James Hinchcliffe opens IndyCar season with first win in Florida
Last Updated: 24/03/13 10:25pm
James Hinchcliffe celebrates after winning GP of St Petersburg
James Hinchcliffe made a perfect start to the 2013 IndyCar season with his maiden victory in the St Petersburg Grand Prix.
The Canadian, widely tipped to be the next big star in open-seat racing, passed Helio Castroneves on the final restart at the Florida road circuit and held on bravely for the final 25 laps to break his duck.
Will Power dominated the early stages of the race but he lost ground on a couple of restarts and then dropped way back in a bizarre incident that ended with JR Hildebrand's car on top of his - he had to stop for a puncture and ended up back in 16th.
Castroneves ran well throughout but he couldn't cope with Hinchcliffe's burst after the final set of stops and despite putting on plenty of pressure, he was just over a second adrift at the checkered flag.
"This is his hometown; this is his car. Knowing my face will be on that memorial, that's really special"
Hinchcliffe on Dan Wheldon
Marco Andretti made late headway into third, using a push-to-pass against Simona de Silvestro with two laps to go to deny her what would have been a well-deserved podium finish.
De Silvestro was also passed by KV Racing team-mate Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon, but she was still thrilled with sixth place on her first drive for the team.
It was an emotional success for Hinchcliffe, who was driving the Andretti Autosport car that was due to be taken over back in 2011 by the late Dan Wheldon, the British driver who died in a crash in Las Vegas in that season's finale.
Wheldon had made his home in St Petersburg and Hinchcliffe said he was thrilled to be able to drive the No 27 home in front of Wheldon's wife and two children, who were all in the stands.
"This is his hometown; this is his car," said Hinchcliffe, who will be added now to the Wheldon monument unveiled ON Thursday at Turn 10 on the course. "Knowing my face will be on that memorial, that's really special."