Canadian IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe was stopped on the track 20 laps before the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix. At the end of Sunday’s race, he was standing on the podium.
Hinchcliffe crossed the line third at Nashville in what has been a challenging season for 34-year-old Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport from Oakville, Ontario.
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Marcus Ericsson and Scott Dixon were 1-2 followed by Hinchcliffe, who posted his first top-10 finish of the year and the best result since Iowa in 2019.
“For us in the 29 car, it has been a difficult season,” Hinchcliffe told reporters during the post-race press conference. “We have had our own problems, but we have also had a lot of bad luck. It seemed like it was going that way again today when we got stuck in the traffic jam at Turn 11. (Strategist) Brian Barnhart made a great decision, he pitted us there to do a kind of cycle when everything went wrong. ” .
“It was eventful,” he added. “We were back, forward, we ran a little bit everywhere today, in the middle. … We probably had too many yellows for what we would have liked to put on a good show for everyone here. “
Hinchcliffe qualified 10th and held that position during the first half when it seemed his career had been derailed. Will Power made contact with his Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud and sent the Frenchman into the wall near Turn 11, causing a bottleneck. Hinchcliffe was among the cars on the wrong side and stopped. Fortunately for Hinchcliffe, however, the control of the race raised the red flag to get everyone into the pit lane to avoid being spun around and save his career.
“As much as we hate that happening, I thought they were going to drive the field through the pit lane, until we cleared the traffic jam, we were going to be three, four laps down and a little out,” Hinchcliffe said. . “IndyCar’s credit for not eliminating the eight of us, whatever it is, that we were stuck there. We had no damage. We avoid all the carnage. Traffic just got blocked. “
Despite continuing to fall to 23rd on the field, that didn’t faze Hinchcliffe mentally.
“I mean, for better or for worse, it has become more common for us in the last few seasons,” Hinchcliffe said. “So we’ve had a little more practice doing it than certainly the first half of my career. Yes, I mean, you are tied to the car all the time. You try never to get out of it. You don’t think about having to go back to the mindset because as long as you’re in the race car, you’re still in the race. You never really get out of there. “
A change in pit strategy with more incidents and yellow flags following allowed Hinchcliffe and his team to capitalize, and lo and behold they were running close to the front at the end of the race. Andretti’s teammate Colton Herta, who started from pole position, was chasing Ericsson for the lead with five laps to go when his brakes locked and sent him against the wall. That raised the final red flag of the race with Hinchcliffe in third place and a possible shootout to the finish line. Hinchcliffe fended off his Andretti teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay for last place on the podium.
“I think the team is doing a great job,” Hinchcliffe said. “I think we are developing a lot at the moment. We’ve had a few good ones in a row. We have a couple of tracks that we really enjoy. Hopefully this is a boost that we can build on in the last five races of the year. “
Hinchcliffe will look to bring that pace to Indianapolis with the Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix this weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course.