Hinchcliffe: “It’s races like this that people remember”

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James Hinchcliffe’s last-turn move on Takuma Sato to win Sunday’s Sao Paulo Indy 300 put an exclamation point — or maybe several — on one of the best races in IZOD IndyCar Series history.

Sunday’s event was a dramatic lead-in to the Indianapolis 500, filled with gutsy drives and heartbreaking moments. But it all came to a climax when Hinchcliffe moved high and then dove low on Sato through the final hairpin to take the lead and win the race in front of a roaring crowd on the Sambadromo.

And while there won’t be much carryover from the Anhembi Park street circuit to the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the electric finish will always remain in Hinchcliffe’s mind.

“It’s races like this that people remember,” said Hinchcliffe, who became the first Canadian driver to win in Brazil since his hero, the late Greg Moore, won in 1998 in Rio de Janeiro. “It was a good show right from the start of the race till the end, a lot of passing, changes in strategy, things like that. I think to make a last-corner pass, that’s something I’ll remember for a long time.”

In the final laps, Hinchcliffe made multiple attempts to pass Sato on the massive backstretch that leads to the Turn 11 hairpin, but was stopped by the ex-Formula One driver with moves that some saw as merely defensive and others saw as blatant chopping (Race Control reviewed Sato’s tactics during the final laps against both him and another contender, Josef Newgarden, but took no action on either instance).

But on the last circuit, Sato came into the hairpin too fast and needed to brake, causing his Honda’s back end to slightly but visibly step out on him. Hinchcliffe had the space he needed and proceeded to strike.

With his second win of 2013 in hand, Hinchcliffe now sets his sights on the Brickyard, where he qualified on the front row and finished sixth last season. He expects to have his highs and lows during the “Month of May,” invoking the words of a fellow driver to describe how Indy can be.

“Oriol Servia compared Indianapolis to a woman: Some days she loves you, treats you well, [and] some days, she is mad at you and you don’t know why,” said Hinchcliffe. “That’s one of the reasons for being there at Indy for the whole month, the race being as long as it is, predict what it’s going to do, change and react to the changes. It’s a very, very challenging racetrack.”

But no matter what he does at IMS in the upcoming weeks, people will indeed remember his heroics on the streets of Sao Paulo.

“That’s IndyCar racing — that’s what it’s about,” his team owner Michael Andretti said on Sunday. “It seems that so many of these races go down the last turn of the last lap. That’s what makes this such a great sport.”

INDYCAR announces several rules and protocol changes for 2018 season

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The 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series opener is still more than six weeks away (March 11, St. Petersburg, Florida).

But several rules and protocol changes that will impact much of the 17-race season were announced today by INDYCAR officials.

First is related to Indianapolis 500 qualifying on May 19-20, one week prior to the 102nd running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing:

* Driver and entrant points will be awarded to the top nine qualifiers for the race. The pole winner earns nine points and the second-fastest qualifier eight points, with awarded points decreasing by one point for each position down to one point earned by the ninth-fastest qualifier.

* Race points for the Indianapolis 500 and the 2018 season-ending Grand Prix of Sonoma on Sept. 16, will still pay double the normal points for driver and entrant.

There are several other changes on tap for the season, as well.

Here’s a quick rundown of those changes (information courtesy of INDYCAR):

  • The qualifying order for all oval track events except the Indianapolis 500 will be determined by entrant points entering the event. The qualifying order will run in reverse order of entrant points, with the highest in entrant points qualifying last. A car without entrant points will be placed at the front of the qualifying line. If more than one car has no entrant points entering an event, a blind draw among those cars will determine their qualifying order at the front of the line. The qualifying order for the Indianapolis 500 will still be determined by a blind draw.
  • Times have been set for the series-wide open test at ISM Raceway (formerly Phoenix Raceway), scheduled for Feb. 9-10. The track will be open to all cars from 3-6 p.m. and 8-11 p.m. ET both days. INDYCAR has also added four hours of track time on Feb. 8 (3-7 p.m. ET) for rookie drivers to complete their oval test assessments.
  • The series-wide open test at Portland International Raceway will be held Aug. 30, a day prior to the beginning of the Grand Prix of Portland race weekend. Indy car racing returns to the Pacific Northwest for the first time in 11 years in 2018.
  • A schedule change for the month of May will see the INDYCAR garages closed on May 13 – the day after the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course – to allow teams time off for Mother’s Day. The track will not be open to the public on this day. The garages will be open on May 14, but there will be no on-track activity.
  • Practice for the 2018 Indianapolis 500 begins Tuesday, May 15 on the IMS oval, with the first two hours open for rookie orientation and veteran refreshers, then to all cars. Practice continues May 16-18, ahead of qualifications weekend May 19-20.
  • INDYCAR is granting teams that did not participate in fall manufacturer testing with the universal aero kit an additional half day of private testing. The testing is limited to one car per team and must take place in conjunction with the team’s first on-track test of 2018. Each team is permitted five hours of track time and two sets of Firestone tires.
  • Working with Firestone, INDYCAR has increased the tire allotment at five events. The race weekends at ISM Raceway (Phoenix), the Raceway at Belle Isle Park in Detroit, Texas Motor Speedway, the streets of Toronto and Iowa Speedway will see teams receive an additional set of tires. In a related change, drivers outside the top 10 in the point standings will no longer have an extra set of tires available to them for the opening practice session of a race weekend.
  • The minimum car weight for 2018 has been increased by 10 pounds – to 1,620 pounds for road and street courses and short ovals, 1,590 pounds for superspeedways (both do not include fuel, drink bottle and its contents, driver and driver equivalency weight) – to accommodate for new parts and additional on-car cameras related to the universal aero kit all competitors will run in 2018.