Champagne flies as James Hinchcliffe wins at Iowa Speedway

NEWTON, Iowa -- James Hinchcliffe's maiden IZOD IndyCar Series victory was certainly emotional. His second was dramatic. This one might play out to be the most important as the 19-race season accelerates toward its Oct. 19 conclusion.

Hinchcliffe, who led 33 total laps on ovals in his previous two seasons in the series, led all but 24 to control the Iowa Corn Indy 250 presented by DEKALB at Iowa Speedway for his first victory on an oval.

The Toronto native, driving the No. 27 car, became the only three-time winner this season and is the seventh different winner through 10 races. This time he led Ryan Hunter-Reay across the finish line by 1.509 seconds for the second consecutive Andretti Autosport 1-2 sweep on the .875-mile oval.

Indianapolis 500 champion Tony Kanaan, who had finished first, second and third the previous three outings at Iowa, placed third. Ed Carpenter finished fourth and Graham Rahal earned his second top-five finish of the season.

Click it: Iowa Corn Indy 250 presented by DEKALB box score

"We just had to go off of experience and this all goes to the team," said Hinchcliffe, who started second following qualifying that consisted of three 50-lap heat races and grid spot penalties because of unapproved engine changes that impacted six drivers. "We have a great track record here but this year with so many different things and a day race, everything was different.

“We were trying to manage a gap on the guys behind us, trying to take care of the tires. At the end of the day the car was solid. Guys on the stand called it perfectly, and I can’t thank them enough. I can't believe I led (almost) the whole thing.”

Hinchcliffe advanced five positions in the championship standings and is 66 points behind front-runner Helio Castroneves heading into the second half of the season that starts with the Pocono INDYCAR 400 Fueled by Sunoco on July 7 at the 2.5-mile Pocono Raceway. A week later, the "Mayor of Hinchtown" will be the "Mayor of Toronto" during the Honda Indy Toronto race weekend.

"We still have nine to go, and there's still a lot to play for," Hinchcliffe said. "We are not going to be in a position to win every race, but I think that we have found our way into finishing where we have to on the day you've got a ninth-place car, finish ninth.  It's a lot better than wrecking and going for eight. And a lot better for points."

Castroneves' nine points earned for claiming the Verizon P1 Award in the third heat race is the margin over Hunter-Reay, who used the points from the victory at Iowa last year in his march to the series title. Castroneves, driving the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske car, finished eighth. Marco Andretti, who finished ninth in the No. 25 RC Cola car, is third (-55 points).

"We drove as hard as we could today," said Castroneves, who recorded his sixth consecutive top 10. "When they told me I came in eighth, I was like 'What?' I certainly felt we had a better car than that. I guess in traffic we got held up coming in and out of the pits, which cost us some positions. The Hitachi car really came alive with about 50 laps to go and it felt great. Maybe it was a little too late for us. But we still have the points lead and we will look for a better result in Pocono." 

Seven different teams are represented in the top 10.

Hunter-Reay, who was 22nd in single-lap qualifying that determined the lineup for the three heat races, was fourth in his heat and lined up 12th on the grid. An early caution for debris -- created when Hunter-Reay's No. 1 DHL car's front wing clipped the rear of Rahal's No. 15 Midas/Big O Tires car -- set Hunter-Reay back to 21st with pit stops to replace the nose assembly and other service.

Hunter-Reay worked his way up to sixth when the third/final yellow flag flew for debris on Lap 155. He was running third 20 laps later and moved to second on the final round of pit stops.

"It was so hard to catch back up to James through lapped traffic," Hunter-Reay said. "Definitely had the car to win today but just made a mistake there trying to get by Graham, keeping my foot in it. The front just had no grip on it when I turned to pop out and pass him. To come second out of this with second, I’m pretty pleased."

Simon Pagenaud finished sixth and Oriol Servia was seventh. E.J. Viso completed the top 10.