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Hinchcliffe: ‘Honestly pretty disappointing’ to end P9 in St. Pete

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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.

Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry. Time just published a brief piece by Wallace saluting Hamilton as a trailblazer.

The idea of Hamilton attending the NASCAR season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it would seem right for Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — to spend some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).