LONG BEACH, California — After some bad luck in qualifying relegated James Hinchcliffe to 15th starting position for Sunday's Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, the No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda found its way up to ninth place by the end of the fourth race of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season.
The Canadian driver managed to leapfrog his way to ninth place after the first round of pit stops on the 11-turn, 1.968-mile street course. But no matter how fast he drove, Hinchcliffe could not overcome the gaps in front of him without some full-course yellows that never came.
“Our race was pretty good considering we had no yellows to help us out,” said Hinchcliffe. “Starting where we did, there was only so much space you can make up without the help of a well-timed yellow, and obviously we didn’t get that. So, for us to start 15th and climb our way up to ninth, we made some passes on track, we made some passes in the pits, we did everything we could, but it all gets so spread out and it is still a tough track to pass on once everybody gets up to speed.
“I’m proud of the guys. We obviously got hosed a bit in qualifying, but it is what it is. I think, given the hand we were dealt, that’s as good as we were going to do and we can be happy that we kind of maximized today.”
Qualifying on a street circuit is extremely important and helps dictate race strategy. Had he advanced out of the first round of qualifying, Hinchcliffe felt a top-five finish was possible.
“I think our pace, especially on blacks (Firestone primary tires), was really quite strong,” said the 2016 Indianapolis 500 pole winner. “We ended up doing two red (alternate) sets, but if we had been running up with the guys up front, we would’ve keyed off of what the other cars were doing. I think we had pace on reds in qualifying, and it would’ve been interesting to see where we could’ve started this race and see where we could’ve ended up.”
Hinchcliffe was proud at Long Beach to debut a new racing helmet painted by Troy Lee Designs. The helmet continued Hinchcliffe’s tradition of honoring his racing hero, the late Greg Moore, with the design, but it furthered the connection between the two Canadians since Lee also painted Moore’s helmets.
Despite what he sees as a rash of misfortune to start the season, Hinchcliffe sits seventh in the standings. He’s looking ahead to the month of May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with the INDYCAR Grand Prix on May 11 and the 103rd Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge on May 26, to turn things around.
“This team has been running really well. We literally haven’t caught a single break in a race yet,” he said. "A yellow cost us a podium in Barber, we got hit by Felix (Rosenqvist) in Austin. St. Pete was kind of just an OK race; lapped traffic maybe hurt our chance at a top-five there.
“So without having any events where we really had things go our way, we still pulled off some OK finishes. So I’m really, really excited to see what happens when things start to fall our way a little bit. If we just keep performing the way we have been, we’re going to be knocking on the door and eventually it’s going to happen.”
Hinchcliffe is among the drivers scheduled to participate in an open test Wednesday, April 24 on the IMS oval in preparation for the Indy 500. Fans may watch free from the Turn 2 mounds inside the oval. The test runs from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. ET and will stream live on IndyCar.com.