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NOLA IndyCar: Schmidt's James Hinchcliffe wins with strategy gamble

A gamble on strategy rewarded James Hinchcliffe with victory for Schmidt Peterson in a damp, incident-filled IndyCar race at NOLA on Sunday

The Canadian had started back in 16th, and took advantage of an early caution to go off-sequence.

A near-constant succession of yellows later in the race allowed him to stretch his fuel and tyres to the point where he ran a 34-lap final stint.

As the cautions kept coming, Hinchcliffe's main fear became the prospect of having to fend off Helio Castroneves on a late restart, but that problem was eliminated when Simon Pagenaud, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Sebastien Bourdais tried to go three-wide just after what would be the final green flag.

It didn't work. Pagenaud, on the outside, quickly ran out of room and veered onto the muddy verge, which snapped his Penske Dallara-Chevrolet into a spin back across the track.

He collected both Hunter-Reay and Bourdais on his way to the wall, putting all three out.

With less than 10 minutes of the race remaining the result was all but sealed, and Hinchcliffe was able to reward Schmidt's faith with a win in just his second race for the team.

"When we first decided to stay out, I thought, wouldn't it be funny if we could make this a one-stopper," he said.

"I just never thought it [would happen]. On one hand, I feel bad 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 [the strategy] awesome.

"The car was unbelievable on the reds [soft tyres]. 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."

Off-sequence opportunists were the big winners of the day. Castroneves had switched strategies after making an unscheduled stop to replace a broken front wing, and James Jakes and Simona de Silvestro took an aggressive approach to compensate for poor grid positions. They finished up as the top four.

Polesitter Juan Pablo Montoya held command of the cars who had stuck to conventional strategies.

He rejoined from his final stop in fifth, but the lack of green flag time during the final quarter of the race denied him the opportunity to hunt down the cars that had popped up ahead of him.

"We did everything right," he said. "We executed. We pushed when we needed to push. We did everything we needed to do. We took good points. We'll probably still lead in the championship, so it's good."

RESULTS - 47 LAPS:

Pos Driver Team Car Gap
1 James Hinchcliffe Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Dallara/Honda 1h47m19.4896s
2 Helio Castroneves Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet 0.4279s
3 James Jakes Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Dallara/Honda 0.8452s
4 Simona de Silvestro Andretti Autosport Dallara/Honda 1.2924s
5 Juan Pablo Montoya Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet 1.7564s
6 Tony Kanaan Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Chevrolet 2.2638s
7 Will Power Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet 3.0958s
8 Graham Rahal Rahal Letterman Lanigan Dallara/Honda 4.3495s
9 Josef Newgarden CFH Racing Dallara/Chevrolet 5.7352s
10 Luca Filippi CFH Racing Dallara/Chevrolet 7.2115s
11 Scott Dixon Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Chevrolet 7.8421s
12 Carlos Munoz Andretti Autosport Dallara/Honda 9.0899s
13 Marco Andretti Andretti Autosport Dallara/Honda 9.7817s
14 Charlie Kimball Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Chevrolet 15.7221s
15 Gabby Chaves Bryan Herta Autosport Dallara/Honda 1 Lap
16 Carlos Huertas Dale Coyne Racing Dallara/Honda 1 Lap
17 Stefano Coletti KV Racing Technology Dallara/Chevrolet 3 Laps
18 Sage Karam Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Chevrolet 3 Laps
19 Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti Autosport Dallara/Honda Contact
20 Simon Pagenaud Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet Contact
21 Sebastien Bourdais KVSH Racing Dallara/Chevrolet Contact
22 Takuma Sato AJ Foyt Enterprises Dallara/Honda Contact
23 Francesco Dracone Dale Coyne Racing Dallara/Honda Contact
24 Jack Hawksworth AJ Foyt Enterprises Dallara/Honda Contact

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS:

Pos Driver Points
1 Juan Pablo Montoya 84
2 Helio Castroneves 74
3 Will Power 70
4 James Hinchcliffe 65
5 Tony Kanaan 63
6 Simona de Silvestro 44
7 James Jakes 43
8 Graham Rahal 43
9 Luca Filippi 42
10 Simon Pagenaud 41
11 Josef Newgarden 40
12 Sebastien Bourdais 37
13 Marco Andretti 37
14 Ryan Hunter-Reay 34
15 Scott Dixon 34
16 Carlos Munoz 34
17 Jack Hawksworth 31
18 Gabby Chaves 28
19 Takuma Sato 25
20 Charlie Kimball 25
21 Stefano Coletti 23
22 Sage Karam 23
23 Carlos Huertas 20
24 Francesco Dracone 14


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