James Hinchcliffe Wins at Long Beach

An eventful afternoon in Long Beach concluded with James Hinchcliffe returning to victory lane. The Canadian earned his fifth career win nearly two years since his last. Sebastien Bourdais followed up his race win in the season opener with a second place finish, keeping his name at the top of the championship standings. Josef Newgarden earned his first podium finish as a member of Team Penske in just his second outing with the team.

Scott Dixon and Simon Pagenaud rounded out the top five on Sunday, but went opposite ways to get there. Dixon started on the front row but changed strategy during the race. Pagenaud started the race in last (21st) due to an interference penalty in qualifying. Dixon ended up leading the most laps (32) in the race.

Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Box Score

It was a fantastic day for Dale Coyne Racing, as Rookie Ed Jones finished in 6th position. With his teammate at the top of the standings, Jones now finds himself in seventh after two races. Two more young drivers had encouraging results on Sunday. Carlos Munoz finished 7th for AJ Foyt Racing, and Spencer Pigot was 8th for Ed Carpenter Racing.

Helio Castroneves and Graham Rahal rounded out the top ten, but both had issues that prevented them from having a much better result. Castroneves started the race in pole position, but was quickly swallowed up when the green flag fell. He was also issued two pit speeding violations (Lap 62, Lap 67) that ended his hopes. Rahal battled up front as well, but suffered a flat tire in the closing laps of the race.

Andretti Autosport had quite possibly the worst luck imaginable on Sunday. All four of their cars suffered mechanical issues during the race, and ended up finishing 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th. Alexander Rossi was having an incredible run in the top three, when the bad luck bit him early. For Ryan Hunter-Reay, he was battling Hinchcliffe for the win with just six laps remaining when the issues ruined his day. The driver of the No. 28 car led a total of 28 laps on Sunday.

JR Hildebrand finish 11th, but ran much better than that. He and Mikhail Aleshin made contact on the final lap that didn’t allow him to continue. The hit actually broke a bone in Hildebrand’s hand, and he was not cleared to drive after being checked by the medical team. IndyCar stated that he will be re-evaluated next week.

That wasn’t the only contact that Aleshin had on Sunday. Tony Kanaan also had a run in with the Russian, which resulted in a cut left-rear tire for the Ganassi driver. Aleshin finished 12th, while a frustrated Kanaan ended up in 15th.

One of the bigger moments of the race came on the opening lap. Will Power and Charlie Kimball came together in Turn 4, which resulted in both cars hitting the outside wall. Power was able to continue after repairs, but finished the race in 13th. In his last four races, Power now has finished 20th, 20th, 19th, and 13th, respectively.

The next race on the schedule is the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park on April 23. NBC Sports Network will provide coverage for the event, which begins at 3 PM ET on Sunday.

Photos courtesy of IndyCar

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Driver Quotes

Simon Pagenaud: “It was exciting. At the beginning we were able to pass a lot of cars. The Menards Chevrolet was phenomenal all weekend. I was really excited before the race because I knew we had such a strong weapon. It was all about having the right strategy to make it work. We actually switched strategies because it was going so well at the beginning. The flat tire set us back a little, but it was a good championship day. I’m so proud of the team. Everyone worked really hard to come out of here with a good result.”

Josef Newgarden: “I think it got a lot more mixed up with the strategy today. (Scott) Dixon and me were on something different than the front guys, (Ryan) Hunter-Reay, (James Hinchcliffe), (Alexander) Rossi. I thought that added a dynamic that was more fun than last year. Everyone was on the same strategy last year, which let the race play out to not much action, unfortunately. This year was a lot more mixed up. I did way more passing than I’ve done in the past couple years. I thought it was an exciting race. For us on Team Penske, it was a good day. The Verizon Hum car, we had a strong car underneath us all day. I felt about it good in warmup. We had a car that was capable of challenging for the win if everything fell correctly. Our strategy didn’t play out with that last yellow. It just allowed everyone to catch up on fuel a little bit. We were on the same strategy at the end fuel-wise. Our strategy of trying to run those guys down at the end and be fast wasn’t really able to play out, which is unfortunate, but that’s how racing goes. You have to choose one strategy and hope it plays out for you. Today it got us close. Third place is something we can roll with, try to get a win.”

Helio Castroneves: “It just wasn’t our day. The Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet was really fast but we had a few other problems that kind of ruined the day. I think we had some electronic problems that caused us to mess up the start of the race and the pit road speeding penalties. We’ll regroup and head to Barber. One of these days all of this bad luck will even out. It can’t come soon enough.”

Conor Daly:
 “I have no idea what happened at the start–just massive power delivery and I just lost it. It was probably my fault but it was really unexpected. We’d been OK out of there all weekend long. The rest of the day struggled when the car was on overtake, a lot of vibrations so we couldn’t use it. It left us a little helpless. The ABC car was actually OK –pretty decent handling so maybe we could have fought for that top 10. Once we fell behind it was hard to make up. We’re still finishing races and still learning.”

James Hinchcliffe: “A lot has changed since the last time we were sitting up here. It’s just so nice to be back. We came really close last year. A lot of people talked about 2016 as sort of the comeback year. Personally we really wanted to as a team to put an exclamation point on that by coming to Victory Lane. We came as close as humanly possible in Texas last year. Didn’t quite get the job done. We were sore to not win a race last year. We worked hard this off-season to perfect the package we had. Good speed at a lot of races last year. To roll off the first two races of the season, being in the Fast Six both times, if not for a caution falling for the wrong time at St. Pete, could have been in the top five or on podium there. To do it here and finally at this place, a track that I love so much, a track that’s been very good to me in my career, one that I think is the Indy 500 of street tracks, it’s the second longest running race after the 500. I think because of that history, it makes it a very special event, one that every driver wants to win. The greats have all raced here, the greats have all won here. To get in the winner’s circle was huge.”

Max Chilton:
 “It was a long day. We went pretty erratic with the setup. We have been struggling as a car team, not overall, just the No. 8 car, so we went to a different setup and didn’t like it, so it was a long afternoon. At that point you just need to be able to race. I think I did all right but I didn’t move forward. It was the first weekend we have had in quite a while now where we haven’t been improving. We will look into what is going on and see if we can get better for the Barber race.”

Scott Dixon:
 “We got a great start in the NTT Data car and were just cruising along there making good fuel mileage. We came in to pit shortly after and that ended up shuffling things up a bit on strategy. But the car was great and the team worked really hard. It was pretty hard to pass at the end, which is typical for street races as we all know. So fourth was how it played out. We’ve qualified very well the first two races so hopefully we can convert that into a win really soon.”

Tony Kanaan: “This was a rough weekend for the No.10 NTT Data Honda. We had some contact on the first lap and had to come in for a new front wing and later in the race we made contact and had a cut left rear that we had to come in and change unexpectedly. We were just never able to get back up with the front runners.”

Will Power: “It was a tough day for the No. 12 Verizon Chevy. We were caught up in an incident early in the race and I feel like it really ruined my day. It was an awful situation to be put in since we had nowhere to go when we made contact with the wall. Still, we battled. I’m really proud of my guys for working as hard as they did to try and come back from the incident but we couldn’t. We’re ready to head to Barber and get another chance to perform well.”

Carlos Munoz: “Finally got some good points for Foyt — finishing seventh after a hard weekend. We think that’s the best position we could have had. We improved the ABC Supply Chevrolet a lot but it’s still not there. Still need to improve but I’m really happy with my crew and my engineers. The guys did an awesome job in the pits-it was their first race doing pit stops together and they did a really good job. Hopefully we keep it up all year long.”

Graham Rahal: “We got a good start and passed (Alexander) Rossi and Helio Castroneves for fourth. I felt like we were in a pretty good place to settle in but it became apparent that a lot of guys around me weren’t going to save fuel like I was.  I tried to just keep pace but struggled pretty hard on the first stint with a bit of an issue with the front tires. On the second stint we were as good as anybody but when it came down to it, we had lost too much time in the first stint.  It was disappointing to get the puncture, this PennGrade team deserved more than that.  Yes it’s a top-10 but it’s not going to help us in the point standings very much and we definitely need a lot of those.”

Sebastien Bourdais: “That was an incredible race. At the beginning, somebody lost an end plate or something. It flew by, I dodged it in the car, it went really close and it ripped off the whole left side of the rear wing and rear pod and that’s why we came in so early. It gave us a couple of laps to save fuel, but we played to our strengths. I’ve always been pretty comfortable saving fuel and that one kind of came to us. I was just really surprised that no one played the game. It was feasible fuel wise, for us at least. Good job by Honda, obviously. We lost balance a little bit at the end so I was just trying to hang on to second place. James (Hinchcliffe) really deserved that one. He looked very comfortable and quick up front and I didn’t really have the balance at the end to go challenge him so I just managed for second place. I was kind of thinking Championship a little bit out there! I don’t know that we’re a contender but we’ll find out. We’ll have stayed up there for two races so that’s not too bad.”

Ed Jones: “It’s great to be in the top 10 again with a sixth. Another great effort by the team as well with Seb finishing second. I said this at St. Pete, it shows the effort that Dale has put into the team with the drivers, engineers, the development, the whole package to take the team to another level this year and the proof is the first two races. It’s clear to see. I’m really excited. We made big jumps this weekend from St. Pete and I can’t wait to get to Barber to make even more. It was a tough race, I was fighting people every stint which is great to do. I had some good battles and at the end it was nice to have the yellow to close everything up a bit. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the pace to attack Pagenaud in front of me but still, it was a good result and I can’t wait for the next one.”

JR Hildebrand: “At the end of the race, we all were bunched back up because of that last yellow. I was on reds and had a little bit for at least the handful of cars in front of us. On the last lap, I was making a move on Mikhail Aleshin and I could tell he was struggling. I was out of push-to-pass so I was trying to make a proper, full-out pass down he front straightaway. He had been starting to move over, not a major blocking maneuver but enough to assert his line. He hit the brake a lot earlier than I was expecting and I ended up running into the back of him. In doing so, it ripped the steering wheel from my hand and I ended up tweaking it. At the end of the day, to come home with an 11th place finish isn’t terrible. It is a bummer though as we were certainly on our way to finishing in the top 10 and now we are in a bit of a jam going forward. Hopefully I can get back to it here before the next race.”

Takuma Sato:
 “It was a long and tough day. We went a different way with strategy and dedicated to a three-stop race. It just didn’t flow as we wished. In the end, we lost power and had to park. Certainly, after practice and qualifying and this morning I felt really strong in the car and it’s a shame we couldn’t finish… but we will work to come back strong.”

Marco Andretti: “We had a decent start to the day, and the three-stop strategy would have been interesting. The UFD car had good pace and the boys were good in the pits on the first stop, then we had a sensor issue and our day was done. We need to pull back together and play catch up.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay: “We had a good showing for DHL and Honda today, but I don’t know what happened. It was something electrical. I tried cycling the car a few times and it didn’t fire. Then, once we had sat (in the runoff) for a few moments, we tried flipping a few switches and it fired back up again but it was too late to rejoin the race. It felt like the same issue we had at Pocono (2016). It really hurts when it’s that close to the end and I was closing on (Hinchcliffe); we were going to have a good showdown there at the end. That’s why this sport can be so rewarding and so cruel, there’s nothing you can do. Frustrating for sure but today it was out of our hands.”

Charlie Kimball: “To say I am frustrated with how today’s race went is an understatement. I thought I was clear of the 12 but I obviously wasn’t. He turned me and put me in the wall pretty heavy. I am really disappointed for the guys – they worked so hard to get the car to a good place for today’s race. The No. 83 Tresiba Honda was fast and I thought we had a lot of potential for a solid result in today’s race.”

Alexander Rossi: “I thought we had a really good shot at winning. The pace of the car was really good all day and we were able to recover from a little bit of a tricky pit stop sequence on the first stop, so it’s unfortunate because the NAPA Auto Parts car was awesome. We’ll just have to fight back at Barber. Honda has done an amazing job so it’s unfortunate, but congrats to Honda and Hinch on the win.”

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