It was a bittersweet trip home for Firestone Indy Lights driver James Hinchcliffe. The Toronto native, who grew up watching the city’s annual Indy race, lost his iPhone on Friday. On Saturday he posted the second-fasted qualification lap and ensured a view of the leader at the start Sunday’s Toronto 100.
But, in that race, he smashed into a wall on his final lap, ending his hopes of a hometown win after running a solid race behind winner J.K. Vernay.
“It is super unfortunate for the hometown race,” Hinchcliffe said after the race. “We should have been on the podium but we certainly didn’t have the car at the end of the race. Maybe if we had the lead early we wouldn’t have had to use as much tire to keep up with J.K. and harass him. But that’s racing.”
Firestone Indy Lights series leader Vernay dominated the Toronto 100, leading from start to finish for the win. Vernay managed to translate his pole position into 50 flawless laps and the checkered flag.
Hinchcliffe crashed into the boards in the final moments of the last lap after running second the entire race. The crash left him with a 10th place finish.
“It’s a huge kick in the groin,” he said.
Vernay and Hinchcliffe sat first and second in series points entering Sunday’s race.
“I saw James crash in the last lap, and I’m really sorry for him but I can’t say that is not a good thing for me in the championship,” Vernay said.
Hinchcliffe ran on Vernay’s tail for the first half of the race, but fell to more than two seconds behind late in the day, leaving the Canadian to fend off third-placed Dan Clarke and the field to retain second spot.
“J.K. was starting to pull away and there was a train forming behind me,” Hinchcliffe said. “I was doing every trick in the book, and a couple I was making up on the fly, to try and keep that thing pointed straight.”
Hinchcliffe overshot a corner and allowed Clarke and third-place finisher Gustavo Yacaman to pass before behind rubbed from behind by Charlie Kimball to end up in the wall.
“It was the last lap and I made a mistake, so he wasn’t going to not go for it,” he said. “And it was the last lap, so I wasn’t going to not try and defend. A little contact and I ended up in the fence.”
Vernay, who entered the race sitting on top of the driver standings, had won three of six races this season and finished in the top five in all but one race.
Hinchcliffe has won one race this year, at the Long Beach street course, and had also finished in the top five in all but one race. The two have finished first and second on every street course this year except for Toronto.