James Hinchcliffe overcomes early spin for Detroit 1 podium

Bret Kelley/INDYCAR

By Aaron Bearden, Motorsports Editor

On a day in which the podium included one driver who tallied his first pole of this decade (Graham Rahal) and a driver overcoming injuries (Scott Dixon), it was somehow James Hinchcliffe who managed to pull off arguably the most improbable feat of the day – turning an early spin at Belle Isle Park into a third-place finish.

It took multiple lucky breaks to make it happen, but when the checkered flag waved at the end of Saturday’s 70-lap Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix Race 1, Hinchcliffe had danced his way through the field to his second podium of the season, and the first since his victory in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

The first break came shortly after his spin, a solo accident that occurred coming off of the street course’s first corner on the opening lap. The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver was able to keep his No. 5 Honda off of the wall during the crash, and the rest of the Verizon IndyCar Series paddock had managed to avoid him.

However, Hinchcliffe’s machine was stalled facing the wrong way. He would need a push to continue on in the event.

Track officials were quick to get to Hinchcliffe’s car, but not too quick, which led to a perfect string of events for the five-time IndyCar winner. The track crew was able to get Hinchcliffe’s Honda pushed off and rolling once again, but weren’t able to do so quick enough to get off-track before the field returned to that section of the course. INDYCAR officials had no choice but to throw a full-course yellow.

The track crew managed to push Hinchcliffe off before the leaders lapped him, and the safety car allowed the Canadian to rejoin the back of the pack in 22nd. There was still a long way to climb, but a respectable finish was no longer improbable.

Then came another break.

Hinchcliffe was called to pit road during the caution he’s caused for tires and fuel, setting his No. 5 SPM team up for a two-step strategy through the rest of the race. This allowed the 30-year-old to rise into the top five by Lap 20 and, when the race’s lone other caution fell on Lap 26 for Conor Daly and Charlie Kimball, set the Canadian up for his run to the podium.

“Tires are the name of the game here,” Hinchcliffe said. “To be able to get off the reds (alternate Firestone tires) after the spin in the first turn there played to our advantage. Then we got that yellow at the right time right after out stop. It put us up where we belonged, and I think we showed that the No. 5 Arrow car had a lot of pace. To come back from that – the SPM boys were great in the pits and really happy to grab a podium here today.”

The run elevates Hinchcliffe to eighth in the IndyCar points standings entering the second race of the weekend. He trails championship leader Scott Dixon by 69 points.

Race 2 of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix will begin on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET.

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