James Hinchcliffe’s defense attempt of his 2013 win at St. Petersburg was never really able to get going in the manner he or his Andretti Autosport team would have liked.
Hinchcliffe was fastest in first practice on Friday, but his weekend took a turn off course after an accident in qualifying on Saturday. It left him 19th on the grid for his first race in the newly reliveried white-and-blue No. 27 United Fiber & Data Honda, and his first race with new engineer Nathan O’Rourke.
Mechanical issues kept him from getting going almost from the start, which dropped him three laps off the lead. Although he was able to resume and get the pace going, it was a lost day to end in exactly the same place he started.
“At the end there, the United Fiber & Data car got even better,” Hinchcliffe said post-race. “We were going to be so strong at the end of this race if we had been in contention. You could see at the end there we were keeping pace with some of the guys; it’s unfortunate to see it like that. More yellows might have helped keep us on the lead lap, maybe. We could have taken advantage if some more guys have problems with their tires in the end.”
Hinchcliffe missed the 2011 St. Pete race as he was still finalizing a budget for his rookie year; in 2012, he made his Andretti team debut as the replacement for both Danica Patrick and the late Dan Wheldon in the GoDaddy Chevrolet, and finished fourth.
The weekend wasn’t a total loss though, as he was honored at the St. Petersburg winner’s display behind pit lane.