James Hinchcliffe finishes 19th at season-opening IndyCar race

Ten months after a near-fatal crash, James Hinchcliffe made a safe return to IndyCar at Sunday's season-opening race at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in Florida, finishing 19th. Juan Pablo Montoya won for a second consecutive year.

Canadian returns to racing after near-fatal crash last May

Canada's James Hinchcliffe, seen here driving during Saturday's practice for Sunday's IndyCar Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in Florida, finished 19th in the season-opening race. Ten months ago, Hinchcliffe suffered life-threatening injuries when a part of the suspension from his car pierce Hinchcliffe's upper left thigh during an Indianapolis 500 practice crash. (Luis M. Alvarez/Associated Press)

James Hinchcliffe made a safe return to IndyCar at Sunday's season-opening race at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in Florida.

That alone was probably a victory for the Oakville, Ont., native who missed the final 12 events of last season following a near-fatal crash on May 18, 2015 during an Indianapolis 500 practice crash.

"For me, when I was out of the car, that was kind of always the big concern," Hinchcliffe told USA TODAY Sports earlier this week. "I knew I would get healthy. I knew I would be OK. But it's whether or not I was going to be able to perform at the level that I did before that as the big question mark."

In his sixth season in the Verizon IndyCar Series driving for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, Hinchcliffe finished 19th on the 2.9-kilometre (1.8 mile), 14-turn street course.

Juan Pablo Montoya won for a second consecutive year, leading the final 25 laps and beating Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud by 2.3 seconds.

Power scratched with concussion

Former series champion Will Power was a late scratch Sunday with a mild concussion and was placed in the protocol program. He broke his own track record three times in Saturday qualifying but can't race again until he is medically cleared.

The next event is April 2 at Phoenix International Speedway.

Hinchcliffe returned to the track last Sept. 28, four-plus months after a broken part of suspension from his car pierced his upper left thigh, leading to emergency surgery.

Hinchcliffe reportedly was given 14 pints of blood from the time the safety team reached his car until the end of the operation that save his life.

Besides two surgeries, he suffered a serious neck injury in the 354 km-plus per hour (220-plus mph) accident.

A five-year veteran in the open-wheel series with four victories, Hinchcliffe won a rain-shortened road race at Avondale, La., last season and was seventh in the standings after five races.

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