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