A bold strategy call helped Canadian James Hinchcliffe win the very first IndyCar race at NOLA Motorsports Park.
Hinchcliffe had a premonition midway through the race when his crew ordered him not to make a pit stop like the rest of the field leaders. His hunch came true when he took the checkered flag to win a wild and unpredictable series debut on the 2.74-mile road course outside New Orleans.
Hinchcliffe, driving the No. 5 Arrow/Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Honda, won under a full-course caution ahead of Helio Castroneves, in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet.
The race, run in changing track conditions after heavy morning rains, ended after 47 laps due to the 1-hour, 45-minute time limit. It marks the fourth career Indy car victory for Hinchcliffe and fifth for his Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team.
Most of the front-runners came to the pits on Lap 33 during a full-course caution, but Robert Gue, Hinchcliffe’s race strategist on the team pit stand, ordered the 28-year-old to remain on course and he inherited the lead.
The race would see only three more green-flag laps the rest of the way, allowing Hinchcliffe – whose lone pit stop came on Lap 13 – to keep Castroneves and the rest of the field at bay.
“When we first decided to stay out, I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if we could make this a one-stopper?’” said Hinchcliffe, whose last win came on the Iowa Speedway oval in June 2013.
“I just never thought it (would happen). On one hand, I feel badly that we didn’t have more green-flag laps for the fans and everybody here at NOLA, but on the other hand, those guys called it awesome.
“The car was unbelievable on the (Firestone) reds. We pulled away from a couple of Penskes on those restarts. If we had gone green, I think we could’ve held them off at the end as long as we had the fuel. I’m just so happy.”
Race Results* – Grand Prix of Louisiana
1 - James Hinchcliffe (Dallara DW12-Honda) – Schmidt - 47 laps
2 - Helio Castroneves (Dallara DW12-Chevy) – Penske - 0"4279
3 - James Jakes (Dallara DW12-Honda) – Schmidt - 0"8452
4 - Simona De Silvestro (Dallara DW12-Honda) – Andretti - 1"2924
5 - Juan Pablo Montoya (Dallara DW12-Chevy) – Penske - 1"7564
6 - Tony Kanaan (Dallara DW12-Chevy) – Ganassi - 2"2638
7 - Will Power (Dallara DW12-Chevy) – Penske - 3"0958
8 - Graham Rahal (Dallara DW12-Honda) – Rahal - 4"3495
9 - Josef Newgarden (Dallara DW12-Chevy) – CFH - 5"7352
10 - Luca Filippi (Dallara DW12-Chevy) – CFH - 7"2115
11 - Scott Dixon (Dallara DW12-Chevy) – Ganassi - 7"8421
12 - Carlos Munoz (Dallara DW12-Honda) – Andretti - 9"0899
13 - Marco Andretti (Dallara DW12-Honda) – Andretti - 9"7817
14 - Charlie Kimball (Dallara DW12-Chevy) – Ganassi - 15"7221
15 - Gabby Chaves (Dallara DW12-Honda) – Herta - 1 lap
16 - Carlos Huertas (Dallara DW12-Honda) – Coyne - 1 lap
17 - Stefano Coletti (Dallara DW12-Chevy) – KV - 3 laps
18 - Sage Karam (Dallara DW12-Chevy) – Ganassi - 3 laps
Fastest lap of the race: 1'29"0455 by Scott Dixon
1. Montoya 84; 2. Castroneves 74; 3. Power 70; 4. Hinchcliffe 65; 5. Kanaan 63.