A trip down to The Big Easy wasn’t a fun-filled day for the Verizon IndyCar Series with a shortened race won by Schmidt Peterson Motorsport’s James Hinchcliffe after utilising the best of the numerous yellow flag periods.
Raining all weekend at the NOLA Motorsports Park, IndyCar officials decided to start the race an hour early to avoid an even bigger storm that could have threatened to wash out the entire race.
Even then they didn’t get the full race completed, only 47 of the advertised 75 laps were done by the leaders – they hit the 1 hour 45 minute time-limit under the numerous full course cautions. Only 31 minutes of that were green flag minutes.
However, Hinchcliffe – who claimed his first win since the Iowa Corn Indy in ’13 – made the most of the poor conditions and went all “Mystic Meg” on the rest of the grid by only doing a one-stopper.
Starting 16th you wouldn’t have put any money on Hinchcliffe eventually taking the chequered flag first but he pitted only on lap 13 – the rest of the field pitted under caution on lap 33 and relied on a lot of running behind the safety car to make the fuel strategy work.
Thankfully that wish came true, he only had to deal with three green flag laps before he led Louisiana’s most expensive procession around the predominately club circuit and to a leisurely finish.
He said after the race: “When we first decided to stay out, I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if we could make this a one-stopper?’ I just never thought it would happen. On one hand, I feel badly that we didn’t have more green-flag laps for the fans and everybody here at NOLA, but on the other hand, those guys on my crew called it awesome.”
Behind him, a man who did make the second stop and happened to come out behind the Mayor of Hinchtown was Helio Castroneves who admitted that his drive in the Team Penske machine was more luck than skill, being in the right place when the race got neutralised.
James Jakes, in the same Schmidt Peterson car as his fellow James, finished a marvellous third place in his second race back in the IndyCar circus to record his second career podium. Also having a very good result was the Andretti Autosport entry of Simona De Silvestro who equalled her career best finish of fourth place.
Not having a good race at all were a trio of drivers: Simon Pagenaud, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Sebastien Bourdais. One incident took out all three drivers late on in the race after a bit of off-roading.
Pagenaud went off track at turn two after being pushed off by Hunter-Reay, slid across the bogs which highlight the NOLA track, and then collected him and the innocent Sebastien Bourdais – putting them all out.
Hopefully, after a flop of a race, fans don’t desert the track for future races and maybe IndyCar officials will consider moving the race to a historically drier weekend.