Alex Tagliani spun coming off the second turn and the yellow flag flew on lap 138 to slow the field. Carpenter, who was a challenger in the first stint of the race when he drove all the way to second, was one of the few cars that made a pit stop during that caution. Power also made a pit stop to take an alternate strategy over most of the field.
Hinchcliffe was in front when it went green on lap 148.
The final yellow flag flew on lap 155 for debris on the frontstretch and Rahal was in front on lap 159 when the green flag was about to wave on lap 160. That is when the battle got tight and the racing even harder leading to some hard feelings afterwards.
“Hinchcliffe I’m a little pissed about,” Rahal said. “I was on his outside and he specifically put me in the gray. If I didn’t lift we would have crashed and that is not the way I race and not the way he should either. He won the race and I’m not going to be a sore loser. We didn’t quite have his speed today but we were close. Coming from where we’ve been the last few weeks this feels pretty good. We are getting closer. Finally. It feels really good. I’m proud of my guys because it hasn’t been easy. I feel like I can race with these guys that are up front and it is frustrating to not be there. I feel like I got robbed. I should have had a podium at least today but I’ll take a fifth.
“Hinchcliffe flat-out tried to take me out and to put a guy in the gray is total BS. That is not the way we race. But we put on a good show there, that’s for sure.”
Hinchcliffe understood why Rahal might be miffed but he explained his side of the restart.
“The preferred line is the high line,” Hinchcliffe explained. “Unfortunately, the pole sitter doesn’t get to pick. My car was working better up high on the restart so I was in front going into the corner and picked the line that I wanted. Yes, I was running higher than back in the old Iowa days when you had a ton of downforce and kept on the white line. I was doing what I had to do to get my car around and as the pole sitter I had that right.
“You are racing for the lead and it is what it is. We were racing for the win. If I could have picked the lanes I would have taken the high line. I had to go where my car was working.”
Hinchcliffe is a driver that likes to have fun and there is nothing more fun than winning races.
“It’s coming together for James,” Andretti said. “We always realized he had potential. It’s been said once you get that first win the others come easier and that is how it has been for James. It’s been a weird year. It’s either ‘Feast or Famine’ for him. But I think James can be there fighting for the championship all the way to the end.”
Hinchcliffe entered the season searching for his first career victory but since then he has kicked the door in and charging through.
“All last year and during the off-season people said things like once you get your first win things come way easier after that,” Hinchcliffe said. “They obviously haven’t tried winning an IndyCar race because it’s not easy under any circumstances.
“It’s just incredible to be here now, three wins in and that first one is so hard to get. But if you look at the record books, there are a lot of guys that have one win, and a pretty big factor, smaller that have won, two, smaller factor again that have won three, then it kind of goes up exponentially from there of guys that have had more than that. It’s nice to be chalking a few up. But at the same time, these races are so hard to win. You’ve got to be with a good crew, good car, good put pits, call it right, drive smart and have some luck. That’s all part of it. And you can’t take anything for granted. You can’t assume you’re in a good position, because there are legitimately 12 guys any weekend that can win a race, and you just never know if you’ll ever win another one.
“Will used to tell me that and I used to laugh at him, because that’s when he was winning six races a year; it’s just so true, and in an environment this competitive, you just never know. We are enjoying what we have got now and the success we’ve had, but we have got to keep our heads down and work harder than ever if we want to get back up here.”