The Verizon IndyCar Series returns to Gateway Motorsports Park on Saturday, August 25 for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500. Leading up to the event, Arch City Media will be providing weekly coverage of the series to keep local open-wheeled racing fans informed and updated.
(NEWTON, IA) IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe is no stranger to success at Iowa Speedway. In 2013, the Canadian picked up his second career victory at the 7/8-mile oval.
Fast-forward five years and the primary coachman for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports claimed the checkered flag under caution at Sunday’s Iowa Corn 300, the eleventh stop of the Verizon IndyCar Series 17-race docket.
Hinchcliffe’s sixth career win also served as a turning point in a tumultuous 2018, for it was only seven weeks ago that he failed to qualify for the Indianapolis 500.
Sunday saw the eight-year vet power the No. 5 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda from an eleventh-place start to claiming the lead on Lap 255 over then-leader Josef Newgarden.
“This is such a good feeling after what happened in May,” Hinchcliffe beamed afterwards. “We knew we had it in us to come in here and do it like that. We didn’t qualify the best, but we knew we had a great car. We’ve done it flag-to-flag in 2013 but it was nice to race our way up to the front.”
Also charging hard for the day was Spencer Pigot (Ed Carpenter Racing) who picked up his highest career finish with a second place result after starting eighteenth and Takuma Sato (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing), who picked up his first podium of the year with a third place finish.
Twenty of Iowa’s 22 entries completed the race but it did not take long for contenders to quickly make dominant moves. In fact, near mid-point of the 300-lap race, only five cars were on the lead lap.
This included Newgarden, starting second and driving the No. 1 Hitatchi Team Penske Chevrolet, who grabbed the lead from pole sitter Will Power (Team Penske) during Lap 24 and paced every lap until surrendering it late.
Not only did Hinchcliffe utilized the skill set to control the mechanics necessary for victory, but he also was the benefactor of good fortune. With six laps remaining, an incident between Ed Carpenter and Sato brought out the yellow flag. While the field waited for a re-start, Hinchcliffe remained on the track while Newgarden quickly ducked to the pits for a tire change, hoping that the boost in speed would be enough to claim a last-lap triumph.
Even with the quick clean-up of debris, the laps quickly evaporated and Newgarden was never able to get the re-start he desired as Hinchcliffe rolled to the easy victory.
“I can’t complain much although it’s a tough pill to swallow,” reflected Newgarden, the series’ defending champion. “We just didn’t have it in the end and sometimes you can’t forecast that completely. We tried to do what we could to be competitive near the end and we just ran out of time.”
Even with disappointment, Newgarden made up plenty of ground on current series points leader Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Racing). Starting sixth, Dixon went down laps early and finished a disappointing twelfth, which saw his total point amount slowly rise to 411 points with six races remaining. Conversely, Newgarden’s fourth-place finished catapulted his team into second place (-33).
Meanwhile, Pigot’s Sunday runner-up performance at Newton resulted in a newfound benchmark after qualifying eighteenth and provided optimism for the three-year IndyCar competitor.
“It was a real team effort,” he said of the finish. “It was fun, it was tough and a lot of close racing, but yeah, I really enjoyed it.”
Even with the late incident, Sato claimed his first podium finish since winning the 2017 Indianapolis 500 and rookie Robert Wickens (Schmidt Peterson Motorsports) finished fifth to continue his dominance amongst the 2018 newcomers.
The series advances to next Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto held in the streets of Toronto, Ontario, Canada with a 2 p.m. green flag and can be seen on the NBC Sports Network.
IOWA CORN 300 TOP 10
PLACE DRIVER START LAPS
1) James Hinchcliffe 11 300
2) Spencer Pigot 18 300
3) Takuma Sato 10 300
4) Josef Newgarden 2 300
5) Robert Wickens 7 300
6) Will Power 1 299
7) Graham Rahal 12 299
8) Simon Pagenaud 4 299
9) Alexander Rossi 5 298
10) Ed Carpenter 9 298
VERZION INDYCAR SERIES TOP FIVE
RANK DRIVER POINTS
1) Scott Dixon 411
2) Josef Newgarten 378
3) Alexander Rossi 370
4) Ryan Hunter-Reay 359
5) Will Power 358