Long Beach, CA – April 17, 2016 – Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (SPM) driver James Hinchcliffe finished eighth on Sunday for the 42nd annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Teammate Mikhail Aleshin finished 16th.
The top-ten finish was season best for Hinchcliffe so far and he was the second-highest finishing Honda of the race. The Canadian fan favorite finished second on Friday’s combined practice charts, just 0.22 seconds off the leader’s pace. The No. 5 Arrow Electronics car was good enough to advance to the Firestone Fast Six in qualifying, however a technical malfunction with IndyCar’s Timing and Scoring equipment changed the position of the final timing line, giving Hinchcliffe a seventh-place start for the race.
Hinchcliffe was able to drive mistake-free for the 80-lap, caution-free competition.
“It’s been a bittersweet day, really,” said Hinchcliffe. “It was nice to come away with a top-ten in the No. 5 Arrow Electronics car and we had a good first stint. We stayed out of trouble and kept up with the guys in front of us.
“On the first pit sequence, timing was bad: just as we had finished our stop and was about to be released, we had to hold for a bit because Munoz was entering his box. This ultimately cost us getting out and Takuma was able to jump us in the stops. That’s really what differentiated us, he had that little bit better track position and stayed in front of the guys in the next round of stops to come away with a top-five. I think we had his pace, definitely had more pace than the guys ahead of us right at the end. We just didn’t have the opportunity to get around them.
“When there are no cautions like this, it takes strategies out of the mix and unfortunately became a bit of a fuel saving race, which is never fun for us and not the best show for the fans. But we brought the car home, we were quick all weekend and hopefully we can take this momentum into Barber next week.”
Aleshin and the No. 7 SMP Racing crew, starting the race in 18th, followed a different strategy. Although it didn’t play out because of the start-to-finish green flag, the Russian driver ran as high as 13th and felt confident about the car’s potential.
“We were gambling a bit on the strategy because we were towards the back of the field for the start of the race,” said Aleshin. “We knew that the No. 7 SMP Racing car was one of the fastest cars on the track but our strategy just didn’t pay off. There were no yellow flags so that’s life. The good news is that we know we had a good pace and we were faster than most of the cars, so… next time.”
Next weekend, the Verizon IndyCar Series and Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires Series will head to the South for the fourth race of the 2016 season. The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama will take place on Sunday, April 24 at 3:00 p.m. ET. The 90-lap competition will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Network and tickets are available online at www.BarberMotorsports.com.