Dreary conditions couldn't damper the spirits of James Hinchcliffe, as the Canadian driver picked up his first IndyCar Series career win at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
The 26-year-old finished the 2012 season ranked eighth in points, but he was never able to get over the hump. But the driver of the No. 27 Go Daddy car for Andretti Autosport powered through the conditions and some tough competition on Sunday for a monumental victory.
According to Jim Tomlin of the Tampa Bay Times, Will Power started strong and was near the front for most of the day before his car was damaged in an odd incident highlighted here:
JR Hildebrand's car climbed over Power's right side under caution, knocking the mirror off of Power's car. Power had to make a couple of pit stops for repairs and with a few laps to go he slid into the Turn 4 tire barrier under braking.
Hinchcliffe took over the lead on the ensuing restart and led the rest of the way, with Castroneves second.
Sunday's victory was a resounding one for Hinchcliffe, who earned his first career IndyCar win in his 32nd career start. For one of racing's up-and-comers, his victory earned him plenty of praise on Twitter.
Nate Ryan of USA Today Sports wrote about the special meaning of Hinchcliffe's win:
James Hinchcliffe dedicated the win to Dan Wheldon. On morning of his death at Las Vegas, Wheldon had signed to drive GoDaddy car. #indycar— Nate Ryan (@nateryan) March 24, 2013
Terry Blount of ESPN is now a believer in the Go Daddy car:
Yes you can win in a Go-Daddy car, if James Hinchcliffe is driving it.— Terry Blount (@TerryBlountESPN) March 24, 2013
Firestone Racing acknowledged the race's first Canadian-born winner with a bit of humor:
Hinchcliffe's season-opening win was a hard-earned one, as he beat out some excellent drivers to stand atop the podium. Here's how the top five rounded out:
1. James Hinchcliffe (No. 27)
2. Helio Castroneves (No. 3)
3. Marco Andretti (No. 25)
4. Tony Kanaan (No. 11)
5. Scott Dixon (No. 9)
So, what does this mean for Hinchcliffe moving forward? After enduring criticism for Danica Patrick's failures in the Go Daddy car, Hinchcliffe's victory takes some of the pressure off the company. Already a rising star, this win could help propel him to new heights in the early goings of the 2013 season.
The 2011 IndyCar Rookie of the Year had some big shoes to fill by succeeding the famous Patrick. Although she never enjoyed tremendous success, Patrick became a recognizable and marketable name and face. However, Hinchcliffe has already matched Patrick's number of career IndyCar Series wins.
Just over a year later, Hinchcliffe has already proven he belongs in the No. 27 car. A win like this should only reinforce that the succession decision was a success.
The Canadian-born champion showed great poise and command Sunday, and the future looks bright for Hinchcliffe and the Go Daddy car as the IndyCar Series season gets underway.
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