INDIANAPOLIS — James Hinchcliffe is coming back home. Challenge accepted and challenge conquered. On Wednesday morning, Andretti Autosport announced that they’ll run the popular NTT IndyCar Series driver in three races this season, including both at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Hinchcliffe, will drive the No. 29 Honda.
“We’re really excited to have James (Hinchcliffe) back,” said team owner Michael Andretti. “It is like he’s coming back home. When he left in ’14, definitely left with the intent of him coming back some day. It finally happened this year, so we’re really excited about that.”
Hinchcliffe, replaced the departing Danica Patrick in the Go Daddy ride at the team in 2012. He did so after taking Rookie of the Year Honors in 2011 when racing for Newman Haas Racing.
Hinchcliffe, ran three seasons at Andretti and scored three victories in 52 starts, all coming in 2013. His best finish in the championship standings was eighth which occurred twice (2012, 2013).
While with Andretti, he became best friends with the guys on the team. In fact, he remained close with them even after he left in 2015 for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.
“James fits in perfectly with our team,” Andretti continued. “When you have a multi-driver team with a lot of different personalities, it’s very important to have not only a talented and fast driver but a guy that’s going to be able to fit in with everybody. James is perfect for that. He’s friends with everybody on our team, all the drivers. They’re all excited about having him back.
“It’s going to be fun.”
Hinchcliffe, says that while his return to Andretti will be fun, it will also be challenging as well. This is the first time in his career that he’s not a full time driver. It’s tough to be in a part-time role and win in this series now-a-days. So, instead of dwelling on the fact that he’s not going to be racing next month in St. Pete, Hinchcliffe is going to train and prepare physically and mentally like he will.
“For sure it’s going to be a bit of a different mental situation for me heading into 2020,” Hinchcliffe said. “At the same time I’m preparing myself physically as if I was going to be racing in St. Pete.
“I’m going to be doing everything I can in the buildup to the month of May to be as prepared as possible so when we hit the track we’re right on speed.
“There’s a lot of development happening obviously with the aero screen on the car. A lot changing. A bunch of great teammates now that are going to get through that work, help get me up to speed.
“Between coming back to a team I’ve got a ton of familiarity with, I’ve had success with in the past, bringing a partner like Genesys onboard, seeing their enthusiasm behind it, just how much they’ve embraced this program has been awesome to see from our seat.
“It’s a bit of a different look going into May, knowing that the GP is your first race. I don’t think we could be part of a better program to be as prepared as possible to be successful from the second we hit the track.”
Outside of Indy, Hinchcliffe will appear in the car at Texas too. The main question to that is, why Texas?
“The Texas race makes a lot of sense both commercially and logistically,” they said. “When you have an extra crew running a car for the month of May, Texas is only two weeks later. If you’re pulling a program like Texas, you can keep the momentum of the month of May going, keep that program for two weeks longer.
“On top of that, for a lot of our partners, not just Genesys, but others as well, it’s an event that is important. It was always high on the hit list. When it sort of made sense logistically that sort of made it pretty easy.”
A lot of speculation around Hinchcliffe’s appearance in 2020 was on him being at Indy and Toronto. Both are homes to him as he was born and raised near Toronto. The reasoning behind Texas makes sense, but why not Toronto instead? Could Toronto later be added?
“Obviously we want as many races on the schedule as possible, be up there as much as possible,” Hinchcliffe said of racing in Toronto this year. “Toronto definitely has a place in my heart. I think everybody would love to see that, as well.
“The truth is logistically it’s a very tough one to make for a lot of the teams. Andretti Autosport is no different. Never say never. We’re always looking at opportunities to get the car on the track.
“But that one is actually uniquely challenging in a lot of ways unfortunately. I mean, I’ll be there in one capacity or another. I’ll be helping support the event, promote the event.
“The trajectory that race has been on the last few years is growing and growing. We have every intention of being there in 2021.
“Even if we don’t make it this year, please come support the race. Dalton Kellett, a Canadian, will be in the race anyway. Hopefully we’ll keep the event growing and come back strong in ’21.”