James Hinchcliffe's race debut with Newman/Haas Racing got off to a difficult beginning at Barber Motorsports Park, but the Indy Lights graduate was trying to focus on the positives after a 24th-place result. He started eighth, spun on the opening lap and was later hit while trying to avoid a multi-car accident ahead of him while in 12th place in the No. 06 Sprott Dallara-Honda.
“We got off to a rough start," he admitted. "I was hoping to not make too many rookie mistakes and on lap one we went around and fell to the back, but the team got me back on a great strategy; we were down to two stops and I think we were running pretty well.
"That restart bunched everybody up and we were on red tires and everybody else was on blacks, so it was looking pretty good. We were looking at a shot of getting in or around the top 10. On the restart, I think Simona [De Silvestro] got into E.J. [Viso] – that wasn't his fault but day 1 of racing school, you learn that when you are spinning you hit the brakes and the clutch and he just hit the gas. I went around the outside of him hoping he would just hit the brakes, but he pinned it (throttle) and the back end whipped around and took us out.
"It wasn't his fault (that) he spun; he just put himself in a bad position and ended up taking us out, too. It was an unfortunate day for the whole team.”
Meanwhile, teammate Oriol Servia enjoyed another spirited race en route to fifth place in his Telemundo Dallara.
“It was an exciting race," said the Catalonian driver. "It's only the second race but we are making big improvements every weekend. It shows what a tremendous job Newman/Haas Racing does and how hard they work. We were consistently strong in each session we got to run and were up to third in the race at one point. You gain in some restarts and you lose in some. It was especially difficult when you were on black Firestone tires and others were on reds and were passing you but I think that makes the race more exciting for us and the fans.
"It's a bit of a chess game. There were so many starts and restarts that it's almost impossible to recall what happened in all of them! It was fun to race with TK [Tony Kanaan]; we've been racing together for many years. He is a tough competitor but he is clean. I knew I had to do my job well because he was going to take any opportunity I would give him to pass me. I just had to focus on not making any mistakes."
Another driver making his IndyCar Series debut at Barber was Simon Pagenaud, who subbed for the injured Ana Beatriz at Dreyer & Reinbold. The sports car regular made a solid impression, finishing eighth in his Blazemaster/Ipiranga-backed car.
"It was good fun and good racing," said the Frenchman. "I want to thank everyone in the IZOD IndyCar Series for welcoming me so well and keeping life easy for me this weekend. I'm really happy to come away with eighth position. Fighting with Helio [Castroneves] at the end of the race was something I really enjoyed. But more importantly, the Dreyer & Reinbold team did a fantastic job and gave me a great opportunity to showcase what I can do. I wish Bia [Beatriz] to recover quickly and be back in her car very soon."