FORT WORTH, Texas – James Hinchcliffe rebounded from early misfortune to bring home a much-needed fourth-place finish in Saturday night’s DXC Technology 600 at Texas Motor Speedway.
The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver hopes it marks a turnaround from recent struggles that saw him not qualify for last month’s Indianapolis 500, followed by a pair of subpar finishes at the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix doubleheader.
“Good result for the No. 5 car,” Hinchcliffe said following the Texas race.
The weekend in Texas didn’t start well for Hinchcliffe, who qualified 15th in the No. 5 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda. From there, though, the 31-year-old Canadian worked his way up the field and broke into the top 10 by Lap 47 of 248 on the 1.5-mile oval. Despite falling back to 17th after a pit miscue during his first stop on Lap 68, Hinchcliffe marched right back into the top 10 within 30 laps.
Conservation of the Firestone tires over a full run was a key all night in the warm evening temperatures on the demanding high-banked track. Hinchcliffe, a five-time Verizon IndyCar Series race winner, combined excellent tire management most of the race with superior fuel mileage to move to the front and earn his third top-five result of the season.
“We were making good progress on that first stint,” Hinchcliffe said after scoring his third top-five finish in eight starts at Texas. “We were one of the last cars to pit. We made up a good chunk of time and just had a problem with the fuel hose on that first stop, lost a lot of track position, but the No. 5 Arrow car was really good.”
The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports pilot looked after his tires throughout the night and was running in second place after his third stop of the night, under caution on Lap 177. Soon after the race went green again, however, he was passed by Simon Pagenaud, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi to drop to fifth.
Hinchcliffe moved back ahead of Hunter-Reay on Lap 203, but could advance no further in the final laps. He admitted he may have pushed his last set of tires too hard over the final 30 laps.
“The set that just came off the car (at the end of the race) were 30 laps old or whatever that last stint was and (had) tons of blisters,” Hinchcliffe said. “The pace really increased as the track cooled down and, as we got faster, the tires wore more and more. What we were so good at today was keeping our tires underneath us. That’s really what got us up from 15th.
“We didn’t have the best car on a short run, but on a long run we were really taking care of them. It’s a shame that the end of the stint there didn’t go a bit longer. I think we had better a shot at it.”
Despite missing completely on the double race points offered at the Indianapolis 500, Hinchcliffe sits 11th in the championship standings and just 80 points out of fifth place with still eight races remaining. Aggressiveness will be the name of the game for the rest of “the Mayor’s” season.
“The races in Detroit didn’t pan out exactly how we wanted despite having pretty good pace in the car and that was a circumstance of bad luck,” he said. “Now, we’ve got a good car underneath us. It’s nice to get a result on a superspeedway after what happened at Indy.
“But there’s a lot of races still to go in the championship. We’re here to take risks and try to win some races.”
The Verizon IndyCar Series readies for its next round at Road America in Wisconsin, for the KOHLER Grand Prix on June 22-24. The 4.014-mile permanent road course is a favorite of nearly every driver and should provide a new challenge that fits the amenities of the 2018 car’s universal aero kit.
“With a car that’s going a little bit quicker in the straightaways and a little bit longer brake zones, it’s going to make (Road America) a completely different beast,” Hinchcliffe said. “It’s one of the few tracks we haven’t managed to test at yet, so we’re going there next week and I’m excited to see what this new package can do there.”