LONG BEACH, Calif. — Canada’s James Hinchcliffe raced to his first victory since his near-fatal accident in 2015 by hanging in a three-lap shootout to the finish Sunday on the streets of Long Beach.
Hinchcliffe had two strong late restarts to win in a Honda for Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports. It was theOakville, Ont., native’s first victory since 2015 at New Orleans, a month before he nearly bled to death in an accident during practice for the Indianapolis 500.
Hinchcliffe wrecked during a May practice at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and his life was saved by the at-track safety crew that smartly pinched off the blood flow and raced him into surgery. He missed the remainder of the 2015 season, returned to IndyCar last year and then capped it with a runner-up finish on "Dancing With the Stars" during the off-season.
Never did he doubt any of his accomplishments were in jeopardy after his accident.
"Absolutely, I knew from day one I had the best support," said Hinchcliffe, who considers winning at Long Beach a crown jewel event. His sights are now set on the Indianapolis 500 and his home race in Toronto.
Sebastien Bourdais followed his season-opening victory at St. Pete with a second-place finish to give Honda a 1-2 podium finish.
Josef Newgarden was the highest finishing Team Penske driver and was third in a Chevrolet.
Scott Dixon was fourth in a Ganassi Honda, and defending race winner Simon Pagenaud, from Penske, drove from last to fifth.
It was a miserable day for Andretti Autosport, which seemed to have a shot at putting at least one driver on the podium. Instead, Marco Andretti retired early with an issue. Then, in the final 17 laps, the remaining three Andretti cars all had race-ending problems.
Alexander Rossi slowed on the front stretch to bring out a full course caution, and Hinchcliffe took the lead as Dixon pitted.
Hinchcliffe still had to hold off Andretti driver Ryan Hunter-Reay, but he stopped on course with a mechanical problem to bring out another caution. Moments earlier, Andretti driver Takuma Sato also came to a stop on the course.
It set it up for Hinchcliffe to have to race Bourdais to the finish, but Bourdais was focused on the big picture in the closing laps. Hinchcliffe had gotten off to such a great start when racing resumed, that Bourdais tried only to maintain his running position.
"We played to our strengths and I’ve always been comfortable saving fuel," Bourdais said. "We lost balance a little bit, and I was really thinking about saving second place. I was thinking championship."
IndyCar goes to the Honda Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park April 21-23. Team Penske driver Simon Pagenaud is the defending race winner, and Barber officials recently taught the Frenchman "how to speak Southern" in promotion of the race.