INDIANAPOLIS — For a while, it looked like the prospects of seeing James Hinchcliffe racing during the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season was unfortunately bleak. Last Fall, Arrow McLaren SP announced that they were signing rookie driver Oliver Askew as well as Pato O’Ward as the tandem for their two-car lineup for the upcoming season.
Hinchcliffe, 33, despite being under contract with the organization for 2020, was left on the outside looking in. The team would still honor their contract and keep him on their payroll for the 2020 season, but he wouldn’t be racing for them though. He’d have to still fulfill sponsorship obligations as a result of collect payment from the team, but they essentially were paying him to stay away from the car. That to me, isn’t right, but that’s a different story for a different day.
It’s unfortunate as Hinchcliffe is a six race winner in the series including a victory in the prestigious Long Beach Grand Prix. The popular Canadian driver gave SPM three of their seven trips to victory lane and while he wasn’t competing for championships, he was in that hunt on the back end of the top 10 in the points standings. He is a top 10 driver in the most competitive series in the world and essentially being paid to stay away.
The talent and skillset is there. That’s a fact. The charisma off the track was even bigger. He was the perfect driver for any team that would be winning to sign him. Arrow McLaren SP for whatever reason didn’t think so.
In October, he was set free. The pole winner for the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 had no where to go and by that time, not many rides were even available for the taking. He and his team of people around him feverishly looked for funding to compete full-time in 2020, but the realistic prospects of that happening weren’t good.
Instead, they turned their focus on getting a deal together for Indy. On Thursday, those efforts were rewarded. Hinchcliffe, found a sponsor in Genesys, a local tech company here in Indianapolis. Genesys, will give Hinchcliffe the funding that it takes to not only run in the ‘500 (May 24) but also the GMR Grand Prix (May 9) too.
That’s great news for the series as well as Indy itself. Hinchcliffe, is a marketable driver. He won the 2018 Most Popular Driver in the series. It wouldn’t be good to have the Indy 500 run without Hinchcliffe for the second time in the last three years and third time in the last six.
How peanut butter needs jelly, the Indy 500 and IndyCar needs Hinchcliffe. It’s good that this deal got completed. The next announcement will be the team.