Hinchcliffe dances into victory lane at Long Beach


LONG BEACH, Calif. – James Hinchcliffe was second on Dancing with the Stars last fall.

He made his return to Los Angeles for the Verizon IndyCar Series’ annual trip to Long Beach one spot better.

The driver of the No. 5 Arrow Electronics Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda dominated today’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach en route to the fifth win of his career, his first since NOLA Motorsports Park in April 2015.

Hinchcliffe won his first Indy Lights race here in 2010 and now is back on the board to give Honda its second win of the season, thanks to a two-stop pit strategy.

St. Petersburg winner Sebastien Bourdais was second in the No. 18 Sonny’s BBQ Honda for Dale Coyne Racing, while Josef Newgarden took his No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet to third for his first podium with his new team. Bourdais was on a two-stop strategy but got a third added when he needed to pit for a rear wing assembly change following an opening lap caution, while Newgarden stuck to a three-stop strategy.

A three-stop strategy also occurred for Scott Dixon and Simon Pagenaud, both of whom were quick but unable to rise above fourth and fifth. Dixon’s was meant to be two stops but got changed to three earlier in the race.

A nightmare day saw all four Andretti Autosport Hondas have mechanical issues, costing potential wins or podiums for Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi, who qualified in the Firestone Fast Six.

A first-lap accident put pause to both Will Power’s and Charlie Kimball’s hopes. Kimball was also involved in a first-lap incident at St. Petersburg with Graham Rahal. Today, he was on the outside of turn 4 with Power trying to pass on the inside before they collided.

Meanwhile yellows were absent from the rest of the race until Rossi had a mechanical issue at the back of his No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Honda when he was running third on Lap 63.

That was the lap Hinchcliffe took the lead for the last time in the race. He gapped Hunter-Reay on the eventual restart, six laps later on Lap 69, with Hunter-Reay falling more than two seconds in arrears.

Things got worse for Hunter-Reay when he too suffered mechanical issues – as Rossi, Takuma Sato and Marco Andretti all retired from the race – when he ground to a halt on Lap 80. Hunter-Reay told NBCSN he believed it was the same issue that befell him at Pocono Raceway last August.

The race was able to get restarted before the end of the 85-lap distance, with Hinchcliffe again checking out for the finish. Further contact occurred between JR Hildebrand and Mikhail Aleshin in that period, Aleshin later docked a position for the contact.

Bourdais held off Newgarden for second while Dixon was unable to get around Newgarden. Pagenaud, who started 21st and last, completed the top five.

Ed Jones posted his second top-10 in as many starts in sixth place, continuing Dale Coyne Racing’s dream start, with Carlos Munoz, Spencer Pigot, Helio Castroneves and Graham Rahal rounding out the top 10.

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: The top-10 finishers are the obvious, and beyond Hinchcliffe, Bourdais, Dixon and Pagenaud are the three drivers who have finished in the top-five in both races. Spencer Pigot got his first top-10 of the season as well.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Andretti Autosport: four cars, four mechanical DNFs in a very bizarre race for them after a solid qualifying effort. Polesitter Castroneves dropped five spots on the first lap and never was able to recover, ending ninth. He was also penalized during the race. Power’s nightmarish start to 2017 rolled on with a 13th place finish after the Lap 1 contact with Kimball. Conor Daly spun before the start of the race and never recovered, ending 16th. Contact between Tony Kanaan and Mikhail Aleshin left Kanaan with a flat left rear. They also collided at St. Petersburg. Aleshin was then docked a position post-race from 11th to 12th for contact with JR Hildebrand.

NOTABLE: This win is the first for both Hinchcliffe and SPM since NOLA 2015. It’s Hinchcliffe’s fifth and SPM’s sixth. Coyne’s four top-10s it has in two races this year is only two shy of its total from 2016, as Conor Daly had five and RC Enerson one.

QUOTABLE: Dixon, who finished fourth, was not happy about the loss of another potential win. He told NBCSN’s Katie Hargitt post-race:

“(Two stops) was always the plan. I’m not sure what changed. Maybe the team thought a caution would come out. You play with fire. We gave the race away at that point. It got a little bit tougher with the NTT Data car later in the race. No one passed unless there was slower lapped traffic. It’s hard to swallow that one. It was going to be an easy victory otherwise.”


LONG BEACH, California – Results Sunday of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 1.968-mile Long Beach street circuit, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1. (4) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 85, Running
2. (12) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 85, Running
3. (8) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 85, Running
4. (2) Scott Dixon, Honda, 85, Running
5. (21) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 85, Running
6. (13) Ed Jones, Honda, 85, Running
7. (14) Carlos Munoz, Chevrolet, 85, Running
8. (19) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 85, Running
9. (1) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 85, Running
10. (6) Graham Rahal, Honda, 85, Running
11. (15) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 84, Contact
12. (16) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 84, Running
13. (9) Will Power, Chevrolet, 84, Running
14. (20) Max Chilton, Honda, 84, Running
15. (11) Tony Kanaan, Honda, 84, Running
16. (17) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 84, Running
17. (3) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 79, Off Course
18. (18) Takuma Sato, Honda, 78, Off Course
19. (5) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 62, Mechanical
20. (10) Marco Andretti, Honda, 14, Off-Course
21. (7) Charlie Kimball, Honda, 1, Contact

Race Statistics
Winners average speed: 90.845 mph
Time of Race: 1:50:28.9818
Margin of victory: 1.4940 seconds
Cautions: 3 for 11 laps
Lead changes: 6 among 3 drivers
Lap Leaders:
Dixon 1-15
Hunter-Reay 16-29
Dixon 30-41
Hunter-Reay 42-55
Hinchcliffe 56-57
Dixon 58-62
Hinchcliffe 63-85
Verizon IndyCar Series point standings: Bourdais 93, Hinchcliffe 74, Pagenaud 71, Dixon 70, Newgarden 59, Castroneves 51, Jones 48, Hunter-Reay 46, Sato 43, Andretti 36.

Ford unveils a new Mustang for 2024 Le Mans in motorsports ‘lifestyle brand’ retooling

Ford Mustang Le Mans
Ford Performance

LE MANS, France — Ford has planned a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans with its iconic Mustang muscle car next year under a massive rebranding of Ford Performance aimed at bringing the automotive manufacturer “into the racing business.”

The Friday unveil of the new Mustang Dark Horse-based race car follows Ford’s announcement in February (and a ballyhooed test at Sebring in March) that it will return to Formula One in 2026 in partnership with reigning world champion Red Bull.

The Mustang will enter the GT3 category next year with at least two cars in both IMSA and the World Endurance Championship, and is hopeful to earn an invitation to next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. The IMSA entries will be a factory Ford Performance program run by Multimatic, and a customer program in WEC with Proton Competition.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, also an amateur sports car racer, told The Associated Press the Mustang will be available to compete in various GT3 series across the globe to customer teams. But more important, Farley said, is the overall rebranding of Ford Performance – done by renowned motorsports designer Troy Lee – that is aimed at making Ford a lifestyle brand with a sporting mindset.

“It’s kind of like the company finding its own, and rediscovering its icons, and doubling down on them,” Farley told the AP. “And then this motorsports activity is getting serious about connecting enthusiast customers with those rediscovered icons. It’s a big switch for the company – this is really about building strong, iconic vehicles with enthusiasts at the center of our marketing.”

Ford last competed in sports car racing in 2019 as part of a three-year program with Chip Ganassi Racing. The team scored the class win at Le Mans in 2016 in a targeted performance aimed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ford snapping Ferrari’s six-year winning streak.

Ford on Friday displayed a Mustang with a Lee-designed livery that showcased the cleaner, simplified look that will soon be featured on all its racing vehicles. The traditional blue oval with Ford Performance in white lettering underneath will now be branded simply FP.

The new mark will be used across car liveries, merchandise and apparel, display assets, parts and accessories and in advertising.

Farley cited Porsche as an automaker that has successfully figured out how to sell cars to consumers and race cars in various series around the world while creating a culture of brand enthusiasts. He believes Ford’s new direction will help the company sell street cars, race cars, boost interest in driving schools, and create a merchandise line that convinces consumers that a stalwart of American automakers is a hip, cool brand.

“We’re going to build a global motorsports business off road and on road,” Farley told the AP, adding that the design of the Mustang is “unapologetically American.”

He lauded the work of Lee, who is considered the top helmet designer among race car drivers.

“We’re in the first inning of a nine inning game, and going to Le Mans is really important,” Farley said. “But for customer cars, getting the graphics right, designing race cars that win at all different levels, and then designing a racing brand for Ford Performance that gets rebranded and elevated is super important.”

He said he’s kept a close eye on how Porsche and Aston Martin have built their motorsports businesses and said Ford will be better.

“We’re going in the exact same direction. We just want to be better than them, that’s all,” Farley said. “Second is the first loser.”

Farley, an avid amateur racer himself, did not travel to Le Mans for the announcement. The race that begins Saturday features an entry from NASCAR, and Ford is the reigning Cup Series champion with Joey Logano and Team Penske.

The NASCAR “Garage 56” entry is a collaboration between Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear, and is being widely celebrated throughout the industry. Farley did feel left out of the party in France – a sentiment NASCAR tried to avoid by inviting many of its partners to attend the race so that it wouldn’t seem like a Chevrolet-only celebration.

“They’re going right and I’m going left – that NASCAR thing is a one-year deal, right? It’s Garage 56 and they can have their NASCAR party, but that’s a one-year party,” Farley said. “We won Le Mans outright four times, we won in the GT class, and we’re coming back with Mustang and it’s not a one-year deal.

“So they can get all excited about Garage 56. I almost see that as a marketing exercise for NASCAR, but for me, that’s a science project,” Farley continued. “I don’t live in a world of science projects. I live in the world of building a vital company that everyone is excited about. To do that, we’re not going to do a Garage 56 – I’ve got to beat Porsche and Aston Martin and Ferrari year after year after year.”

Ford’s announcement comes on the heels of General Motors changing its GT3 strategy next season and ending its factory Corvette program. GM, which unlike Ford competes in the IMSA Grand Touring Prototype division (with its Cadillac brand), will shift fully to a customer model for Corvettes in 2024 (with some factory support in the IMSA GTD Pro category).