It was a dominant performance by James Hinchcliffe on Sunday at Iowa Speedway as he led 226 of the 250 laps to score his first oval win in the Iowa Corn Indy 250. The win is the third of the season for Hinchcliffe and also the third of the Canadians IZOD IndyCar Series career.
Hinchcliffe was fast from the get go and made a pass on the inside of WIll Power off Turn 4 on lap 1 to grab the lead. From there no one had anything for him.
"We just had to go off of experience and this all goes to the team," said Hinchcliffe. "We have a great track record here but this year with so many different things and a day race, everything was different."
The starting grid for the race was set in a unique way on Saturday with three 50-lap heat races. Scott Dixon won Heat Race 1 and Takuma Sato finished second to advance to the 10 driver Heat Race 3. Graham Rahal won Heat Race 2 and Ed Carpenter finished second to also advance to the final heat race which also included the six fastest qualifiers from single cars runs. In Heat Race 3 Helio Castroneves led every lap to win and collect nine points toward the championship.
Castroneves started from 11th on Sunday though after a 10 spot grid penalty due to changing engines Saturday night. That gave the pole position to Will Power with Hinchcliffe starting second.
By lap 30 Hinchcliffe had a 2.9 second lead over Power. The first caution would come out on lap 38 due to debris from the nose of Ryan Hunter-Reay after he clipped the back of Graham Rahal. Hunter-Reay dropped to 21st for the restart after the team changed the nose on his No. 1 car. Hinchcliffe had a six second lead over Ed Carpenter when the caution flew and his team got him out of the pits with the lead still.
He pulled away on the lap 53 restart while back in the field drivers battled three wide.
On lap 100 Hinchcliffe led over Marco Andretti, Graham Rahal, Simon Pagenaud, and Ed Carpenter. A round of green flag stops occurred starting on lap 116 with Andretti and Pagenaud. Hinchcliffe gave up the lead on lap 118 to pit. Justin Wilson led laps 119 and 120 before Hinchcliffe cycled back to the lead after all the pit stops.
At the halfway mark on lap 125 Hinchcliffe led over Rahal, Andretti, Pagenaud, and Oriol Servia.
The second caution came out on lap 138 for a spin by Alex Tagliani. He would retire from the race and finish 24th. The leaders did not pit under this caution and the race restarted on lap 149 with Hinchcliffe again pulling away. The third caution came out on lap 155 for debris which set up another restart on lap 160.
This time Graham Rahal gave Hinchcliffe all he could handle. Rahal actually nosed ahead to lead lap 160 before Hinchcliffe was able to stave off Rahal's challenge and complete the pass on the bottom to regain the lead on lap 161.
Takuma Sato slowed on lap 162 and retired from the race with a 23rd place finish. Then on lap 183 Ana Beatriz also slowed and retired from the race with a 22nd place finish.
On lap 189 final green flag pit stops started with Andretti. At that time Hinchcliffe held a four second lead over Rahal. Rahal pitted on lap 193 and then Hinchcliffe on lap 195. Ed Carpenter then led from lap 196 to when he pitted on lap 213. Justin Wilson was also off sequence and then led laps 214 through 216 before Hinchcliffe cycled back in front on lap 217.
From there Ryan Hunter-Reay tried to close in on Hinchcliffe and was five seconds back on lap 220. On lap 235 he had cut the lead to three seconds. Then Hunter-Reay's charge was slowed by lap cars and Hinchcliffe won by 1.5 seconds.
Tony Kanaan finished third, Ed Carpenter fourth, Graham Rahal fifth, Simon Pagenaud sixth, Oriol Servia seventh, Helio Castroneves eighth, Marco Andretti ninth, and EJ Viso tenth as the final driver on the lead lap. Justin Wilson was 11th, Charlie Kimball 12th, Tristan Vautier 13th, Sebastien Bourdais 14th, Josef Newgarden 15th, Scott Dixon 16th, Will Power 17th, James Jakes 18th, Sebastian Saavedra 19th, Dario Franchitti 20th, and Simona De Silvestro 21st.
Helio Castroneves holds a nine point lead over Ryan Hunter-Reay in the standings after Iowa. Marco Andretti is 55 points back in third, James Hinchcliffe is 66 back in fourth, and Tony Kanaan is 79 back in fifth.
The next race on the schedule is the Pocono IndyCar 400 at Pocono Raceway on July 7th. It will be the first trip to Pocono since 1989 for the series.
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