With cars that were equally matched on the 1.968-mile, 11-turn temporary street circuit, it was the restarts that allowed James Hinchcliffe to record his first Firestone Indy Lights victory.
Hinchcliffe held off Charlie Kimball by 0.837sec to win the Indy Grand Prix of Long Beach. JK Vernay, who won the first two races of the season, finished third and Sebastian Saavedra in the No. 29 William Rast/Bryan Herta Autosport car was fourth.
Martin Plowman in the No. 27 Automatic Fire Sprinklers/KEP Printing car for AFS Racing Andretti Autosport finished fifth and Tonis Kasemets, making his series debut with Palm Beach Indy Racing, was sixth.
Hinchcliffe got good jumps on four restarts following full-course cautions – the last on lap 41 of 45. It was the second victory for Team Moore Racing (Pablo Donoso won at Infineon Raceway in 2008).
“I made a few mistakes, but lucky they were small enough that nobody noticed,” said Hinchcliffe, the pole sitter who led every lap. “It was a great race. The car was solid from the drop of the green flag and we got a good start and into a rhythm. Those yellows kept coming out, but lucky we had good restarts because I just couldn't shake Charlie.
Hinchcliffe, who had six top-five finishes (high of second at Mio-Ohio) in 2009 and was fifth in the inaugural race on the Barber Motorsports Park road course April 11, won in his 18h start.
“It feels like it has been a long time coming,” said Hinchcliffe, driving the No. 2 TMR-Xtreme Coil Drilling car. “There was a lot of pressure last year to win a race and we didn't get that done, so that weighed heavily on my mind all through the off-season.
“We had a couple of close calls last season and starting from the pole in St. Pete didn't work out for us. All weekend long the Team Moore Racing car was great and I owe a huge thank you to all of the boys. To get a first win out of the way and another pole is huge."
Kimball, who started second in the No. 26 Levemir FlexPen car for AFS Racing Andretti Autosport, matched his career high (at Barber Motorsports Park).
"I think we had 75 people in the grandstands between Turns 5 and 6," said Kimball, of Camarillo, Calif. "I could see them on the parade laps so I knew they were there. I was pretty sure I could hear them as well. At the end of the race, with the podium finish, it meant a lot. I get to see them cheering and gave them a wave as I went by.
"We had had the pace for the win (at Barber) and we were definitely right up front today. I think the three of us on the podium were trading fastest laps every lap back and forth, back and forth. I don't think the gap was any bigger than a second and a half or 2 seconds between myself and James. I don't think it was any bigger than two seconds behind J.K. at any spot.
Vernay leads the championship standings by 28 points over Kimball (112). Hinchcliffe is third (99 points) heading into the Firestone Freedom 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 28.