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‘Party Time in Hinchtown!’ by Frank Santoroski

04CJ0203

     The 2013 Honda Grand Prix turned out to be a highly competitive, drama-filled event. When the smoke cleared and the checkers fell, it was James Hinchliffe visiting the IndyCar winner’s circle for the first time in his career.  His combination of charm, wit and driving skills have made the self-appointed ‘Mayor of Hinchtown’ a favorite among fans, and his win today was indeed a popular one.

“Thanks to everyone. Thanks to the fans.” said Hinchcliffe, overflowing with16C_4521-1 enthuasiaum. “This race is so awesome. The people in this town are incredible. I’m glad we can open up our season here.”

Hinchcliffe qualified the Go Daddy Andretti Autosport Chevrolet-powered entry fourth and ran in the top five all day. The team nailed all the pit stops, and he was in position to capitalize when leader Helio Castroneves ran wide on the lap 85 restart. Hinchcliffe was able to hold off a charging Castroneves the remainder of the way.  Castroneves finished second, while Hinch’s teammate, Marco Andretti, executed a final-lap pass on Simona de Silvestro to claim the final spot on the podium.

Will Power won the pole for the event, the 30th of his career. Behind Power, many of the Honda drivers felt at a disadvantage to the Chevrolet cars. Everyone save for Takuma Sato who quietly and confidently put his Honda-powered ABC Tools A.J. Foyt Racing entry on the front row.

Power lead the early laps with Sato behind him. After losing the lead to Castroneves on a restart, Power’s day really went downhill.  Contact with J.R. Hilderbrand under caution damaged Power’s Verizon Wireless Penske Racing car. Later in the race, he caught the barrier in Turn 4 and eventually finished 16th.

JDC_STPETE_1254Sato’s good day went south when he clipped his front wing on a restart.  Driving with a damaged car, he fell back as far as 15th place before replacing the wing. Once the repairs were complete, he stormed his way back up to eight place by the finish.

KV Racing Technology had a great opening weekend with Tony Kanaan finishing fourth and Simona de Silvestro sixth. Simona de Silvestro was impressive all weekend, qualifying third and running close to the front all day. Her tires faded and she lost three spots on the final lap, but rest assured we can expect big things from this young lady this season.  _MG_8795

“Now we know what we have to work on for the next race. “said de Silvestro, “It was really cool to be up front all day with Will, Hinch and everybody. I think we can learn a lot from this weekend to have a better result at the next race.”

Target Chip Ganassi had a miserable time in qualifying with Franchitti starting 10th and Dixon 20th. In the race, Franchitti hit the wall, and was the first one out. Dixon struggled with boost problems on his Honda engine, but used an off-sequence pit strategy and some crafty driving to pull off a fifth place finish.

3-24-Tristan-VautierTristan Vautier is a name you may not have heard before, but it is a name that may soon become very familiar. In his first start in the Izod IndyCar series, he qualified an impressive sixth and ran in the top-ten until mechanical issues forced him out of the race after 69 laps.

Defending champion Ryan Hunter-Reay had a lackluster day struggling with pit stop issues early on, and eventually retiring with mechanical issues after 79 laps.

The first race of the 2013 season is in the record books and James Hinchcliffe has thrown down the gauntlet.  He is the points leader and the man to beat. The Izod IndyCar Series returns to action at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama on April 7, 2013.

 

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