Long Beach, CA – April 16, 2016 – Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (SPM) driver James Hinchcliffe earned a season-best start of seventh for Sunday’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Hinchcliffe finished second on Friday’s combined practice charts, just 0.22 seconds off the leader’s pace. The Canadian fan favorite finished second in his qualifying group and moved into the second round. Hinchcliffe’s round-two qualifying was good enough for him to advance to the Firestone Fast Six, however a technical malfunction with IndyCar’s Timing and Scoring equipment changed the position of the final timing line, giving Hinchcliffe a seventh-place start for the race.
Despite the misfortune, Hinchcliffe remained optimistic.
“Today was a really good day,” said Hinchcliffe. “We rolled off the truck with a good car on Friday and I’m really proud of the Arrow Electronics guys for the prep that they did because the car was a rocket right from the get-go. We’ve just been making little tweaks to it, trying to get into a position to be fighting for the Firestone Fast Six, and we did. We finished seventh.
“We kind of got screwed a little bit with the way that the Timing and Scoring system failed but it is what it is. We saved a run on a set of reds, which could be a benefit for the race. We’re starting on the inside, which is great. It’s such a turnaround from the race in Phoenix two weeks ago. There are a lot of reasons to be happy today and I’m proud of the guys. Hopefully we can just move forward in the race.”
Teammate Mikhail Aleshin finished ninth in his qualifying group and did not advance to the second round. He will start Sunday’s race in 18th, driving the No. 7 SMP Racing car.
“The qualifying didn’t go how we expected it to go,” said Aleshin. “But the race is going to be long and we just need to get used to red tires, and be optimistic.”
Both SPM drivers had a solid third practice, with Aleshin finishing fifth and Hinchcliffe in eighth.
The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach will take place on Sunday at 1:45 p.m. PT. The 80-lap competition will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Network from 4-7 p.m. ET.