After losing his ride following the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season, Hinchcliffe went searching for his next home. In a somewhat poetic way, it was his old home with Andretti Autosport. The move back to Michael Andretti’s team was just the right combination of comfort and opportunity.
Though James only ran a partial, six-race schedule last year, it was all about setting up his future. The move back to full-time status this year is beneficial to both him and the team, with which he won his first three races with. After making his 150th career start on the IMS road course, Hinchcliffe is not putting any added pressure on himself this month.
The 2021 season has not started the way Hinchcliffe wanted. His first four races resulted in two DNFs and finishes of 17th, 18th, 23rd, and 18th respectively. There has been rotten luck and simply being at the wrong place at the wrong time. The driver of the No. 29 Honda has seen his fair share this season and hopes to get back on track this week at Indy.
The last taste of victory that Hinchcliffe had came in 2018 at Iowa Speedway. It has been a long and winding road for the popular Canadian, from triumph to near tragedy, he has experienced it all.
The accident during Indy 500 practice six years ago is haunting, but also a vivid reminder of the risks and bravery that are involved with this sport. Hinchcliffe’s only pole to date came in his return to Indy the next year, in what is still a truly remarkable story that could only unfold at IMS.
Unfortunately, Hinchcliffe’s love-hate relationship with IMS took another turn in 2018 when he failed to qualify for the race. It was another heart-pounding moment for the whole team. Through no fault of his own, there has been no shortage of drama associated with him at Indy.
After reuniting with the Andretti team for the race last year, Hinchcliffe was quick to get up to speed. He never put a wheel wrong during the event and finished 7th after qualifying on the second row. It nearly beat his career-best finish, which was a 6th place result in his first 500 with the Andretti squad in 2012.
Heading into the Month of May, James has some extra motivation to fuel him each day he climbs into the car. After losing his father Jeremy earlier this year, Hinchcliffe paid tribute to him with a thick, brown mustache on his helmet. “He was the reason I fell in love with racing,” Hinchcliffe said. “The reason I got into Karting as a kid, he was my first sponsor, my manager, my biggest cheerleader. He was with me every step of the way, all the way up to IndyCar. It’s been so weird not being able to have him at the race track. I figured that was a cool way to have him with me the whole time.”
Hinchcliffe will have five teammates to work with this year. The familiarity and comradery that he exudes with his teammates is refreshing to see. This is a tight-knit group of drivers who all share the same dream – winning at Indianapolis.
The light-hearted jokes and scenes of laughter are not an act. This team is the true definition of the word, always working together for the common goal. While they understand the plan, their focus on race day is to get to the front. By working together in the days and weeks before the race, they improve the chances of that happening.
Michael Andretti never won the 500 as a driver, but he has won it five times as a team owner. Obviously, having his son Marco drinking the milk would be the ultimate story for the sport, but there is a reason why he enters the most cars of any team every single year. He just wants one of his cars to win the race.
Hinchcliffe currently has 17 career podium finishes in IndyCar. Adding to that total this season is his primary objective, but hoisting the Canadian flag in victory lane at Indianapolis would be the icing on the cake for his return.
The ten-year career that James Hinchcliffe has had in the NTT IndyCar Series has been quite unique. Then again, the man himself would admit that he is far from normal. All kidding aside, the sport is much more enjoyable with him in it, on a full-time basis.