James Hinchcliffe, driver of the No.5 Arrow Honda, was last seen in victory lane nearly two years ago on April 12, 2015 when he won the first and only Grand Prix of Louisiana at NOLA Motorsport Park, but the Canadian driver is finally back on the top step of the podium.
Hinchcliffe started the 2017 season with a top-10 finish in the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, with a ninth-place finish. He carried that momentum into the weekend gearing up for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. He ran well in both practices, and qualified fourth. Hinchcliffe said after the win that he feels like he and his team are back on track.
“To finally do what was goal number one when we set out at the start of the season, to get back into winner’s circle, to do as early in the season as we have, as convincingly as we did, it was a great race,” Hinchcliffe stated. “We started row two. Got into second place off the start. Lost one spot on the first exchange of pit stops, got a couple back in the second. Huge credit to the Schmidt Peterson Motorsport guys in pit lane and obviously the car, to be able to save that much fuel for as long as we were, do that extra lap, that was the move that won us the race.
“Had to hold off some guys on the restart. Cruising along, the last thing you want to hear is caution. We heard it twice. Held off Ryan on the first, Sebastien on the second. My left wing had completely shattered. There was nothing in it. Protecting the inside of Turn 1 because I was turning in whether you were there or not. I feel bad for Ryan and Alex. They had great cars. Was turning into a good race with the three of us there. Like I said, just thrilled to be up here.”
Hinch gave credit to his strategist and team for the win calling it “a team effort.”
“It’s always a tough call here, you know, because one caution falling at the right time or the right length of laps can throw everything for a loop,” Hinch added. “You know, when Dixon dove into the pits there, kind of predicting the yellow coming up for whoever was off in turn eight, for Marco, a smart move. It didn’t pay off, but especially after what we saw in St. Pete, they’re protecting against that. It was kind of a good idea.”
The Oakville, Ontario native had won four races prior to this race. His first race is obviously special because it was his first win. However, Hinch always said to win Long Beach would be special as well.
“Well, you put your face in the ground when you win, which is amazing. Who would want that,” Hinch says. “No, you know, like I touched on earlier, it’s the history of this place. 43 years running, comes second only to the Indy 500. Who has raced here, won here, it’s just a very special place. There’s no three-day event that has this kind of fan interaction and fan attendance. This race is just so well-represented by the fans. That’s who we’re here for. We love coming here and putting on a good show for them because they show up in the 10s of thousands every single year to race.”
In 2015, Hinch was involved in a near fatal accident during practice for the Indianapolis 500. With grit and determination he was back in the car and not even a year later on the same track that almost took his life he won the pole position for 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500. Now with this win at Long Beach and only 30 days away from the month of May and opening day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hinch hopes him and his team can carry the momentum with them.
“Yeah, I mean, we were excited for the month of May June 1st last year,” Hinch added. “We had a really strong month obviously with the GP, qualifying, the 500 itself. We knew with another year to kind of think about it, develop the car, with an off-season to rub on it, try to make it a little bit better, we were very confident before the season even started with the month of May.”