Hinchcliffe says 2017 results underline IndyCar competitiveness
James Hinchcliffe, who scored his fifth IndyCar victory in Sunday’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, says that the opening two rounds of the 2017 season have emphasized how open the competition is within the series.
Hinchcliffe of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Sebastien Bourdais (Dale Coyne Racing) were the top two finishers at Long Beach, and the Coyne driver’s runner-up finish, combined with his St. Petersburg win, extended his lead at the top of the points table.
The latest winner says the fact that Team Penske, Chip Ganassi Racing and Andretti Autosport have yet to find Victory Lane this year is an indicator of how just one small issue can tip the balance in IndyCar.
“It just highlights how competitive the Verizon IndyCar Series is,” said Hinchcliffe. “To have a guy come from last to first with the smallest team on the grid and win in St. Pete [and a] smaller two-car team winning in Race 2 and that same guy [Bourdais] finishing second. It just shows how competitive it is.
“The big teams, sure, I think they have an advantage, but it's so tight that any advantage is small. On race day, one little thing not going your way is going to pretty much ruin your day. You have to execute perfect on Sunday.
“That's what I love about this series – anybody can win. It's not Formula 1; there's not two guys that are going to win every race. It is truly a championship where you show up to any given round, any given driver in the field can leave with the win that day.”
Worry over strategy and yellow flags
Hinchcliffe admitted that he had been nervous about the two-stop strategy SPM had employed, especially when he saw Chip Ganassi Racing pull Scott Dixon in on Lap 15, anticipating a full-course yellow for Marco Andretti’s car which had halted down an escape road.
“When Dixon dived into the pits there, kind of predicting the yellow coming up for whoever was off in Turn 8, for Marco, a smart move. It didn't pay off, but especially after what we saw in St. Pete, they're protecting against that. It was kind of a good idea.
“At that point you're second-guessing, ‘Maybe did we do the wrong thing.’ Luckily it played into our favor.
However the restarts following the late caution periods to retrieve the stranded Andretti Autosport cars of Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay had also put Hinchcliffe on edge.
“I thought a caution was going to ruin my day,” he said. “Luckily we had the car to hold them off. Cruising along, the last thing you want to hear is ‘caution.’ We heard it twice – held off Ryan on the first, Sebastien on the second.
“My left wing had completely shattered and I was protecting the inside of Turn 1 because I was turning in whether you were there or not. I feel bad for Ryan and Alex. They had great cars and it was turning into a good race with the three of us there.”
Hinchcliffe said, however, that he felt reasonably comfortable that he could have held off Hunter-Reay to the checkered flag had it been necessary, although at the time the team was still had uncertainties over the softer Firestone compound’s durability.
“Ryan was on blacks in that last stint, we were on reds,” he said. “We were kind of doing what we could to control the pace, keep the gap to him consistent. We hadn't run a new set start to finish to know what they were going to do.
“[But] we knew we had the advantage over blacks. When he was closing, he was getting trigger happy with the [push-to-pass boost]. I wasn't too worried about it. We had more than he did at that point anyway.
“We just had to make sure the reds were going to hang on. I didn't want to burn my reds out in case there was another caution. That ended up being the right call.”
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|Drivers||Sébastien Bourdais , James Hinchcliffe|