"I've never started last before!" the French sportscars star admitted. "When I saw everyone in front of me at the start, I couldn't believe I was back there.
"My thought process starting the race was 'just to move forward,'" he explained. "It was really difficult at the beginning, we were already a lap down before I got confident with the car. Something just clicked, and everything unlocked and we started moving forward. I'm really starting to enjoy the ovals. It's close racing and it's fun."
Another IZOD IndyCar Series rookie on the ovals, Rubens Barrichello, echoed that appreciation after finishing just behind Helio Castroneves: "I must say I am happy with this seventh place finish.
"I started the race on a completely different set up and for two stints my car was pretty loose," he went on. "We managed not to lose a lap and once the car got better after the changes we made in the first two pit stops then I was able to race. It's still such a different experience on this ovals but like I said I am pleased with the result."
Certainly as far as the race went, it was a day for unexpected stars to shine and for Andretti Autosport to burn brightest of all, Hinchcliffe's momentary mishap aside. But it was a day that several of the bigger names in the championship - Will Power, Ryan Briscoe and Dario Franchitti chief among them - will be keen to move on from, as the series looks ahead to its next engagement in two weeks time in Toronto.
Full race results