An ill-timed caution period cost James Hinchcliffe a shot at victory around the streets of St. Petersburg on Sunday, with the early race leader falling down the field as a result.
Ironically for Hinchcliffe, it was an incident involving his Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team-mate Mikhail Aleshin that caused the caution when the Russian clipped the back of Chip Ganassi Racing’s Tony Kanaan at turn four to leave debris all over the track.
Hinchcliffe had made a great start to slip into second ahead of Scott Dixon into turn one on the opening lap, and then passed pole sitter Will Power for the lead just after the first caution period for a three-car first lap crash, only to lose out in the second caution.
“Honestly a pretty disappointing result,” said Hinchcliffe. “We started on the inside of Row 2, got a good start and slipped into second, did well on the restart and led pretty much the entire first stint.
“We had a bit of a tyre advantage – we started on the sticker Firestone reds, other guys were on used tyres – but from there everything kind of unravelled. The yellow caught us off guard; a bunch of the guys behind us had already pitted, so that kind of put us behind the eight ball.”
Once shuffled back in the pack, Hinchcliffe was not as prominent in proceedings, running around the back-end of the top ten, ultimately finishing ninth, and despite the disappointment of losing the lead through no fault of his own, he felt there were many positives to take away from St. Petersburg.
“As the race went on, the track wasn’t coming to us as it normally does, so unfortunately it all kind of went wrong for us after the start,” said Hinchcliffe. “A lot to be happy for, a lot of positives though like the pace of the Arrow Electronics Honda.
“There’s not a whole lot you can do about the way the yellow flags fall – that was a tough break. I think we would have had a solid top five if it wasn’t for that, and that’s something we can build off of heading into Long Beach.”