feel upset because when you have a good car, it’s hard to give up opportunities like that, especially in a series that’s so competitive. That’s why I’m a little bummed out. But I have to keep moving on and happy for a great start of the season like this.”

Marco Andretti on his Third Place result.
“There’s still a long way to go in the season. I’m definitely pleased to reap some of the benefits for how hard I’ve been working, not only physically, but as you say, where I’ve been lacking. For me it felt like a win, but we’ll take this. I think if we can have days like this all year, we can be in contention for a championship. That’s obviously the goal. Great job to Hinchcliffe and I have to give credit to Simona (De Silvestro). She drove a hell of a race, as well.”

GP St. Pete By The Numbers
Laps Led
Helio Castroneves- 2 times for 42 laps
Will Power-1 time for 26 laps
James Hinchcliffe-1 time for 26 laps
Oriol Servia-1 time for 16 laps

29 laps under caution
Lap 20-Dario Franchitti contact in Turn 8
Lap 28-J.R. Hildebrand and Sebastian Saavedra contact in Turn 10
Lap 45-debris, Turn 14
Lap 74-Sebastian Saavedra contact in Turn 10

Fastest Lap-Lap 3 by Will Power 103.303mph (1:02.7279)
Time of Race-2:22:12.5502
Margin of Victory-1.0982 seconds
Average Speed-89.539 mph

Chevrolet Entry Finishing Positions: 1,2,3,4,6,11,14,16,17,18,19,20
Honda Entry Finishing Positions:5,7,8,9,10,12,13,15,21,22,23,24,25