Chevy engine change penalizes Canuck

Canadian IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe greets fans at the Edmonton International Airport in...

Canadian IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe greets fans at the Edmonton International Airport in Edmonton on Wednesday, July 20, 2011. (Codie McLachlan/QMI Agency)

DEAN MCNULTY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:28 PM ET

If you are going to be penalized, it helps if some of your rivals get dinged, too.

That is sort of how James Hinchcliffe's week has worked out as he and the No. 27 Andretti Autosport Chevrolet team prepare for Sunday's IZOD IndyCar Series Grand Prix of Long Beach.

At a two-day test at California's Infineon Raceway earlier this week Hinchcliffe's GoDaddy.com machine developed an engine problem that required a change of motors.

As a result IndyCar officials penalized the 25-year-old Canadian 10 spots on the grid for Sunday's race.

That would have been a huge hole to climb out of for Hinchcliffe.

But Chevrolet engineers decided because the problem with the Hinchcliffe engine was likely to affect all of the other bow tie teams, it would change the 2.2 litre V6 motors on the whole bunch of them.

Included in the now 11 race teams penalized grid spots are points leader Helio Castroneves and his Penske Racing teammates Ryan Briscoe and Will Power along with Hinchcliffe's teammates Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti.

So now Hinchcliffe will have a whole lot of company at the mid pack of the grid when the green flag drops in Long Beach, in a way making his penalty almost moot.

"I was already penalized the 10 spots before the decision to change out all Chevy engines," Hinchcliffe said this week. "It's a bummer, but now at least I'm not alone."

The rule on engine changes was put in with input from the three manufacturers -- Chevrolet, Honda and Lotus -- in an attempt to keep costs down.

The specific rule is that a team making an engine change before the power plants have reached at least 2,960 kms must take a 10-place grid penalty.

But it is doubtful any of three manufacturers had such a massive engine change in mind as what happened to Chevrolet at Infineon.

Hinchcliffe is in the thick of the championship points battle after two races -- currently fourth behind Castroneves, Scott Dixon and Power -- and he is a former winner at Long Beach in the Atlantic Series so he clearly had high hopes for a top finish at the temporary street course.

"Long Beach has always been one of my favourite events," he said this week.

Hinchcliffe is not laying any of the blame on Chevrolet, in fact just the opposite.

"Chevy has been an incredible partner since the new cars arrived," he said. "They have won the first two races (Castroneves and Power), from pole, and I'm proud to wear the bow tie on my chest.

"It would be easy to complain about how harsh (the penalty) is, but I think the attitude of everyone on the Go Daddy crew is that when the going gets tough, it's time to nut up, buckle down and push hard for the best result possible. And that's exactly what we're going to do."

Other drivers affected by the decision are: Ed Carpenter, Rubens Barrichello, Tony Kanaan, E.J. Viso, and JR Hildebrand.

Qualifying for Sunday's race goes Saturday at 5 p.m. EDT.

FINISH LINES

J.R. Fitzpatrick will not be at Rockingham (N.C.) Speedway Sunday for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Good Sam Roadside Assistance 200. The Cambridge, Ont., native had hoped to race in all 26 NCWT events but a sponsorship gap will see him miss the next two races. He will be back in the No. 60 Chevrolet Silverado at Charlotte Motor Speedway May 18 ... Meanwhile David Ragan drove Fitzpatrick's former Nationwide No. 27 Ford at the O'Reilly Auto Parts 300 Friday at Texas Motor Speedway. ... Unlike Boston Bruin's goaltender Tim Thomas -- who skipped meeting U.S. President Barrack Obama at the White House this year -- three-time and reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart will be there to be honoured by Obama on Tuesday ... For a mere $1,000 a ticket race fans can mingle with Formula One drivers on June 7 in Montreal at "The Grand Evening", the official kick off of the 2012 Canadian Grand Prix weekend. Tickets for 6 p.m. cocktail and the 7:30 p.m. dinner can be obtained by visiting www.circuitgillesvilleneuve.ca or by contacting the Grand Prix du Canada at 1-514-350-4731.

dean.mcnulty@sunmedia.ca


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