James Hinchcliffe’s day nearly came to an early end during Race 1 of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix Presented by Lear.
The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver spun exiting Turn 1 just after the green flag fell and, while he managed to avoid hitting the wall, the car stalled and needed to get refired before he could rejoin. However, he then caught a lucky break when a full course caution was flown for his stalled car, allowing him to rejoin the field without losing a lap.
From there, restarting 22nd and last in the field, Hinchcliffe used a combination of strategy (the team ran a two-stop race after pitting for new tires under the caution) and sheer pace to climb back into the top five by lap 20.
From there, he hung around the top five for the rest of the day and held off a fast-charging Josef Newgarden for third behind Graham Rahal and Scott Dixon, completing a Honda sweep of the podium.
As he detailed afterward, tire strategy, and a lucky caution for a stalled Conor Daly and spinning Charlie Kimball on lap 26, proved crucial in his comeback.
“Tires are the name of the game here. To be able to get off the reds after the spin in the first turn there played to our advantage,” he said.
“And then we got that yellow at the right time right after out stop. It put us up where we belonged and I think we showed that the No. 5 Arrow car had a lot of pace. To come back from that – the boys were great in the pits and really happy to grab a podium here today.”
Hinchcliffe added that he used inspiration from Sebastien Bourdais, who won the season opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg after starting last, to help fuel his comeback. And he knew that race strategy would help his cause.
“I kind of sat in my car and thought ‘Well, Sebastien did it in St. Pete, why can’t we do the same thing?’ he quipped. “Knowing there was a strategy that kind of favored guys getting off reds who were at the back early, I immediately, as soon as we were back (there), knew we were going to be switching to that. We kind of had a backup plan in that sense.”
Hinchcliffe finished, “I was just lucky that the car was good enough and we were able to make some passes on track, make some spaces up in pit lane.”
This is Hinchcliffe’s second podium of the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season, his other being the victory at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Race 2 of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix Presented by Lear rolls off tomorrow at 3:30 p.m. ET.