Hinchcliffe Podiums at the Beach
Toronto, Canada (April 20, 2009) -- Canada's James Hinchcliffe wracked up his second successive podium finish in the Firestone Indy Lights Series on Sunday, 19th April, as the rookie finished third at the Long Beach Grand Prix in California, Round 3 of the 15 race season. Back-to-back top-three results place Hinchcliffe a solid fourth in the Driver Standings just nine points adrift of series leader, Dutchman Junior Strous, who leads on 107 points.
The streets of Long Beach once again proved gracious to 'Hinch' with the Sam Schmidt Motorsports racer emulating his third place podium finish from his first ever race start on the 1.968-mile temporary street circuit back in 2006. With the narrow confines making qualifying for Sunday's race all the more important, James overcame a disappointing practice day behind the wheel of the #7 HinchTown.Com entry on Friday to fire himself into pole contention on Saturday.
Qualifying was again split into two groups to determine the grid order, to accommodate the 25-strong field in California, with Hinchcliffe setting the pace throughout his timed session until American Jonathan Bomarito pipped his lap time as the checkered fell early due to an on-track caution. The subsequent penalty awarded to Bomarito, for setting his flying lap during the caution, promoted James back into P1 in his group which translated into his first Firestone Indy Lights front-row start alongside pole-winner J.R. Hildebrand.
Sunday's 45-lap street sprint began with Hinchcliffe targeting Hildebrand in the lead with an early wobble by the race leader prompting the Canadian in second to lift off the throttle to avoid a potential accident. A swift save from the American meant any contact, either with the wall or from Hinchcliffe behind, was avoided but it allowed Richard Philippe in third to dart past James stealing second in the process. The top-three running order remained static to the checkered with Hildebrand (AFS Racing) triumphing from Philippe (Genoa Racing) and Hinchcliffe (Sam Schmidt Motorsports).
"Well I have to be honest and say it's a little disappointing not to have finished runner-up as I believe that after J.R. we probably had the second fastest car on the grid," Hinchcliffe stated post-race. "That said, I'm happy to have scored a second straight podium and from where we were on Friday, this is actually a pretty decent result. Again, the whole crew worked hard between Friday and Saturday and everything clicked as was evidenced in qualifying. We're sitting well in the points, it is extremely close at the top already so we're just hoping to carry our momentum into the first oval race of the season in Kansas."
The 2009 Firestone Indy Lights Series heads to Kansas Speedway this weekend for the Kansas Lottery 100, Sunday 26th April 2009.