Hinchcliffe: 2016 IndyCar campaign better than final standing suggests

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James Hinchcliffe believes his performance through the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season was better than his final points tally and finish in the drivers’ standings suggest.

Hinchcliffe returned to full-time racing this year with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports after having his 2015 campaign cut short by a severe accident during practice for the Indianapolis 500.

The Canadian scored pole for the 100th running of the ‘500 back in May, and picked up three podium finishes through the year, recording a best result of second in the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Despite ending the season 13th in the drivers’ standings, Hinchcliffe is adamant that his season was better than the statistics suggest.

“If you wipe the Detroit weekend off the map, you give us back the points from Texas and we finish the race at Watkins Glen, we’re fighting for a top three in the championship,” Hinchcliffe told indycar.com.

Hinchcliffe finished endured a nightmare weekend in Detroit with 18th and a DNF in the two races. Then in the final 3 races of the year, he lost 25 points due to a technical infraction after his charge to second at Texasran short on fuel at Watkins Glen after being poised to finish the race P2, and finished 12th in the double points finale at Sonoma.

Hinchcliffe’s impressive comeback season was one of IndyCar’s feel-good stories of 2016, but he stressed that SPM’s on-track strength should come as no shock.

“It shouldn’t be that surprising. This team has done that before,” Hinchcliffe said.

“That’s what’s so impressive about SPM, they are kind of the little team that could.

“When you think there’s the three powerhouse teams that combine to make 12 cars or half the grid, if you’re anywhere in the top 12 in points, you’re doing a good job if you’re not one of those guys.”

Team owner Sam Schmidt is confident that Hinchcliffe can lead SPM for many years to come, and is targeting a shot at the championship in 2017.

“We can build a long-term program around him and a long-term program around Mikhail [Aleshin] and keep on improving,” Schmidt said.

“We’re still not perfect, but I think the guys are doing a hell of a job.

“We want to position ourselves in the offseason, fill in a couple of spots here and there, and legitimately go for the championship next year.”

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III