Race Report: Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana
NEW ORLEANS April 12, 2015--There was nothing easy about this race weekend in the Big Easy for AJ Foyt Racing’s ABC Supply team in the Verizon IndyCar Series’ first appearance at NOLA Motorsports Park, located just outside of New Orleans.
“A difficult weekend continues,” said Takuma Sato, driver of the No. 14 Honda.
“It’s not been a good weekend on any front,” echoed No. 41 Honda driver Jack Hawksworth.
The drivers’ disappointment was palpable as both were eliminated on restarts in the inaugural race that was defined by yellow flags. Indeed, only 31 minutes of the one hour, 45 minute race was run under green.
One driver’s disappointment was another’s elation though. James Hinchcliffe won the Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana because his team gambled on pit strategy, and the large amount of caution laps favored his team’s decision to make just one pit stop early. He vaulted to the front when the leaders pitted for a second time on lap 33 of the 47-lap race. The gamble worked since the race was to end either at 75 laps or 105 minutes, whichever came first. Following Hinchcliffe to the line were Helio Castroneves, James Jakes, Simona DeSilvestro, and Juan Pablo Montoya, who led a race-high 31 laps.
The ABC Supply team did not find the ‘sweet spots’ on the 14 and 41 cars the first two days, but the team caught a break when the Hawksworth and Sato started eighth and 13th after qualifying was rained out and the grid was set by owners’ points.
In the race, the struggle continued as both drivers slipped backwards initially. However, when Sato pitted on lap 11 for alternate tires—and then Hawksworth on lap 13—the cars were handling better.
The first of six full course cautions came out on lap 15 for Gabby Chavez’s stall on track after spinning off. On the lap 19 restart, Hawksworth was behind Jakes when Jakes hit the curb as he rounded the last turn before the main straight. Jakes spun and Hawksworth went to avoid him only to have Jakes drift into his path and force Hawksworth into the tire barrier. The 41 car sustained substantial damage and could not continue. Hawksworth finished 24th. Jakes went on to finish third—winning on a bet just like his teammate Hinchcliffe.
"On a restart, someone spun in front of me and I had nowhere to go and we hit and I ended up in the tire barrier,” said Hawksworth. “It was very unfortunate and there was nothing we could do about it. It's not been a good weekend on any front. We need to analyze what went wrong and put it behind us.”