Hinchcliffe wins chaotic, caution-filled inaugural IndyCar GP of Louisiana (VIDEO)

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AVONDALE, La. – James Hinchcliffe emerged victorious from the chaotic, caution-filled and time-shortened Verizon IndyCar Series’ inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana, Round 2 of the season.

Unofficially, there were only 31 minutes of green flag time in 105 minutes (one hour, 45 minutes) of racing.

The race ended under its sixth full-course caution, with Hinchcliffe finishing ahead of Helio Castroneves, James Jakes, Simona de Silvestro and pole sitter Juan Pablo Montoya.  This is Hinchcliffe’s fourth-career win and first since Iowa in 2013.

Hinchcliffe played an off-sequence strategy to perfection in the No. 5 Arrow/Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Honda after starting 16th, having pitted on Lap 13.

Montoya led most of the opening stint, but wasn’t the dominant story.

On off-sequence strategies, the order changed when Hinchcliffe led Carlos Huertas, Castroneves, Jakes, Tony Kanaan and de Silvestro as of Lap 35 in the originally scheduled 75-lap race.

But time was an issue and the storyline throughout the race. The race was set for 75 laps, or 105 minutes (one hour, 45 minutes), whichever comes first. The halfway mark was to come at Lap 38, and the 53-minute mark.

After the opening 15 laps, full-course cautions became the constant from Lap 16.

The first yellow flew when Gabby Chaves spun in Turn 4, got stuck, and then got pushed back onto course by an apparent corner worker in a white shirt. Chaves, in the No. 98 Bowers & Wilkins/Curb Honda, promptly stopped on course shortly thereafter, and it spawned several memes on Twitter (see first and second examples of such, linked here).

Shortly after the first restart there was more carnage when Jack Hawksworth crashed in Turn 13 trying to avoid a spinning Jakes. Contact also occurred between Castroneves and Francesco Dracone.

“I was right behind him, he was really struggling. He spun on the last corner and I had nowhere to go,” Hawksworth told NBCSN’s Robin Miller. “What can you do? There’s nothing to say about that, other than wrong place, wrong time.”

Things got worse during the caution when Dracone spun in the pits and contacted his own crewmember. Todd Phillips, crew chief/outside front tire changer for his Dale Coyne Racing car, was being treated in care center for a cut to lower right leg.

The next restart occurred on Lap 28, but another yellow flew almost immediately when Stefano Coletti had a massive spin and shunt on the front straight. Coletti smacked into an armco barrier just past an opening but somehow, despite ruining the rear wing assembly, managed to keep going.

The yellows continued with Sage Karam causing two in a row, the first on Lap 32 being stuck in the gravel at Turn 5, and the second on Lap 41 when he stopped on course at Turn 13.

In-between the two incidents, a restart got delayed again when Huertas spun exiting Turn 13 while running second.

The final caution occurred following a multiple car accident on Lap 43, following another restart, when Ryan Hunter-Reay squeezed Simon Pagenaud off track entering Turn 4. Pagenaud then careened across the road, back into Hunter-Reay and Sebastien Bourdais. Each had varying opinions of the accident.

The last of these incidents is under review and subject to a post-race penalty.

Still, it ensured the race ended under yellow, which was perhaps a fitting end to the afternoon.

RESULTS

AVONDALE, La.- Results Sunday of the Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana Verizon IndyCar Series event at the 2.74 mile NOLA Motorsports Park, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1. (16) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Honda, 47, Running
2. (4) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Chevy, 47, Running
3. (22) James Jakes, Dallara-Honda, 47, Running
4. (18) Simona de Silvestro, Dallara-Honda, 47, Running
5. (1) Juan Pablo Montoya, Dallara-Chevy, 47, Running
6. (3) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Chevy, 47, Running
7. (2) Will Power, Dallara-Chevy, 47, Running
8. (11) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 47, Running
9. (12) Josef Newgarden, Dallara-Chevy, 47, Running
10. (9) Luca Filippi, Dallara-Chevy, 47, Running
11. (15) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Chevy, 47, Running
12. (14) Carlos Munoz, Dallara-Honda, 47, Running
13. (10) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 47, Running
14. (21) Charlie Kimball, Dallara-Chevy, 47, Running
15. (17) Gabby Chaves, Dallara-Honda, 46, Running
16. (24) Carlos Huertas, Dallara-Honda, 46, Running
17. (20) Stefano Coletti, Dallara-Chevy, 44, Running
18. (19) Sage Karam, Dallara-Chevy, 44, Running
19. (7) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Honda, 43, Contact
20. (5) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara-Chevy, 43, Contact
21. (6) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara-Chevy, 43, Contact
22. (13) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 39, Contact
23. (23) Francesco Dracone, Dallara-Honda, 23, Contact
24. (8) Jack Hawksworth, Dallara-Honda, 19, Contact

Race Statistics
Winners average speed: 71.995
Time of Race: 01:47:19.4896
Margin of victory: Under caution
Cautions: 6 for 25 laps
Lead changes: 3 among 3 drivers
Lap Leaders:
Montoya 1-13
Castroneves 14
Montoya 15-32
Hinchcliffe 33-47
Point Standings:  Montoya 84, Castroneves 74, Power 70, Hinchcliffe 65, Kanaan 63, de Silvestro 44, Jakes 43, Rahal 43, Filippi 42, Pagenaud 41.

Eli Tomac, Ken Roczen’s two-man battle in Motocross provides surprises

Rich Shepherd, ProMotocross
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The 2019 Motocross season is one-third in the books and the title battle may have already come down to a two-man contest, while the pair of contenders might just be a little surprising in their own way.

Strictly by the numbers, no one can count Eli Tomac’s early season charge of first- and second-place finishes shocking, but threepeating in Motocross is such an incredibly difficult feat that no one would have been surprised to see him struggle out of the gates either. And in fact, that is precisely what happened.

Tomac came out of the gates slow in Round 1 and was seventh by the end of Lap 1 of Moto 1 – hardly the auspicious start he hoped for. He rebounded only as far as fourth and that ultimately cost him a chance to win the overall. Tomac won Moto 2 to claim second overall.

In Round 2, Tomac found his rhythm and won both Motos and grabbed the red plate. For the moment, he had the momentum with three consecutive Moto wins.

Tomac stumbled again in Round 3 – this time finishing only fifth in Moto 1 and earning only 16 points to dig a deep hole that eventually surrendered the red plate to Ken Roczen.

It was at Thunder Valley in Round 3 that a pattern emerged. Tomac would not make it easy on himself early in the day, but was more than capable of winning the second Motos to overcome his deficit.

That Roczen has won this season is also not a surprise in itself. Many believed his ascent to the top step of the podium was way overdue.

That he has run so well, however, was not entirely expected at the start of the season. Since injuring both arms in a pair of accidents, Roczen came tantalizingly close to snapping his winless streak a dozen times. He won heat races during the Supercross season and finished second at Anaheim I, Minneapolis, Dallas, and Seattle earlier this year.

He just couldn’t secure the overall win.

Roczen’s Moto 1 victory at Hangtown might have been the precursor to another disappointing weekend, but once Tomac got into the lead, Roczen zeroed in on the Kawasaki’s back tire and finished second in route to the overall victory.

Roczen lost the overall and the red plate to Tomac in Round 2 at Pala, but he stood on the podium in both Motos. Roczen podiumed twice again in Round 3 while taking that overall victory to regain the red plate in what has become a seesaw affair in the early part of the 2019 season.

Last week, Roczen looked more like Tomac with his desperate struggle in Moto 1 and sixth-place finish. That was the first (and so far only) time this season that he failed to stand on the podium.

Roczen’s Moto 2 win last week was just enough to put him second overall with barely enough points to force a tie at the top of the leaderboard with 176 points apiece.

Meanwhile, Tomac failed to win either Moto with a third in the first race and runner-up finish in the second.

The moral victory and advantage may shift to Roczen this week.

As they have swapped the victory in the first four rounds with Roczen winning the odd-numbered events, he sees this weekend’s Round 5 as an opportunity.

“I’m looking forward to next weekend’s race,” Roczen said in a team press release. “The track is sandy. It’s very similar—actually almost identical—to what I ride on a regular basis at home.”

Tomac and Roczen enter Round 5 with a 32-point advantage over two riders tied for third in the standings.

So far Zach Osborne and Jason Anderson have not been in the same league as the leaders, but it only takes one slip of the wheel to fall out of the points in in a race and allow these racers to close the gap.

Season passes can be purchased at NBC Sports Gold.

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