When James Hinchcliffe missed the Indianapolis 500 this year, he knew there was still an opportunity to put a positive spin on his 2018 season. That opportunity came today in Newton, Iowa. Hinchcliffe led the final 45 laps at Iowa Speedway to capture his sixth career victory in the Verizon IndyCar Series, snapping his 26-race winless streak.
The Canadian’s last win came at Long Beach in 2017, but the focus today was still on the events at Indianapolis. “This is such a good feeling after what happened in May,” Hinchcliffe stated. “We knew we had it in us and to come here and do it like that. It’s so nice to be back up top after kind of the season that we’ve had.”
Victory lane was filled with excitement and exuberance, as Spencer Pigot earned his first career podium on Sunday. His runner-up finish made it five straight years that an Ed Carpenter Racing driver has finished on the podium at Iowa. Joining them on the podium was Takuma Sato, who had never finished in the top ten in his previous eight starts at Iowa. This was also the first podium of the season for the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver.
Iowa Corn 300 Box Score
While Hinchcliffe’s final stint sealed the deal, it was Josef Newgarden that looked primed for another dominating performance at Iowa. The defending series champion led 229 of the 300 laps on Sunday, but had to settle for a 4th place finish. After anticipating a late restart, Newgarden and Robert Wickens went to pit lane for fresh tires on Lap 297. Time ran out before the track could be cleaned though, and the checkered flag waved. What was shaping up as a double-podium day for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, turned into a 1st and 5th due to the confusion.
There were 955 passes in today’s race, compared to 378 last year. While many fans, teams, and drivers would have liked a green-white-checkered finish, it was understandably a difficult decision as the final laps ticked away under yellow.
This was the fifth straight Top 6 finish at Iowa for Newgarden, who was coming off a win at Road America. Another driver riding a surging wave of momentum was Ryan Hunter-Reay. With eight Top 5 finishes in ten races, and three victories at Iowa, he was one of the favorites heading into today’s race. After a solid start, his day ended early after a rear suspension failure and radio issues. Hunter-Reay finished in 19th, and dropped to fourth in the championship standings.
Championship leader Scott Dixon had a disappointing day, finishing in 12th place just in front of his Ganassi teammate. Dixon’s best finish here in 12 starts is a 3rd place result, and after today, his lead over Newgarden shrunk to just 33 points. Alexander Rossi fought through mechanical issues on Sunday, and came home in 9th place. With both Dixon and Rossi failing to finish on the lead lap today, no driver will be able to complete every lap this season.
Hinchcliffe’s home race is up next. The series heads north of the border next weekend for the Honda Indy Toronto on July 15. NBC Sports Network will provide coverage for the event, which begins at 3 PM ET on Sunday.
Photos courtesy of IndyCar
Josef Newgarden: “This is Indy car racing. You have to expect the unexpected. It’s never sorted out and locked up right at the beginning. We had a great No. 1 Hitachi Chevrolet and for the first half of the race, we had the car to beat. And it just fell away from us. Sometimes you can’t predict exactly what you’re going to need at the end of these things. Today, we didn’t have exactly what it was that we needed but we’ll come back and try it again. I think Hinch (James Hinchcliffe) did a great job. Congrats to him and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. They deserved the win. They did a great job at the end there and happy for those guys. I’m just disappointed. We had such a good car and could have capitalized on it in the end, but we just seemed to get worse as the race went on. All the guys did a great job. The Hitachi car was fast and Team Chevy did a great job. We’ll just chalk it up to we need to be a little better for next time.”
James Hinchcliffe: “Very good day. Very good day. The best day. You know, it’s so nice to be back up top after the kind of season that we’ve had, and obviously the month of May that we had. But we’ve had a couple good weekends in a row. Really just strong performances from the whole team, kind of felt some momentum coming in here, we tested here last week, and I’m very glad that we did for sure. I think that was a huge advantage. All the guys that came here seemed to be kind of up top this weekend. And then come the race, we didn’t qualify particularly well. We had a bit of a problem but we weren’t working on a quick car, we were working on a good car over a stint. We’ve won at Iowa before, and the key is taking care of your Firestone (tires). The key is having a good car in Lane 1, Lane 2, being able to get through traffic, and that’s ultimately what we did. We got through a bunch of cars in that first stint, got through a couple more in the pit cycle, didn’t have as good a car in the middle part of the race. Josef was just so dominant, I didn’t think we had anything for him. I thought we were kind of running for second, to be honest, and then that last stop, the Arrow crew just nailed it on the pit stop, gave us a really good change and the car just came alive. I was able to put it wherever I needed it to get through traffic and that’s the only reason I was able to catch Josef and ultimately get by him. I think he was a bit quicker in clean air. But can’t thank the guys enough for such a great car and great job in the pits. It’s a shame that Robbie (Robert Wickens) ended up taking that pit stop at the end. Man, it would have been great to have both of us up on the podium heading into the hometown race in Toronto. But overall it was a great result for the Arrow car and for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports in general.”
Robert Wickens: “It was a frustrating afternoon for sure, but I definitely had some good people around me keeping me cool and keeping me informed on what was happening in the race. Even though you feel like you’re on an island and doing a terrible job because the car is sliding around; and just to get that message that you’re doing a great job and you’re quicker than the leaders you’re like, ‘Oh OK this is all right. I can get through this.’ In the end, it’s a great day, great day for Honda, great day for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. Two cars in the top five. It should have been a double podium and there would have been nothing sweeter than to celebrate Hinch’s (James Hinchcliffe) win than being on the podium with him.”
Scott Dixon: “We kind of got stuck behind (Alexander) Rossi on the first stint and his pace kind of backed us up. Each time we changed lanes with the PNC Bank car, his spotter must have been telling him where we were going, and he kind of just kept putting the block on. That’s how it goes sometimes. That’s racing and it’s no one’s fault. The big problem for us was the tire issue toward the end, having the fronts on backward. That really put us in the hole and we should have finished better than we did.”
Ed Jones: “It was a tough day in the DC Solar car. I felt the team did a great job overall in practice and qualifying. I felt comfortable in the car for the race, but unfortunately, the tire degradation was much greater than we anticipated. I think looking at the results, the teams that tested here recently really had the upper hand today.”
Will Power: “I think we lost a lot of ground in the first stint because there was something going on with the radio. The team called me in for three laps and I just didn’t hear it. Unfortunately, we lost a lot of positions. We lost a lot and went backward at that point. The rest of it, we were just forward and back all day. The car was just reasonable. I think a top 5 (finish) would be the best we could do so sixth was OK.”
Graham Rahal: “We started out really weak. The rear of the car was not good at all so that was frustrating. We made some changes before the race and the whole idea was to help the rear but it did the polar opposite which wasn’t good. Halfway through the race, the car started coming to us, the track came to us. We took some front wing out and I think on the last stint we were probably one of the quickest cars on track and I know we were catching up to the lead group, but we were almost a full lap behind so we were having to come back to them. We passed (pole sitter Josef) Newgarden, (Spencer) Pigot and some others. We were legitimately good in the end but it just took us too long to get there. We went down a lap and could never fully recover.”
Sebastien Bourdais: “The SealMaster Honda team pretty much got the best result we could have today. It has been a really tough weekend. We didn’t test here and when we unloaded we had to make a bunch of changes. I wouldn’t say we threw the kitchen sink at it because there was a lot of thought and analysis that went into the changes we made. However, there were big swings trying to figure out how we could get the car in the zone. When you do that you start the race with an unknown and we got it wrong at first. Maybe we were too sensitive to the conditions. It only took two turns of front wing and that brought the car back to life. My race really started after the first pit stop. After that I was racy. It was a good recovery once we got those two turns of front wing out. I am really proud of the guys. They dug deep. I wish it had been a better result. We will keep trying and come back stronger next year.”
Zachary Claman De Melo: “The first stint was really strong. I thought we were going to stay that way and have a similar run to Texas (DXC Technology 600), but as the track gripped up and the rubber got down it didn’t agree with our No. 19 Paysafe car. I also struggled a bit to follow traffic, where to place my car, so it wasn’t the greatest day but I learned a lot from it.”
Ed Carpenter: “We didn’t get off the way we wanted to. The first stint wasn’t very good. We had a ton of understeer and started losing spots. But we were able to make adjustments and started getting spots back. We started off stints a little slowly, but the car got better as the stint went along and we could make up a lot of ground. That first stint really hurt us … we went from ninth back to 15th. We had to spend too much of the race digging out of that hole from the first stint. There were moments when I thought we had one of the better cars. I’m really happy for Spencer to get a break-out run and get his first podium in an Indy car. Both cars in the top 10, not what we came here for, but not miserable either. Spencer’s run is good for the whole team. We all work really tight together as a unit. It is, however, getting a little annoying that my teammates keep getting the better of me here. (Laughs) They made a couple of decisions at the beginning of the race different than we did. I think that helped him early, but we were probably a little better late, but we had already lost so much ground by then. But like I said, good job to them. Both cars in the top 10 is a good thing on a day like today when you see a lot of teams struggling.”
Spencer Pigot: “What a race. Right from the get-go, we had a good car based on how we were getting through traffic. As the stint went on I thought we just got stronger and stronger. To find our way up near the front there was a little unexpected to start the day, but I’m really proud of everyone at Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet – I mean they gave me a great car. We didn’t have a great day yesterday, but everyone kept their heads down and kept pushing and we’re on the podium. I’m very excited and very proud of everyone here at the team. (On his first Verizon IndyCar Series podium finish). It feels great. My first podium in INDYCAR, hopefully, the first of many. What a tough race. It was really physical out there. It was hot and a lot of hard racing, so many close moments, but so much fun racing here in Iowa.”
Simon Pagenaud: “I tell you when you are going that fast around this short oval it’s really hard to understand who is on the lead lap, who is not on the lead lap, who you are fighting for position, so there is a lot of communication with the spotter and with the strategist. I think we had good speed. I got stuck in traffic a lot of time and that was enough to get checked out from (Josef) Newgarden who I think was really fast today and obviously (James) Hinchcliffe, congrats to him. But, yeah, I think we had quite a bit of tire degradation which was tough in traffic, but essentially it was an awesome race. From the cockpit, I had so much fun. It was about setting up people trying to understand where they were running, where your car was best with the tire degradation running high, running low, conserving your tires it really was a lot of thinking, a lot of driving and to me that is a lot of fun. That is pure racing. I had a blast. It was awesome short track racing. I think we were quite strong, but it was all about tire degradation. I do think we did have a little bit more than others, but our Menards Chevy was very fast. Overall I had a good time and it was good fun. It was a lot of action out there, but really good racing – lots of action from the cockpit. Here it is about finding the lane that works for you and your car. But you continue to move up and down from lane to lane the whole stint. You have to find the place to make your car comfortable and you comfortable. It changes all the time. That makes it hard to keep tires on the car, but it makes it more fun and challenging for sure.”
Charlie Kimball: “I continue to be proud of these Carlin guys. They’ve done such a great job with so little testing experience here and they showed up yesterday morning with a good car in the No. 23 Tresiba Chevrolet that was able to advance from our starting position throughout the race. We definitely learned a lot today, especially about short-track racing. I feel like we can take a lot of things away from today. We seemed to have really good pace at certain times throughout the race which was great, but now we just need to learn why we couldn’t have that same pace every lap.”
Zach Veach: “We had a great first stint with the No. 26 Relay car – we got up to sixth. Then we came into the pits and had a small fire, just like (at the Indianapolis 500). After that, we dropped back outside of the top 10 and fought our way back up. We were getting a ton of pressure from (Scott) Dixon – who was a lap down at that point, but that’s racing and not his fault – and I was just late in the tire life and got into (Turn) 3 in a little different way and hit a bump. I lost the car, caught it, lost it again and when I caught it the third time, I was already in the marbles and couldn’t turn. I hate it for my crew because they’ve given me cars capable of winning in Texas and here in Iowa, and we worked our way through the field each time and a small mistake takes it out. I feel like today, I had the car to get the job done, I had the skill and the brain to get the job done and maybe just not the experience. It’s been a string of hard races for us and I hope people see the speed that we’ve shown and understand what’s put us in these situations. The speed is there, we just need a bit of luck and I need to do a little bit better of a job on being a little more patient. It’s all learning. These are the races that stick with you the most.”
Alexander Rossi: “Today was difficult. From the beginning, it seemed like we didn’t have the car that we had yesterday. I was really fighting it and we made some improvements throughout the race and the NAPA AUTO PARTS team stuck in there, so big credit to them. Our car was just too far out of the window to start with to be super competitive. I guess the one positive is some guys had a worse day then we did. So, we just have to take what we can get on days like this and look forward to Toronto.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay: “We started strong from P3, but then the car started going loose anytime I came off the throttle. We came in a few times to try and find the problem and in the end, we had a rear suspension failure – but it was too late, and I had already lost so much ground driving through a half stint with the issue. On top of that, we had radio issues and while I could hear the pit stand and spotter, I couldn’t communicate back to them outside of some radio signals. It was really frustrating and not the day the DHL team was looking for. I think we had a car good enough for the P5-7 range and are a bit disappointed with that to start with. We had higher hopes for Iowa but will move onto Toronto and keep focusing on points.”
Takuma Sato: “I had great fun. The Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda was super-fast. The team did a great job. We weren’t that good in the first practice after skipping the test here last week but we came back strong. The strength in engineering is unbelievable. We lost some positions after the last stint but we came back strong. (On contact with Carpenter’s sliding car at the end) He was obviously sliding and I was already inside him. I didn’t see it much. Suddenly he was coming inside and clipped me at the back of the car. It caught me by surprise and I obviously saved him (from crashing). Had we gone back to green for the last few laps, my car was fine. There was a mark on it but I would have gone for it for another place maybe. My car was really fast today. I want to thank Bobby (Rahal), Mike (Lanigan) and Dave (Letterman). A lot of people struggled today but we had a good car.”
Max Chilton: “That was a very long race, even though it wasn’t really time-wise. With 300 laps you have a lot of time to feel how your car is working and the balance shifts so much throughout those 90-lap stints. We had more pace in every session we did this weekend, but it’s just so hard to come in with no testing and expect to do well. We had some high points today in the No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet, but we struggled massively when we were out behind someone. If we were ever stuck behind someone, we were stuck there for quite a long time, but when we were just running in clean air, I think we were around the top-10 pace. Unfortunately, a few different factors just didn’t allow us to get there today.”
Gabby Chaves: “Obviously today we had a very disappointing race as we didn’t see the checkered flag for the first time. It’s hard to accept that. Sometimes you have those days and you have to make the right choice to avoid making it even worse, so, for now, we’ll just concentrate on taking a look at the car and figuring out if anything was broken or if there were issues that we missed overnight that would identify why we struggled so much during the race and go from there.”
Marco Andretti: “Even though we weren’t fast last night, I felt a really good car balance – but, that car didn’t come back today. I’m not sure what happened. Our cars need to cope better with track (temperature). That was one of the longest races for me, but big thanks to the U.S. Concrete guys for hanging in there.”