Video: Top three finishers rave on first Indy GP of LA
GP of NOLA provides unique, fun fan experience
Local officials overcome hurdles to impress with inaugural Indy race
PHOTOS: Indy GP of Louisiana weekend
AVONDALE (SportsNetwork.com) – James Hinchcliffe capitalized on an off-sequence pit strategy and benefited from a rash of accidents due to wet track conditions to win Sunday’s inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana at NOLA Motorsports Park.
This race, held on a 2.74-mile road course located roughly 15 miles southwest of downtown New Orleans, had been scheduled for 75 laps, but it ended up being a timed event of 1 hour and 45 minutes. Twenty six of the 47 laps completed were run under caution.
Hinchcliffe, driving the No. 5 Honda-powered car for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports this season, pitted for the first and only time on lap 13. The 28- year-old Canadian grabbed the lead on lap 33 when then leader Juan Pablo Montoya and several of the other front runners made their pit stops. Hinchcliffe ran in front for the remaining 15 laps, gambling on fuel and tires, to claim his fourth career IndyCar Series win but his first since June 2013 at Iowa Speedway. He drove for Andretti Autosport the past three years.
Helio Castroneves from Team Penske, James Jakes, who is Hinchcliffe’s teammate at Schmidt Peterson, and Andretti Autosport’s Simona de Silvestro also pitted earlier in the race and went on to finish second through fourth, respectively.
Montoya, a Penske driver, started on the pole and led 31 of the first 32 laps before Hinchcliffe took over.
“When we first decided to stay out, I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if we could make this a one (pit) stopper’?” Hinchcliffe said. “I just never thought it would happen. On one hand, I feel bad we didn’t have more green-flag laps for the fans and everybody here at NOLA, but on the other hand, those guys (No. 5 team) called it awesome.
“The car was unbelievable on the red (tires). We pulled away from a couple of Penske cars on those restarts. If we had gone green, I think we could’ve held them off at the end as long as we had the fuel.”
Montoya wound up finishing fifth. Saturday’s qualifying session here was rained out, with Montoya being awarded the pole based on entrant points. He won the IndyCar season-opener two weeks ago in St. Petersburg, Florida.
The first of six cautions happened on lap 16 when rookie Gabby Chaves spun off course in turn 4 and then stalled while attempting to get back on the track. Then it was yellow-flag fever from there. The race ended under caution after a multi-car crash involving Sebastien Bourdais, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Simon Pagenaud occurred in turn 3 with 7 minutes, 40 seconds left.
Tony Kanaan finished sixth, followed by Will Power, the defending IndyCar champion, Graham Rahal, Josef Newgarden and Luca Filippi.