By David Morgan, Associate Editor
INDIANAPOLIS – Track position is the name of the game when it comes to racing at Indianapolis, but even starting at a deficit in the track position department couldn’t deter James Hinchcliffe from making a run through the field to finish just outside the top-10.
After driving his way into the 33-car field in last Sunday’s Last Row Shootout, the driver of the No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda started the day in 32nd, but quickly jumped into the top-25 before climbing even further up the leaderboard, settling in to run 18th for a good portion of the race.
Hinchcliffe ultimately finished the day in 11th after a late race charge toward the top-10.
“We weren’t able to capitalize on some of those restarts the way we wanted,” he said. “Just getting boxed in by guys. If there’s no hole, there’s nowhere to go. That’s the time to make hay. We had a really good start. The first couple of laps, we moved up seven or eight spots and were sort of looking to do that on the restarts. One of them went really well. A couple of them were pretty neutral.
“Honestly, man, the car was great. We could pass at certain points. We were patient at certain points, capitalizing on other guys mistakes. The guys were great in the pits. It was a pretty standard execution for what we wanted to do today. Not quite up as high as we would have liked. At the end of the day, from where we started, we can be pretty proud of the effort.”
The day wasn’t all smooth sailing for the nine-year NTT IndyCar Series veteran, as he had a brush with the wall early in the race, but then had an extremely close call on lap 178 when five cars piled up in Turn 3 after Graham Rahal and Sebastien Bourdais made contact with each other.
Hinchcliffe was running behind the melee and slowing to try and avoid, but it seemed almost inevitable that he would be involved as well with two cars sitting broadside on the track in front of him. At the last second, the two cars parted like Moses parting the Red Sea, allowing him to get past unscathed and continue on in the race.
Wow, @Hinchtown 😱
— NTT IndyCar Series (@IndyCar) May 26, 2019
“I got away with two things,” Hinchcliffe said of his near misses on track. “I actually white walled in the first stint coming off of (Turn) Four and hit pretty hard. Was lucky not to bend anything and then when the wreck happened down at the north end, I was kind of trying to decide where to go. I couldn’t go low because Hunter-Reay was there. We were sort of slowing down at the same rate and luckily after Charlie (Kimball) spun, he kind of rolled back just enough for us to sneak through the middle.
“A little too close for comfort, but we got through it. Not quite a top-10, but pretty damn close.”