ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – James Hinchcliffe won his first career Verizon IndyCar Series race on the streets of St. Petersburg in 2013. He was on the way to winning his fifth race, and first in the No. 5 Arrow Electronics Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, Sunday in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
Unfortunately the Lap 26 caution that involved his teammate, Mikhail Aleshin, who’d collided with Tony Kanaan put pause to those hopes.
Hinchcliffe led 21 laps from the Lap 6 restart after the first caution of the race and looked set to control the day until that caution came out, and the top seven drivers including the race leader were unable to maintain their track position because they needed a pit stop.
The Canadian fell to 10th after the stop and was only able to get one spot higher the rest of the day, ending ninth.
“Honestly a pretty disappointing result,” “The Mayor of Hinchtown” said in his post-race release. “We started on the inside of Row 2, got a good start and slipped into second. Did well on the restart and led pretty much the entire first stint. We had a bit of a tire advantage – we started on the sticker Firestone reds, other guys were on used tires – but from there everything kind of unraveled. The yellow caught us off guard; a bunch of the guys behind us had already pitted, so that kind of put us behind the eight ball.
“As the race went on, the track wasn’t coming to us as it normally does, so unfortunately it all kind of went wrong for us after the start. A lot to be happy for, a lot of positives though like the pace of the Arrow Electronics Honda. There’s not a whole lot you can do about the way the yellow flags fall – that was a tough break. I think we would have had a solid top five if it wasn’t for that, and that’s something we can build off of heading into Long Beach.”
Aleshin and Kanaan ended 14th and 12th, respectively, their days also having been compromised by the contact.
It was a tough end for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, who showed improved pace all weekend with Hinchcliffe qualifying third and poised for a strong result. The team also hosted a nice season launch party on Saturday evening, key for their partners among others.
As noted, he’ll look to improve at Long Beach, which is April 9 on NBCSN.