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.

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.