IndyCar: Hinchcliffe threads the needle, then sews up first podium of year

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Today’s Honda 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course could have ended right after it had begun for James Hinchcliffe.

When Tony Kanaan spun out in the middle of the track on the opening corner, the field behind the Brazilian scattered everywhere in a bid to avoid his car.

One of them was Hinchcliffe, who started 17th on the grid and had to “thread the needle” between multiple cars, then avoid Kanaan to his outside at the exit of the turn.

Needless to say, things were pretty tight…

But Hinchcliffe made it out in one piece and even better, he had improved all the way to sixth. The Andretti Autosport driver would rise even further before coming home third in today’s race to claim his first podium finish of the 2014 IndyCar season.

“Obviously, it was nice to finally get a break in the United Fiber and Data car and get on the podium,” he told NBCSN afterwards. “This start was manic, man. I kinda went down into [Turn] 4 there and the seas kind of part before me.

“I feel bad for the guys that got involved in that wreck, but obviously it opened a door for us and we were able to take advantage.”

Hinchcliffe hovered around that sixth place position for the middle stages of the race, but on his final stop at Lap 67, Hinchcliffe was able to come out ahead of pole sitter Sebastien Bourdais in second place.

Bourdais would eventually move around the Canadian for P2, but Hinchcliffe would not give up easily. As Scott Dixon pulled away with the lead, Bourdais and Hinchcliffe took up an extended battle for runner-up honors before Bourdais finally won out.

But Hinchcliffe ended a stretch of 15 races without a podium, earning his first such result since finishing third in Race 2 of last year’s Houston doubleheader.

“The car was really fast,” Hinchcliffe said. “We were running off some really good lap times there. We got caught behind a couple of guys. At some point, we might have been able to pick one more spot up.

“I’m really proud of the United Fiber & Data guys…Great in the pits, awesome car. Fun driving with Sebastien there in the end.”

And like Bourdais, Hinchcliffe was sure to congratulate Dixon for notching his fifth career win at Mid-Ohio.

“I don’t know why they don’t just give him the trophy when we get here on Thursday,” he quipped.

Here’s what drivers said after Sunday’s INDYCAR race was postponed until Monday

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Here’s what several drenched drivers had to say after Sunday’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama was postponed until Monday morning (11:30 a.m. ET, LIVE on NBCSN):

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet, 2017 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama winner, 2018 pole winner): “It’s tough because we have so many people that come out here to watch us. We want to put on a good race. We want to put on a show. So calling the race, running around behind the pace car not running, it’s tough, it’s tough to do that. But I think it was the right thing in the end. When we started the race, the conditions were OK. You could run at that level of rain. Then, it intensified right before that first caution. I think when the caution came out, it got to a point where it was just too much. There was too much puddling and pooling of water on every straightaway. Then the rivers started flowing, high-speed compressions in Turns 1 and 2, fast corner, 12 and 13, fast corner where the river starts to form. Just tough. I mean, look, we love racing in the rain. It’s got nothing to do with not wanting to run in the rain, not being able to do that. It’s that this type of track with this water level was too much to race today. We’ve run here in the rain before, but it intensified to the point where you’re starting to get in a situation where it’s going to take it out of the drivers’ hands. What happened with Will (Power), I don’t think is a driver error. I don’t know how anyone is going to drive hydroplaning on the front straightaway. I think you would have had that for the rest of the track, too. A tough situation. Thanks for the fans that came out and supported us. Hopefully we’ll get some people back tomorrow and we’ll get the show in and put on a great event.”

MATHEUS “MATT” LEIST (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet):
“Tough day so far. We had some problems with our radio and fuel alarm, but otherwise the car was alright. It was just too dangerous out there, we couldn’t see anything, so I think they made the right call. Hopefully we’ll have a good race tomorrow.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “It’s just a real shame for everyone on the Verizon Chevy team. The car was good and we were doing our best out there, but it was really hard to see anything in front of me. The conditions were just so bad. As soon as I got to the frontstraight, the car just came around, and I tried to keep it off the wall, but it was hydroplaning and there was nothing I could do. I feel bad for the team and for the fans in this weather. Just too bad. Hopefully our luck can turn around when we get to Indianapolis.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “Very difficult day for us. In the race we were 13th at the time and we had some electrical issues, so that caused us to pit and we lost a lap. Not the ideal situation, but we don’t give up. There’s still a race tomorrow and we’re going to go for the most points. Anything can happen.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Mi-Jack Honda): “It was a tough beginning, but when we kind of got going it was OK and kind of fun to challenge for a while, but visibility was a major issue today, no doubt. I’m glad that the series postponed it. I would have like to get it in today, but that’s life. We will go racing tomorrow.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 Kerauno / MilitaryToMotorsports.com Honda, Verizon IndyCar Series points leader): “I think definitely the right decision was made to red flag the race. It’s a very difficult position for everyone to be in. It’s never the result that you want, but safety is obviously a priority. I think everyone did a good job considering the conditions of looking out for each other. Not being able to see is not doing anybody any good. It is hard for everyone, but glad that we’re all in one piece and try again later.

TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda): “As you could see on TV, if you couldn’t see the car, it was probably three times worse in the cockpit on the main straight or any straight. You had to completely trust the guys that they were accelerating. Never the less, I made good progress on the short stint and I made up a few positions.  The car was working well, but also was aquaplaning a lot, too, so I have to respect INDYCAR’s decision for everyone’s safety. Now we really need to concentrate on having a good car for tomorrow. I’m sorry for the fans that sat in rain all day, but thank them for their support.”

RENE BINDER (No. 32 Binderholz tiptop timber Chevrolet): “It was a short day. In the beginning the conditions were not that good, but afterwards the conditions started to improve. The race was stopped, then restarted, and I think the conditions were not too bad at that point. Unfortunately, it was red flagged again and then cancelled for the day. It would have been nice to get halfway, but we will come back and try again tomorrow.”