After a whirlwind start to the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season, James Hinchcliffe found his way to victory lane in the Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway on Sunday.
It marked the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Dallara-Honda driver’s sixth career victory and his first since Long Beach in 2017, 26 races ago.
The 2013 race winner joins Dario Franchitti (2 wins) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (3 wins) as repeat winners in the 12 races on the .875-mile oval.
Hinchcliffe took the win under caution in an eventful race that featured 955 total passes. Ed Carpenter Racing’s Spencer Pigot, the highest-finishing Chevrolet-powered car, earned a career-best finish in 2nd after starting 18th. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Takuma Sato took the last step on the podium, his best effort of 2018.
Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden, who led a race-high 229 of 300 laps, finished fourth. Hinchcliffe’s teammate Robert Wickens was the highest-finishing rookie in fifth, the last car on the lead lap.
From his 52nd career pole, Will Power would lead the first 23 laps. As he was trying to lap Andretti Autosport driver Marco Andretti, Power ran up the race track. Power’s slip would allow Newgarden to sweep by and assume the lead from his second starting spot.
After dominating the two practice sessions and qualifying on Saturday, Team Penske and Newgarden, in particular, looked like overwhelming favorites
During the opening stint, Power struggled in traffic, as Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ James Hinchcliffe passed him for second place.
Hinchcliffe would do so after starting in 11th. Newgarden continued to dominate up front. The 2016 race winner lapped all but the top nine cars by Lap 55.
A.J. Foyt Racing rookie Matheus Leist would be the first car out of the race, running 40 of 300 laps before electronics issues forced him out of the running.
During the first round of pit stops, two of the Andretti Autosport teams experienced issues. Rookie Zach Veach had a fuel fire, while Alexander Rossi’s throttle stuck and he stalled on his pit stop.
After the pit stops, Newgarden continued to dominate and would put all but five cars at least a lap down. On Lap 139, Veach made contact with the Turn 4 wall and brought out the first yellow of the afternoon.
Once the race restarted on Lap 150, Newgarden pulled away and left Hinchcliffe to battle Ed Carpenter Racing’s Spencer Pigot for third. Hinchcliffe would battle past Pigot and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Takuma Sato would take third from Pigot as well.
On Lap 214, Hinchcliffe would get loose off off Turn 4. The loss of speed allowed Sato to take over second place. After the final sequence of pit stops, Pigot and Hinchcliffe were able to take second and third back from Sato.
Hinchcliffe, who had shown strength during the race’s long green-flag stretches, took advantage during the last stint. As he and Newgarden battled through lapped traffic, the 2013 Iowa winner used a strong inside move to take the lead on Lap 256.
Just as Hinchcliffe had built up a lead of nearly nine seconds, the second and final caution of the day flew.
On Lap 294, Ed Carpenter got loose off Turn 2 and was clipped by Sato. The contact would bring out the second and final caution of the day. During the yellow, Newgarden and Wickens pitted from second and third, hoping to use the fresh tires to battle for the win on the restart.
There would be no chance for the two to contend for the win, as the 300-lap race ended under yellow with Hinchcliffe taking the win. Slowed by just two cautions for 16 laps, the race was run at a record pace of 149.636 MPH.
Following Sunday’s race, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon still holds the points lead, but the gap was reduced to 33 points.
Newgarden did take over second in points, with Rossi 41 points behind and Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay 51 points back. Power currently sits fifth in points, 53 behind Dixon.
Next week, the Verizon IndyCar Series will take to the legendary Exhibition Place circuit on the streets of Toronto. Practice for next Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto begins on Friday at 10:40 p.m. Eastern time. The race will be run next Sunday at 3:35 p.m. Eastern Time.
Header image by Chris Owens/INDYCAR.