Hinchcliffe prevails in Grand Prix of Long Beach

LONG BEACH, Calif. — James Hinchcliffe is Canadian, but his
victory Sunday in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach felt like a
homecoming.

Hinchcliffe spent four career-defining moments in the Los Angeles
area last fall, finishing second in the popular television show
“Dancing With the Stars.” The locals didn’t forget, either, wildly
celebrating with him Sunday as he won the Verizon IndyCar Series
race on the streets of this seaport city in southern California.

Hinchcliffe used a combination of fuel strategy and speed to win in
Long Beach. He used a strong late-race restart to pull away from
the field but then needed to repeat that — and he did — to forge
ahead. He won by 1.499 seconds.

The win was Hinchcliffe’s first of the season and fifth of his
career.

His previous win came in 2015 at a permanent road course outside of
New Orleans, and the race was about a month before his near-fatal
accident during practice at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Upon
hitting the Turn 3 wall, a piece of the car’s right front
suspension was driven through his right leg and pelvis, requiring
massive blood loss and a lengthy rehabilitation.

Hinchcliffe recovered to win the pole for last year’s Indianapolis
500, arguably his signature racing moment to date.

Sebastien Bourdais, who won the season-opening race in St.
Petersburg, Fla., finished second. Josef Newgarden was third, Scott
Dixon fourth and Simon Pagenaud fifth. Rookie Ed Jones was sixth.

Bourdais kept the series points lead. He leads Hinchcliffe by 19
points heading to the April 23 race at Barber Motorsports Park
outside Birmingham, Ala.

Hinchcliffe gave Honda its second consecutive victory to open the
season, but not all the Hondas came out of this event clean. All
four of the Andretti Autosport cars — driven by Ryan Hunter-Reay,
Marco Andretti, Alexander Rossi and Takuma Sato — had mechanical
failures and retired from the event early.

Hinchcliffe also won in what is the final year of his contract with
Schmidt Peterson Motorsport. The team owned by Sam Schmidt and Ric
Peterson scored its first victory in this historic event.

Last year’s race went flag to flag without a caution, but this one
didn’t. Will Power and Charlie Kimball went side by side through
Turn 3 of the opening lap, but they couldn’t pull that off in Turn
4. The contact knocked Kimball’s car into the outside wall; Power
followed him into the barrier.

Kimball’s car suffered enough damage to be put behind the wall.
Power’s crew gave that car a new front wing and sent him on his way.

Kimball and Power each have had poor starts to the season. Kimball
hasn’t completed a lap without contact. Power has finished 18th and
13th in the two races.

NOTES: The pole Helio Castroneves won Saturday was the 48th of his
career, drawing him within one of Bobby Unser for third place on
the sport’s all-time list. Mario Andretti and A.J. Foyt are 1-2 in
career poles with 67 and 53, respectively. … The competitor list
for next month’s Indianapolis 500 came more into focus over the
weekend with the signing of two Indy Lights drivers. Andretti
Autosport will field a car for Jack Harvey, a 23-year-old
Englishman. A.J. Foyt Racing has added Zach Veach, a 22-year-old
product of Stockdale, Ohio. Both drivers have won six Indy Lights
races. … IndyCar faces an important test Wednesday at Texas Motor
Speedway, which has undergone a reconfiguration and paving in
recent months. NASCAR raced there Sunday.