Photo Credit: John Bosma/Grand Prix Association of Long Beach via https://gplb.com/
Photo Credit: John Bosma/Grand Prix Association of Long Beach via https://gplb.com/

Canadian James Hinchcliffe won Sunday’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Verizon IndyCar Series race, his first victory since being seriously injured in a 2015 crash practicing for the Indianapolis 500.

Hinchcliffe took the lead on the 63rd lap when New Zealander Scott Dixon was on a pit stop and kept it for the remainder of the 85-lap race, fending off a challenge by Frenchman Sebastein Bourdais on the 1.968-mile, 11-turn street circuit surrounding the Long Beach Convention Center.

“The greats have all raced here, the greats have all won here,” Hinchcliffe said after finishing 1.494 seconds ahead of Bourdais. “To get in the winner’s circle was huge.”

The victory was Hinchcliffe’s fifth on the Verizon IndyCar Series and first since the 2015 Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana.

“A lot has changed since the last time we were sitting up here,” Hinchcliffe said. “It’s just so nice to be back.”

Hinchcliffe was sidelined for the rest of the 2015 season following the crash. His best finish in 2016 was second, 0.008 of a second behind American Graham Rahal at the rain-interrupted Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway that began on June 12 and was completed Aug. 27.

“A lot of people talked about 2016 as sort of the comeback year,” Hinchcliffe said. “Personally we really wanted to as a team to put an exclamation point on that by coming to victory lane.

We came as close as humanly possible in Texas last year. Didn’t quite get the job done. We were sore to not win a race last year.”

Hinchcliffe had another second-place finish in 2016 — on the fall season of the ABC dance competition “Dancing with the Stars.”

Hinchcliffe said winning a race “was goal number one when we set out at the start of the season.” The victory came in the series’ second race of the season. Hinchcliffe finished ninth in last month’s season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg which Bourdais won.

Hinchcliffe started fourth and first took the lead on the 56th lap when he opted to take a pit stop one lap later than American Ryan Hunter-Reay. Dixon regained the lead on the 58th lap during Hinchcliffe’s pit stop.

Brazilian Helio Castroneves started from the pole. Dixon took the lead on the opening lap, before a collision in turn four involving the cars driven by Australian Will Power and American Charlie Kimball prompted the first of the race’s three caution flags.

The crash forced Kimball out of the race. Power finished 13th, a lap off the lead.

The other cautions came on the 63rd lap when the car driven by 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi needed to be towed and on the 80th lap when Hunter-Reay went off the course, forcing him out of the race

Dixon led for the first 15 laps. Hunter-Reay led for the 16th through 29th laps. Dixon regained the lead on the 30th lap with Hunter-Reay moving back into first on the 42nd lap.

Fifteen of the 21 cars that started were running at the end of the race.

All the cars used fourth-generation Verizon IndyCar Series Dallara chassis with Chevrolet or Honda aerodynamic bodywork and engines and Firestone tires.

Hinchcliffe and Bourdais’ cars both had Honda engines.

The race had drivers from 11 nations — nine from the U.S., two each from Brazil and France, and one each from Australia, Canada, Colombia, England, Japan, New Zealand, Russia and the United Arab Emirates.

—City News Service

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