April 12 in Motorsports History: Hinchcliffe wins at New Orleans

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On April 12, 2015, a combination of strategy and luck propelled James Hinchcliffe to victory in one of the crazier races in recent IndyCar history, the lone running of the Indy Grand Prix of Lousiana.

Simply put, the race itself was a total mess with more than half its distance being run under yellow.

The race was held at NOLA Motorsports Park in Avondale outside of New Orleans, a 2.74-mile, 13-turn road course in the middle of a swamp with faulty drainage. Rain had plagued the majority of the weekend, causing poor driving conditions.

With the entire field starting the race on rain tires, the first 15 laps actually went caution-free. However, teams began switching to slicks on Lap 11. With portions of the track still wet, multiple on-track accidents caused 26 of the remaining 32 laps to be run under yellow.

Team Penske’s Juan Pablo Montoya led 31 of the first 32 laps before a yellow for Sage Karam going off course. Montoya and the next seven cars behind him all pitted.

James Hinchcliffe, who last pitted on Lap 13, did not come in. Hinchcliffe’s strategist, Robert Gue, kept him on track, expecting more cautions in the race, which had turned into a 1 hour and 45-minute timed event because of its slow pace.

Luckily for Gue and Hinchcliffe, more yellows kept running the clock down. When the green flag waved again on Lap 39, there were just more than 17 minutes remaining on the timer.

Two laps later, Karam spun in Turn 13 for another caution. When racing resumed, eight and a half minutes remained in the race. So long as Hinchcliffe had a great restart, it seemed the race could be his.

Hinchcliffe did just that as the green flag waved, but moments later, Ryan Hunter-Reay nudged Simon Pagenaud approaching Turn 3, causing Pagenaud to go off course before returning to the track and violently making contact with Hunter-Reay and Sebastien Bourdais.

Sebastien Bourdais and Simon Pagenaud crash in the 2015 Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana. Photo: Bret Kelly/IndyCar

While all drivers walked away from the accident safely, the crash essentially guaranteed the race would end under caution. Hinchcliffe coasted around the track behind the pace car for the remaining seven and a half minutes to collect his fourth victory in IndyCar competition.

James Hinchcliffe celebrates after winning the 2015 Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana. Photo: Chris Owens/IndyCar

“When we first decided to stay out, I thought ‘Ah, wouldn’t it be funny if we could make this a one-stopper,’ ” Hinchcliffe told NBC Sports in victory lane. “On one hand, I feel bad that we didn’t have more green-flag laps for the fans and everyone else here at NOLA, but on the other hand, those guys called it awesome.”

While the weekend was a great one for Hinchcliffe, it was a disaster for race promoters. The race failed to draw more than 10,000 spectators, and both race promoters and the company that installed the grandstands for the race sued the track for lack of payments. IndyCar has yet to return to the facility.

Also on this date:

1982: IMSA competitor Ryan Dalziel was born in Glasgow, Scotland. Dalziel won the 2010 Rolex 24 at Daytona with Action Express and the 2017 Petit Le Mans with Tequila Patron ESM.

1987: Roberto Guerrero went from last to first to win the Checker 200 at Phoenix International Raceway, the first of two victories in CART for the Colombian.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter @michaele1994

Steve Torrence takes NHRA points lead with Gatornationals victory

NHRA Gainesville Steve Torrence
Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Two-time defending NHRA Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence took the points lead Sunday in the AMALIE Motor Oil Gatornationals, beating his father, Billy, in the final round at Gainesville Raceway.

Torrence had a 3.809-second run at 322.11 mph to win for the third time this year and 39th overall. He is now on track for another championship despite missing the season opener.

“We’ve got some good momentum and to be in the points lead, it’s a testament to how hard these guys work,” Steve Torrence said after the NHRA Gainesville victory. “We’ve just got to stay focused and concentrate on what the task at hand is, and that’s trying to win a championship. These guys give me an unbelievable race car and you just try not to screw it up.”

Ron Capps won in Funny Car, Alex Laughlin in Pro Stock and Matt Smith in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Capps raced to his second win this year and 66th overall, beating Tim Wilkerson with a 3.937 at 323.12 in a Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat.

Laughlin topped Aaron Stanfield with a 7.068 at 204.76 in a Chevrolet Camaro for his first win this season and fourth in his career. Smith rode to his first victory in 2020 and 25th overall, topping Andrew Hines with a 6.843 at 196.99 on an EBR.