James Hinchcliffe: “To get in the winner’s circle was huge”

Credit: Chris Jones / IndyCar

James Hinchcliffe celebrated his first Verizon IndyCar Series victory since the 2015 race at New Orleans after the popular Canadian came through to win the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on Sunday.

The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver was in contention throughout the 85-lap race, and was involved in a three-way battle for the lead with Andretti Autosport duo Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi as they attempted to make a two-stop strategy work in their favour as opposed to the three stop strategy that early race leader Scott Dixon tried.

Hinchcliffe emerged from his pit stop ahead of both, and although both Hunter-Reay and Rossi ultimately retired due to mechanical issues, the Canadian had no such problems and took his fifth career IndyCar victory, and the first since his life-threatening horror crash during practice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway back in 2015.

“A lot has changed since the last time we were sitting up here,” said Hinchcliffe. “It’s just so nice to be back. We came really close last year.

“A lot of people talked about 2016 as sort of the comeback year. Personally we really wanted to as a team to put an exclamation point on that by coming to Victory Lane. We came as close as humanly possible in Texas last year. Didn’t quite get the job done. We were sore to not win a race last year.

“We worked hard this off-season to perfect the package we had. Good speed at a lot of races last year. To roll off the first two races of the season, being in the Fast Six both times, if not for a caution falling for the wrong time at St. Pete, could have been in the top five or on podium there.

“To do it here and finally at this place, a track that I love so much, a track that’s been very good to me in my career, one that I think is the Indy 500 of street tracks, it’s the second longest running race after the 500.

“I think because of that history, it makes it a very special event, one that every driver wants to win. The greats have all raced here, the greats have all won here. To get in the winner’s circle was huge.”