For a time it looked like Will Power might fight his way back into the top ten after that bizarre accident with Hildebrand during the last safety car period, but finally the wounded Penske #12 lost the backend into a right-hander and Power's efforts to save the car ended up thumping the already-fragile right hand rear of the car into the tyre barrier, meaning that Power dropped back to 16th in the final standings.
"I made another mistake there at the end and it cost us four more places," sighed Power. "Tough day but we just have to move forward and look ahead to Barber." Not the way he wanted to start his season, even if there were some small crumbs of comfort in his finishing two spots ahead of Hunter-Reay who finally retired in the pits from his mechanical issues.
With so many of the series' big names ending up out of the running thanks to accidents, incidents and glitches, it left a vacancy at the head of the class: and the self-proclaimed Major of Hinchtown was just the man to apply successfully for the vacancy.
The 26-year-old from Oakville, Ontario had stepped into some big shoes to fill in 2012 after taking over the GoDaddy.com mantle from Danica Patrick, a seat that at one point had been ear-marked for Indy 500 champion Dan Wheldon to take before his untimely death at Las Vegas at the end of 2011. Perhaps it was fate, then, that it was Hinchcliffe who claimed his maiden win in the series in Wheldon's adopted US home town, at a race started by Wheldon's widow Susie. Last year it had been the veteran Helio Castroneves who had won, and memorably scaled the catchfence to point out the road sign for Dan Wheldon Way to pay his respects; this year, Hinchcliffe's victory felt like a re-energising changing of the guard and the passing of the torch to a new generation of drivers in the sport.
"I just can't be happier. It is so awesome: Dan's home town, Dan's car - this one's for him," acknowledged Hinchcliffe in victory circle. "The people in this town are incredible. I'm glad we can open up our season here.
"That was a tough race," he said, despite having made his maiden IndyCar victory look as easy as if he'd been winning for years. Last year we qualified fourth, finished fourth. Qualified fourth again and I thought that was kind of our cursed number there for a bit," he laughed.
"The big thing was minimizing mistakes. We had a good car. Not sure if we had the fastest car over a lap but I'll tell you what, we nailed the pit stops," he said. "That last restart, man, Helio Castroneves there - he's a three-time winner at this race. He's on the reds [soft option tyres], he makes a mistake. I get by, but I'm thinking, 'He has 30 laps to get this back,' and we were saving a bit of fuel, trying to save the tyres."
He had balanced all the competing priorities with aplomb and kept the car going all the way to the finish, never giving Castroneves the slightly sliver of a chance. In Hinchcliffe, it really seems as though IndyCar is in safe hands going into 2013.
Full race results available