James Hinchcliffe through Turn 1 at Texas
Photo: Chris Owens

Following a dominant performance in the completion of the Firestone 600 that saw James Hinchcliffe lead 188 laps but finish 0.008 seconds short of victory, INDYCAR determined that the No. 5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda violated Rule 14.6.8.2.2 regarding domed skid wear.

Hinchcliffe’s race car trailed sparks throughout the event under the lights at Texas Motor Speedway, an indicator that the ride height on the Dallara IR-12 might have been low enough to cause the new-for-2016 domed skid plate to come in contact with the track surface.

During post-race analysis, INDYCAR discovered that the plate did experience enough wear to present a potential safety hazard and performance benefit for the Canadian driver. The sanctioning body fined the team $20,000 and docked both the driver and entrant 25 points.

“In our post-race analysis this week it was determined the skid plate on the No. 5 entry was worn and in violation of our rules,” said Jay Frye, INDYCAR president of competition and operations.

“This was both a performance advantage and a safety concern, as the domed portion of the skid had been ground down to the point it would have been ineffective.”

Domed skid plates debuted to mixed reviews as a new component of the aero package in use at all Verizon IndyCar Series races on superspeedways.

The team has the ability to appeal the penalty through standard procedures as outlined in the INDYCAR rulebook.

Hinchcliffe joked after his runner-up finish about both the ride height of his car and the sparks that trailed it, giving credit to race engineer Allen McDonald.

“We call him Allen McDown-A-Flat because he always runs the car lower than anybody else,” said Hinchcliffe during the post-race press conference. “So after a year and a half driving Allen’s car I’ve become pretty immune to bumps and shocks coming out from the floor of my race car.

“It actually is like our way to distract the drivers behind me, too, in night races.”

The race on the 1.455-mile oval served as the final superspeedway event of the year with the series heading to two road courses to finish out the season. The return of Watkins Glen International on Sept. 4 stands as the penultimate round of the championship ahead of the double-points finale at Sonoma Raceway on Sept. 18.