A gamble on pit strategy – making just a single pit stop for fuel and dry weather tires – rewarded Honda driver James Hinchcliffe with victory Sunday in the Indy Grand Prix of New Orleans, his first Verizon IndyCar Series win of 2015 and fourth career victory.
Hinchcliffe’s Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammate, James Jakes, recovered from an early-race spin to finish third while Simona de Silvestro made it three Hondas in the top four positions at the end of a rain-and-crash shortened inaugural Indy car event at NOLA Motorsports Park.
Starting 16th on a damp, but drying, race track following heavy morning showers, Hinchcliffe pitted on Lap 13 for fuel and a change to the soft compound “Red” dry-weather tires. It would be his only stop of the 47-lap contest. Hinchcliffe cycled to the front of the field as others made additional stops, then maintained his advantage through a series of restarts in a caution-filled event that featured a total of six yellow flags for 26 laps.
After spinning on Lap 19, Jakes also went off-sequence and recovered to finish third, his first podium result since returning to Indy car competition this season, while de Silvestro gained more than a half-dozen positions on rain tires, then also went off-sequence to finish fourth.
James Hinchcliffe (#5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda) started 16th, finished 1st, 1st victory of 2015 and 4th career Indy car victory: “We made the [one pit stop] strategy call because of the weather [rain was approaching the circuit], but it turned out that it was all the cautions that made it work for us. On one hand, I do feel bad for all of the fans, because we didn’t have more green-flag laps. But on the other hand, the strategy call was awesome and our car was unbelievable on the ‘Reds’ [softer, dry-weather tires]. We pulled away from a couple of Penskes on those restarts. If we had gone green, I think we still would’ve held them off to the end, as long as we had fuel. It’s great to get our first win of ’15 for Honda, and our first win for [team owners] Sam [Schmidt] and Ric [Peterson].”
Simona de Silvestro (#25 Andretti Autosport Honda) started 18th, finished 4th: “This was huge for us. We struggled earlier in the weekend, but conditions played into our hands. The car was fantastic on rain tires, and I passed a lot of people early in the race. The team made a great call on the pit stop for [dry-weather] tires, and on the second stop as well. That gained us a few more positions and then I finally got Tony [Kanaan, for fourth place]. It is a great day, for us and for Honda, and a great result for the Andretti Autosport team.”
Art St. Cyr (President, Honda Performance Development) on today’s victory in New Orleans: “This was a great result for James [Hinchcliffe], Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and everyone at Honda Performance Development. Today’s win was the result of some great strategy by the SPM team, awesome driving from James Hinchcliffe, and some great mileage from the Honda Twin-Turbo Indy V6 engine. We know there is still a lot of work ahead of us as we head into three very important race weekends for Honda – Long Beach, Barber and Indianapolis – but this will give everyone at HPD the momentum we need going into the next rounds of the championship.”