Toronto hero James Hinchcliffe says his podium finish in today’s Honda Indy Toronto will be “a highlight in the career reel” after misfortune restricted his previous best home result to eighth.
The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports-Honda driver, who was born just 20 miles away from the Toronto track, in Oakville, Ont., finished third when he eked out his last fuel load long enough to hold off Tony Kanaan’s Ganassi-Chevrolet all the way to the checkered flag. His cause aided by not only switching to an alternate strategy on lap 47, but also seven more laps being run at full-course caution speed.
He said: “For once in my career here in Toronto we caught a lucky break. It's not just that I haven't had great luck here, I've had insanely bad luck here! Today we were on the other side of that. It's part of IndyCar racing.
“It was an up-and-down day, to be honest. We had a good first stint. The car was good on red tires, as we should have expected based on qualifying. Throwing some elbows with Bourdais at the start, Montoya, Mikhail, Josef… Kind of good fun racing.
“When we stopped and switched over to blacks, we lost the balance a fair bit and we were really struggling for pace. I was just trying to hold on to the thing, to be honest. We weren't entirely sure how it was going to play out.
“As the track cooled down, the cloud cover came, the car started coming to us. That was well timed. When you're trying to save fuel but keep guys behind you, it's tricky. The Schmidt Peterson guys were great in the pits. The car was good on fuel when it needed to be.
“I wasn't sure we were going to be able to keep T.K. behind us, but he ran a million laps on the tires. What we had to give up on the straights [to save fuel], he was losing in the corners. And we were able to make it stick on the last restart, get a good result.
“I knew we had an extra overtake compared to T.K. that might come into play. I was feeling good, feeling confident. We were keeping him behind us before. There was no reason to think we couldn't do it again.”
Appreciating the crowd support
Hinchcliffe said that as he came out of the final turn to take the green for the final lap shootout, he was eager not to mess up in front of his fans.
“My real concern was when that [final] yellow flew,” he said. “It was going to be a one-lap dash.
“Coming off Turn 11, I saw the whole grandstand stand up and cheer. I thought, ‘I can't screw this up, I can't let these guys down.’ It's tough when you know that Tony Kanaan is behind you, that's for sure. I got a little bit of extra boost, like I said, seeing the crowd stand up in turn 11. I knew all my family and extended family and friend group were sitting in that grandstand.
He went on: “No doubt this will be a highlight in the career reel, memory reel. Hopefully we can better it in the future.
“It would be so great to win here. I've just always wanted to give the Toronto fans a good result because they've been so supportive day in and day out from the start of my IndyCar career.
“Good, bad or indifferent, they're just such a phenomenal group of people. Really knowledgeable, really passionate fans. The support has been incredible.”