AUTO RACING

Hinchcliffe cruises to victory at Iowa IndyCar race

2013-06-23T18:00:00Z 2013-06-24T12:47:05Z Hinchcliffe cruises to victory at Iowa IndyCar raceThe Associated Press The Associated Press
June 23, 2013 6:00 pm  • 

NEWTON, Iowa | Andretti Autosport has long been the team to beat at Iowa Speedway.

On Sunday, James Hinchcliffe put an exclamation point on Andretti's dominance there with perhaps the best race of his career.

Hinchcliffe cruised to victory in the IndyCar Series race on Sunday, leading all but 24 of 250 laps. He became the first three-time winner this season and gave Andretti Autosport its fourth consecutive victory at Iowa's oval.

Ryan Hunter-Reay, Hinchcliffe's teammate, battled back from last place to finish second. He was followed by Tony Kanaan, Ed Carpenter and Graham Rahal.

Hinchcliffe took the lead on the opening lap and ceded control only briefly during pit stops. He joined Kanaan, Marco Andretti and Hunter-Reay as Iowa winners for Andretti Autosport since 2010.

But despite his three wins, Hinchcliffe is just fourth in the points standings because of five finishes of 15th or lower.

Series leader Helio Castroneves was eighth. His lead over Hunter-Reay was cut to nine points — the exact number Castroneves earned Saturday by winning the pole through heat qualifying races.

It was clear from the opening lap that Hinchcliffe's No. 27 car would be the one the field would have to chase.

Hinchcliffe immediately grabbed control of the race from Will Power, who counts just one oval among his 18 series victories. Power fell behind by as much as a lap down midway through the race and finished 17th.

Hinchcliffe also held off a furious challenge from Rahal off a restart about 90 laps from the finish. Though Rahal technically took the lead for a lap, Hinchcliffe hung onto the low groove — running side-by-side with Rahal — before bursting clear.

Hinchcliffe had only led 99 laps in his three-year IndyCar career prior to Sunday. He surpassed that total less than halfway through the race.

Hunter-Reay fell behind Castroneves by 25 points on Saturday after a poor showing during the qualifying heat races.

It only got worse for Hunter-Reay roughly 40 laps in when he rear-ended Rahal, forcing his team to change out his front wing. But he scrambled from the back for an impressive podium finish.

The series next runs at Pocono Raceway, but not before a much-needed break.

IndyCar will take next weekend off, its first true break since late April, before returning to Pocono on July 7 following a 23-year hiatus.

Though it's been decades since the series has run there, it'll be hard to bet against Andretti.

The team has now won five of 10 races in 2013. It also boasts three serious championship contenders in Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Hinchcliffe, all of whom are right behind Castroneves.

"Guys like Helio, with his experience and everything, is going to be really difficult. He's going to make it go right down to the wire, I can assure you. But it's always nice to have more than one bullet in the gun. And right now, we have three real legitimate shots at winning a championship," Michael Andretti said.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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