April 3, 2013

Motorsports Insider: Canadian may grab IndyCar spotlight Danica abandoned

A season-opening win at St. Petersburg, Fla., put his personality in the spotlight.

You can’t blame IndyCar if it would like James Hinchcliffe to be a winner.

He’s funny, bright and knows his way around the Internet.

But for most of his first two years in the IndyCar Series, the 26-year-old Canadian was merely another driver. He wasn’t bad. He wasn’t great. He was just OK.

Worse, he didn’t stand out.

But his season-opening victory at St. Petersburg, Fla., two weeks ago put him and his personality in the spotlight. IndyCar insiders and hard-core fans know he’s kind of a goofball.

Now more people are finding out. And more will if he keeps things going this weekend at the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.

“I’ve always tried to be myself at the racetrack,” Hinchliffe said after winning at St. Pete by fighting off series veteran Helio Castroneves. “I think some people, at some points in my career, thought that maybe I wasn’t taking my job seriously enough or something like that. But I think when you look at the last three laps of this race, the pressure we were under, I made a couple tiny little errors, but to bring it all back, keep our head down, hold off a guy like Helio, hopefully it proves that you can be a joker off the track but still get the job done on the track.”

Hinchliffe spends a lot of time getting things done off the track. He’s got a website called Hinchtown, and if you visit the section called “Meet the Mayor,” you see his picture and a greeting. “At some point, we’re going to invite you to become a citizen of this fine town, but right now we are fixing all the potholes to ensure that you have smooth travels once you move in.”

Last year, Hinchcliffe was known as the guy who took Danica Patrick’s ride when she left for NASCAR. stayed on as the sponsor of the No. 7 Chevy because they liked his style. Now he’s given the company something Patrick never did — a victory.

“Certainly following Danica was a big ask,” Hinchcliffe said. “I guess we put a lot of effort into making sure it wasn’t the guy driving Danica’s car. We really wanted to make it our own by playing off her last year, things like that.... Hopefully when we get to the races this year, it will be, ‘That’s Hinch’s car.’”

The Mayor’s car.

Responsible message

Clint Bowyer’s car at the NRA 500 at TMS next weekend will carry the words “With Rights Comes Reponsibility; Secure Your Firearms.”

It’s part of the paint scheme that comes with a sponsorship from outdoors retailer Gander Mountain. It’s a partnership with Michael Waltrip Racing, which is trying to raise awareness about gun safety and keeping firearms securely stored.

MWR fielded a car for Michael Waltrip at the Daytona 500 promoting the Sandy Hook School Fund.

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