James Hinchcliffe and the No. 5 Arrow Electronics Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team emerged victorious at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, the first win for the Canadian driver in 22 races. Sebastien Bourdais continued his strong start to the season finishing runner up to the Canadian driver in his No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing machine, ensuring a 1-2 finish for Honda Performance Development. Josef Newgarden completed the podium in his No. 2 Team Penske Chevrolet as Scott Dixon and Simon Pagenaud rounded out the top five.
Race strategy was key in Hinchcliffe’s win, the team elected to run a two-stop strategy while much of the field elected to run a tradition three-stopper. Only the Hondas of Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi would attempt the same strategy with both Andretti Autosport drivers failing to finish the race 85-lap race.
A traditional frantic start on the first lap resulted in the first full course yellow on the 1.9-mile, 11 turn street course. Pole-sitter Helio Castroneves took the green flag, but a slow start dropped the Brazilian driver down to sixth in less than a lap. Conor Daly spun coming onto the front straight while Will Power and Charlie Kimball made contact scattering debris on the circuit.
Dixon led Hunter-Reay to the green flag on Lap 5. By Lap 11, three-stop drivers scrambled to put lane for fresh tires and fuel. Dixon and Hunter-Reay traded position through pit stops as Hinchcliffe lurked in the top five. Hinchcliffe first gained the lead during the third round of pit stops on Lap 56 just before the the next break in action.
On Lap 63, Rossi slowed to a stop and brought out the second yellow, joining teammate Marco Andretti in retirement. Not a single car took to pit lane through the six-lap break in action.
Hinchcliffe took the green flag and led the final 22 laps en route to his first win of the season. With just a few laps to go, a final full course yellow was brought out by Hunter-Reay, who’s Honda lost power just after teammate Takuma Sato retired.
Hinchcliffe jumped to a 1.5 second lead after the restart to hold off Sebastien Bourdais, who recovered after hitting debris on Lap 1.
Hinchcliffe’s result comes after a winless 2015 despite capturing the pole for the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500, a year after his life-threatening crash at the 2.5-mile oval. His last win came at the IndyCar Grand Prix of Louisiana almost two years ago. He is the second Canadian driver to win the Grand Prix of Long Beach, after Paul Tracy, since IndyCar’s first visit in 1984.
After two rounds, Bourdais has a 19-point lead over Hinchcliffe in the championship standings, with 93 points. Pagenaud clings to third with 71 points ahead of Dixon with 68. Newgarden sits fifth with 59 points after his podium run.
The next round of competition for the Verizon IndyCar Series is just two weeks away with the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on April 23. The IndyCar field returns to Barber Motorsports Park after two years of exceptionally exciting racing at the venue that resulted with wins for Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud.