by Lynne Huntting
Firestone Indy Lights polesitter James Hinchcliffe led from flag to flag at Long Beach to claim his first series victory in 18 starts.
The Team Moore Racing driver led all 45 laps of the event, bettering the 20 he headed in 2009 at Kentucky, the only other Lights event where he hd run up front. The victory also eased athe blow of seeing another pole position, in St Petersburg earlier this year, disappear when he was assaulted into retirement at the first turn.
"It feels like it has been a long time coming," 'Hinch' admitted, "We had a couple of close calls last season, and starting from the pole in St Pete didn't work out for us, but, all weekend long, the Team Moore Racing car was great, and I owe a huge thank you to all of the boys.
"Today's win was also a relief. 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.
"To get a first win out of the way and another pole is huge. Basically, it was a perfect weekend for us, and to do it here in Long Beach, at one of the staple events on the IndyCar Series calendar, is phenomenal. It was a huge relief and hopefully the first of many."
"We had a really good rhythm and pace, and then I kept seeing those yellows come out, but we had a great car on the restarts. Today was about not making mistakes, and it was great to have the pole.
The Canadian came home ahead of Charlie Kimball and points leader JK Vernay, who had started in the reverse order with Vernay alongside Hinchcliffe on the front row. However, once Kimball passed the young French driver, they stayed in that position for the duration, with Kimball equalling the career-best result he took last weekend at Barber Motorsport Park.
"I'm really pleased with my second podium finish in a row," the AFS/Andretti Autosport pilot admitted, "With Long Beach being like a home race for me, I was lucky to have friends and family here cheering for me, and the #26 car ran well all weekend.
"[Sebastian] Saavedra hit me before the start so I was worried about my right rear pretty much all race, but I had to focus on getting past 'Hinch'.
“I tried everything I could, threw the kitchen sink at him, but just couldn't catch him.”