Fast Start Has Hinchcliffe Thinking Title

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James Hinchcliffe (27) and Takuma Sato battle during Sunday’s Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in Florida. (Joe Secka/JMS Pro Photo)

Empirical evidence and hard numbers from the 2012 season (Hunter-Reay securing the title in the final race by a scant three points, eight different winners and eight different pole sitters in the 15 races, 17 different podium finishers) and the 2013 opener (seven different teams represented in the top 10, five different teams in the Firestone Fast Six qualifying to determine the Verizon P1 Award and the first three rows) back his prognostication.

“We worked so hard over the winter because we knew it was going to be that much harder to be competitive this year,” said Andretti, whose team earned its 44th Indy car victory (two more than he had as a driver). “To come out the way we did, I think all weekend all of our cars were showing they had strength. For Hinch especially, he just was on it from the first practice on. He just did a heck of a job.

Hinchcliffe, of course, takes pride in the victory, but as he said the keen competition – and escalating from other young guns such as Simona de Silvestro (sixth place after starting third), teammate Marco Andretti (first podium finish on a road/street course since Toronto in July 2011) and Vautier – will require consistency to be a title contender.

“There are 18 races to go. It’s early to call anybody a contender or rule anybody out,” he said. “It’s a good place to start. To be a contender in this series, you cannot make mistakes. It’s so competitive, there’s so many guys willing to pounce on anything you do wrong, whether it’s in the pits, making a bad setup call or a driving error, people are going to take advantage of that.

“So I think the guy at the end of the year, or girl, that made the least mistakes as a team on the whole, those are going to be the ones you’re going to see hoisting the championship trophy.

“We hope to be the ones.”