St. Petersburg Is Now Hinchtown!
Marco Andretti hounded Simona de Silvestro in the closing laps to force her to make a mistake. It finally happened coming out of the 14th turn heading to the white flag when her Dallara/Chevrolet drifted wide. Andretti zoomed past her and went on to finish third.
It was his best finish on a road or street course since he was fourth at Toronto in 2011.
“I don’t want to speak too soon; there’s still a long way to go in the season,” Marco Andretti said. “I’m definitely pleased to reap some of the benefits for how hard I’ve been working, not only physically, but as you say, where I’ve been lacking. For me it felt like a win, but we’ll take this. I think if we can have days like this all year, we can be in contention for a championship. That’s obviously the goal. Great job to Hinchcliffe and I have to give credit to Simona. She drove a helluva race, as well.”
It was a great day for the new stars of IndyCar however the same could not be said for some of the more established names.
Will Power looked like he had the car to beat before J.R. Hildebrand plowed into the back of him during the final caution period of the race. Hildebrand admitted he was “messing with some knobs” in his car and that was enough to distract him from avoiding Power, who was warming up his tires.
“Yeah, that’s a tough finish for us in 16th,” Power said. “It’s too bad because the Verizon car was definitely fast. (On the incident with J.R. Hildebrand) He came over and apologized after the race. He said he was just looking down at his steering wheel and he just ran over the top of me. It’s just a mistake but that happens in racing. Then I made another mistake there at the end and it cost us four more places. Tough day but we just have to move forward and look ahead to Barber.”
Defending IndyCar champion Ryan Hunter-Reay had an issue with a stuck throttle forcing him into the pits for repairs. He would finish 18th.
“It wasn’t a great day,” Hunter-Reay said. “We couldn’t get our car into first gear on a pit stop for whatever reason. I don’t know if that had anything to do with the stuck throttle that we ended up having, but that’s what sidelined us in the end. I’ve heard some other guys have been having that issue so everyone is scratching their head right now, and trust me, on a street course it’s not the thing you want – it’s pretty scary to have one. That’s racing. You can be on the highest high and then next weekend you can be on the lowest low. We just have to ride it and we’ll come out swinging next week; it’s all a part of it. It’s a great win for James Hinchcliffe and Andretti Autosport.”
And four-time IndyCar champion Dario Franchitti finished last in the 25-car field when he crashed on Lap 18 after he left pit road for what would be his only pit stop.
“We’ve really struggled with the Target car this weekend,” Franchitti said. “I was trying to make up for it somewhere on the track and I just stepped over the line there on cold tires. I hit a bump in Turn 3, and with the ride height being so low with the tires pressures I just got in the marbles and in the wall. It was totally my mistake.”
It was not a day for the established names of IndyCar but it was a great day to showcase the new stars of the sport and none were bigger than James Hinchcliffe.
Somewhere, Dan Wheldon must be smiling.