Leeds, AL – April 24, 2016 – Sunday proved to be a successful day at the racetrack for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (SPM), with Indy Lights driver Santiago Urrutia capturing the win and IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe earning a season-best, sixth-place finish at Barber Motorsports Park.
Santiago started third and made two passes during the first five laps of the race to move to the front. From that point, he never relinquished the lead, in what was described by IndyCar Radio as “about as dominating a performance as we’ve seen all year.”
“I am so happy,” said Urrutia. “The car was so quick yesterday but I made a mistake, so when I crossed the line today I said ‘Yes! Finally!’ Finally I got a podium, which is good for me and good for the team. We’ve had our problems so far this season but we have some momentum now.
“Last year was really difficult for us and this year is even more difficult, because there are so many good drivers in the Mazda Road to Indy. We’ve had five different winners this season and qualified 16 cars within one second of each other and that says how competitive Indy Lights is. I’m a rookie and I’ve made some mistakes, but I can’t make those mistakes anymore if I’m going to win the championship. I have to thank Mazda because I wouldn’t be here without them.”
Teammates RC Enerson, Andre Negrao and Scott Anderson finished fourth, eleventh and thirteenth, respectively.
Later on Sunday, the Verizon IndyCar Series took to the track for the 90-lap Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.
Hinchcliffe started eight and teammate Mikhail Aleshin started 13th.
Within the first three laps, Hinchcliffe advanced two positions. After a fantastic, 5.8-second pit stop from the No. 5 Arrow Electronics crew, the Canadian fan favorite was running as high as fifth. Tire degradation and fuel strategy played a part in his fight to hold onto sixth position, where he finished the race.
“It was a solid day,” said Hinchcliffe. “Being able to move up a couple spots was good. We struggled a little bit more than others with tire degradation, so it forced us to stop early a couple times, which meant we were saving fuel in those runs there. All in all, the No. 5 Arrow Electronics car was really quick, maybe just a little bit rough on tires, but it’s good two weekends in a row to come out with strong finishes and we’ll hopefully keep this momentum going into the month of May.”
As the race was just about to start, Aleshin was hit by Carlos Munoz, sending him off-track. Race control directed the No. 7 SMP Racing car to the back of the field, where Aleshin would struggle to hold his position with an unbalanced car for the rest of the race. The Russian driver finished 17th.
“Well, that’s what happens when someone doesn’t use their brain,” said Aleshin. “The rest of the race was bad because I got hit in the back of the car at the start and then someone hit me on my front wheel. The car was completely unbalanced after that. Something was bent, so the job was done before it even started.”
On Saturday, the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires Series ran the first of two races. Enerson lead the SPM stable, starting third and finishing sixth for the Legacy Indy Lights 100 at Barber Motorsports Park. The 19-year-old looked strong but got pushed off track during the restart on lap seven. Negrao finished eighth (started 14th) and Anderson finished 10th (started 15th). Urrutia started fifth but finished 11th after receiving a drive-through penalty for avoidable contact.
In three weeks, the Verizon IndyCar Series and Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires Series will head back to the Midwest for the fifth race of the 2016 IndyCar season. The Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis will take place on Saturday, May 14 at 3:30 p.m. ET. The 82-lap competition will be broadcast live on ABC and tickets are available online at www.IndianapolisMotorSpeedway.com.