After a rough start to the 2016 season, James Hinchcliffe finally got things back on track in Sunday’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Following disappointing finishes of 19th in the season opener at St. Petersburg and 18th at Phoenix two weeks ago, Hinchcliffe recorded a strong eighth-place showing Sunday.
It was the best race finish for Hinchcliffe in his No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda since seventh a year ago in Birmingham, Alabama.
“Today was a really good day,” the Canadian driver said. “We rolled off the truck with a good car on Friday and I’m really proud of the Arrow Electronics guys for the prep that they did because the car was a rocket right from the get-go.
“It’s such a turnaround from the race in Phoenix two weeks ago. There are a lot of reasons to be happy today and I’m proud of the guys. Hopefully we can just move forward in the race.”
There were several key battles in the race, including winner Simon Pagenaud and runner-up Scott Dixon, as well as fourth-place finisher Juan Pablo Montoya and fifth-place Takuma Sato.
Add Hinchcliffe to the list with his battle throughout much of the race with Will Power. If there had been a bit more time and more laps instead of the 80-lap event that was contested, Hinchcliffe felt he may have overtaken Power for seventh place and possibly climbed even higher.
“It was barely a two-stopper and we need a genuine three-stopper so we can go racing,” he said. “We seriously need to look at the length of the races.
“It’s been a bittersweet day really. It was nice to come away with a top-10 and we had a good first stint, stayed out of trouble and kept up with the guys in front of us. On the first pit sequence, we sort of got bad timing and just as we had finished our stop and were about to be released, we had to hold for a bit because (Carlos) Munoz was entering his box.
“This ultimately cost us getting out and Takuma Sato was able to jump us in the stops and that really what differentiated us; he had that little bit better track position, stayed in front of the guys in the next round of stops and came away with a top-5. I think we had his pace, definitely had more pace than the guys ahead of us right at the end, we just didn’t have the opportunity to get around them.
“When there are no cautions like this, it takes strategies out of the mix and unfortunately it becomes a bit of a fuel-saving race, which is never fun for us and not the best show for the fans. But we brought the No. 5 Arrow Electronics car home, we were quick all weekend and hopefully we can take this momentum into Barber (Motorsports Park) next week.“