Hinchcliffe wins at Iowa for 1st victory of ’18

James Hinchcliffe sprays champagne in Victory Circle after winning the Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway. (Courtesy: IndyCar Series/Shawn Gritzmacher)

NEWTON, Iowa (AP) — Less than two months after failing to qualify for the Indianapolis 500, James Hinchcliffe roared from behind to seize one of the more satisfying victories of his IndyCar career.

Hinchcliffe passed Josef Newgarden with just over 40 laps left to win at the Iowa Speedway on Sunday, his first victory of the season.

Hinchcliffe, who followed up his disaster at Indy with three finishes of 10th or worse in four starts, also picked up his first win since Long Beach in 2017 and his second victory at Iowa.

He will now head to his hometown track, the Streets of Toronto on Sunday, with more momentum than he’s had in a long time.

“This is such a good feeling after what happened in May. We knew we had it in us, and to come here and do it like that … I’m just so stoked,” Hinchcliffe said. “To miss (the Indy 500) is a huge blow for every single member of the team… but if anything, it fueled us. It made us want to perform better, push harder.”

Spencer Pigot was a career-best second, followed by Takuma Sato in his first podium since a stunning win at the Indy 500 in 2017.

Newgarden dominated much of the race like he did in winning at Iowa two years ago, leading 229 of the 300 laps before Hinchcliffe seized control as Newgarden battled lap traffic.

Newgarden finished fourth.

Ed Carpenter threw a curveball at the field when he spun out and got clipped by Sato six laps from the finish, drawing a caution. Newgarden went in for new tires while Hinchcliffe stayed out, with the American hoping to catch Hinchcliffe if the race went green again.

It didn’t, and Hinchcliffe cruised past Iowa’s corn-inspired start-finish line in first for Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports under caution.

But it wasn’t all bad news for Newgarden, the defending champion. He moved from fourth to second in the standings behind Scott Dixon and cut his deficit to 33 points.

Dixon was never a factor, finishing a season-worst 12th.

“I can’t complain much. It’s a tough pill to swallow to see (Hinchcliffe) go by me. We just didn’t have it at the end, and sometimes you can’t forecast that completely,” Newgarden said. “It just went away from us.”

Will Power, Newgarden’s Team Penske teammate, started on the pole. But Iowa is the only active track in the series where a pole sitter has never won a race — and it was apparent early on that that trend would continue.

Newgarden, who led 282 laps here in 2016, snagged the lead from Power after just 23 laps and quickly built it up to as much as 9 seconds — roughly half a lap. Newgarden even lapped Dixon after just 54 of them, and the majority of the field was already a lap down just a third of the way through the event.

The first yellow flag of the race came halfway through the event when Zach Veach brushed the wall, but Newgarden easily kept the lead on the subsequent restart. That caution allowed Hinchcliffe to get close enough to begin his takedown of Newgarden though, whose gaudy edge had evaporated.

Newgarden took his final pit stop 76 laps from the finish, and he ceded the lead to Sato for just three laps before re-establishing control.

But Hinchcliffe didn’t give up — eventually slipping past Newgarden and building a big lead to add onto his win at Iowa five years ago.

“The car just came alive, and I was able to put it where I needed to to get through traffic — and that’s only reason I was able to catch Josef,” Hinchcliffe said of his final pit stop.

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More AP auto racing: www.racing.ap.org

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