Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
July 2, 2013
THE MODERATOR: We are now pleased to be joined by the driver of the No. 27 Go Daddy Chevrolet James Hinchcliffe.
James, welcome to the call. James is fourth in the IZOD IndyCar Series after scoring his third win of 2013 at Iowa Speedway on June 23.
You have three wins, has the season gone completely the way you would have drawn it up in the preseason?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: Not even close, not even close. It's tough for anyone to have predicted that would be three‑time winners at the halfway point in the season, and having said that, with three wins, we are still only fourth in points, so we definitely have had some weekends that really didn't go to plan.
So it's really been this sort of up‑and‑down season and that's not what you predict or plan for coming into a year. But you know, at the same time, it's been great to see the speed of the Go Daddy car and the performance of the team as a whole has had, and hopefully we have found our footing again and had a good run of races in Texas and Milwaukee, and hopefully in Iowa we can keep that going.
THE MODERATOR: You were on the line when Brandon was talking; seems like Pocono is really excited for the return of IndyCar racing.
I know you had a chance to be on track there last week. What are your impressions of the tricky triangle and what kind of race do you expect?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: Well, we are equally as excited to go back there after the test, I can understand why they call it the tricky triangle. I really had no appreciation for what this place was like, even after watching it on TV and all the rest of it.
The track is so different and it makes it very difficult to set up an IndyCar there. But from the testing, I can assure you that we are going to have a great race. It's very fast. I think it's going to be a similar kind of show to Indianapolis, and another long race, 400 miles, I think that all the teams and drivers are very anxious and excited to get back there.
THE MODERATOR: And finally, not too took too far ahead but the home race of Toronto follows the Pocono event. Talk about going to Toronto and trying to get your first win in your hometown.
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: You know, I'm not going to hold my breath. That track and I have a love/hate relationship. I love it; it hates me.
We have gone there the last couple years in IndyCar and been quick, but random things have taken us out of the race, contact, mechanicals, whatever. Goes all the way back to my time in Atlantic and Indy Lights there. I hate to say it, but I'm going in there with very tempered expectations.
The big thing is for me is I love coming home and getting to race in front of the home crowd, it's unlike anything else. I am excited for that element of it and hopefully with the success we have had this year, we can give the Canadian fans something to cheer for, and I would love to come here and back that up with a strong performance for them. And we are certainly going to try to do that, but I've got some demons to overcome here before we do.
Q. You did your test at Pocono; what do you think it's going to take to win at that big oval?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: It's going to take a lot. I mean, the track, like I said, is very difficult to set up for, with very fast entering turn one, very high banks.
Turn two is pretty straightforward for us. And turn three then, long and flat, you have to make a lot of compromises on setup; and also, I think the guy that really gets that compromise nailed down the best is going to be in a strong position.
But at the same time, with the kind of racing that we saw at Indianapolis and what we've seen in testing here, I don't think you're going to have anybody that's quick enough to just‑‑ even with a good car, put his foot down and run away with it. I think draft is going to be very big, so you're going to have to be very smart, time everything right, have good stops, and ultimately be in the front back heading into that final spin to be in with a shout for the win.
Q. You're going to have to do 400 miles, and then come to Toronto and do two races back‑to‑back in the middle of July; and you know what hometown is like in the middle of July. What do you do physically to prepare for that three in a row in a period of seven days?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: I mean, it's a tremendous challenge for us, certainly. One of the biggest things is hydration. You know, as you said, Toronto in July, it's probably going to be a hot weekend and going to be draining for sure.
I know how I normally feel after Sunday here; and the fact that we are coming off a 400‑mile race the week before‑‑ you know, we have done a lot of physical training in the buildup to that. You don't want to do too much at this stage now. You don't want to wear yourself out. This is the period where you've done the hardest part of the work, and you're sort of recovering now and preparing more than anything. And it's going to come down to being well taken care of on the weekend, hydration, stretching when you need it, and just try to be smart about it.
Q. Turns one versus turns three, which do you like better and which is more challenging for you?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: Well, they are both challenging in their own right, just being so different.
When we were there at the test, we had incredibly high and gusty wind conditions, and with the exposure of turn three and without the banking to sort of help stabilize the car a bit, that was probably the bigger challenge for us.
But you know, I can certainly see come race weekend in a big pack, turn one, to do it flat is tough, man. That corner took me a while to figure out. TK and I were talking after the test; he was in the same situation.
It's a tricky little track. So we'll see when we go back for race weekend what the conditions are like, but I predict turn three to probably be the bigger challenge.
Q. Specifically what were you and TK talking about turn one?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: Well, it's just such a unique corner for us to have a corner that's that sharp, with that high bank.
One of the other weird and unique things about it is the banking kicks in probably 200 yards before you actually start turning. So you feel like you're pulling out of the car before you actually get to the corner, which is big, as well. When you're coming towards it at the speed that we are in a bunch right there, you look like you're just heading into a wall. It's just so banked, so tight, and it's tough to get your head around getting an IndyCar through there at 220‑plus miles an hour.
Q. You talked a little earlier about how your season has not gone as maybe anybody could have predicted. Can you talk just a little bit about getting that first career win, and were you surprised that you've been able to‑‑ you know, two and three have kind of come as quickly as they have.
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: Yeah, well, you know, like I was talking about before, coming into the season, there was a lot of talk about that first win, and so for us as a team, to sort of knock that out of the way in the first race was a huge relief more than anything, and just allowed us to focus on doing the best job we could week‑in and week‑out, and not worry about swinging for the fence and trying to go for wins.
From there, the two subsequent wins have all been very different. In St. Pete, we took the lead on the last stint and sort controlled the race from there; we had a lot of pressure. Brazil, obviously, we only led in the last half of the front straight, and then Iowa, we led pretty much the whole thing start to finish.
So they have all been very different. And I think getting that first one out of the way, I know they say once you get the first one, they are easier after that. Well, you know, I want them to try it and tell me just how easy it is, because it really isn't.
And so to have now three wins in a series this competitive and a year as tight as we have seen it, it's incredible, and it just speaks volumes for what the team is doing; and to have three wins in the Go Daddy car at this stage is nuts and we might not get another one for a year or two years, who knows.
But we are certainly keeping our heads down and trying to keep doing what we are doing week‑in and week‑out, because clearly some things are working.
Q. Could you just talk a little about‑‑ I read a story about at Indianapolis that you wore Greg Moore's gloves. Can you talk about the influence that he had on your career and what prompted you to do that gesture?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: You know, it's one of those sort of remarkable stories, because I only met Greg once, and I think that that highlights a lot of sort of the person that he was; and people who either met him briefly or never met him at all‑‑ what he did as a racing driver, and I was one of those people. Growing up, he was a guy I was cheering for ahead of everybody else and just really respected and really idolized him.
It's funny how touched I felt by the whole situation when he was killed, even though he was a guy I had met for ten minutes. He's always sort of stayed close in my mind.
And when the opportunity came up to take his gloves for a few laps around Indy, I was honored to have been asked to do that. And you know, I still‑‑ my helmet colors are somewhat attributed to Greg; the fact that I wear red gloves is a tribute to Greg, and he's been a very big influence in my life and my career, even through, like I said, only having met him the one time.
The glove deal at Indy was just a little way to maybe I guess pay him and his family back a little bit for the inspiration that he's given me over my career.
Q. And that was because he had never raced at Indianapolis; correct?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: That's correct, yeah. He never got a chance to race there, and for a guy who was as good on ovals as he was, that's really too bad. And the fact that he was stepping into that Penske car, which I think won the next three Indy 500s, it's tough to think about even now, because there's no doubt that we had not seen the best of Greg and he would have been a champion and probably a 500 winner maybe times over.
Q. Just wanted to get your thoughts on why Andretti Autosport has been so successful this year. What's the dynamic within the team itself? Seems like it might be very competitive just amongst you guys.
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: It is, but at the same time, we realize that working together is what puts us in position to be competing for the wins. If we start battling internally, we are going to be battling for fifth, seventh, tenth, because we are going to lose focus on making our cars the best that they can be.
And we have this tremendous chemistry right now that we work in absolute harmony Friday through Sunday morning, and then Sunday afternoon, it affords us the opportunity to take four good race cars and go out and thrash it out for the win.
You know, when you look at how competitive this season has been and how unpredictable it's been, to actually look at the numbers and see that Andretti Autosports has won half the races, it's absolutely incredible.
For us, obviously winning the championship last year with Ryan was huge. And the big sort of motivation over the winter was, we didn't want it to be a flash in the pan. We didn't want it to be a one‑and‑done, and we didn't want people thinking that we were just going to kind of rest on our laurels and say, oh, we've got this, because we know how competitive it is.
And we have probably worked even harder last winter than we did the winter of 2012, because we knew what was out there and we knew who was coming for us.
Like I said, it's just a huge testament to the drivers, engineers, crews, everybody back at the shop, how everybody is working together as a team to be in the position that we are in.
Q. Michael being the leader, does he set the right tone, do you think for the seam team to succeed?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: Michael, he's as competitive as a team owner as he was as a driver. Winning; that's why he got into this business. To have a guy like that running the show, he definitely puts us in the right frame of mind.
He appreciates as well as anyone how easy it is to lose one of these races or how easy it is to get thrown off your game a bit and get into a rut, and he's kind of a great leader and cheerleader in a sense in getting us in the right place and the right head space that we need to be in as a unit to be competitive across all four cars.
Q. I have a question that I recall hearing back on the telecast I think in the St. Pete race, that you became James Hinchcliffe 2.0, how do you change your mentality this season as compared to how you raced last year?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: I think I'm the same person, that's for sure. But every race you do, every lap you do, every corner you do, you learn something and you grow as a driver.
And you know, last year, obviously, my second year in the series, I learned an awful lot. But more than anything, I learned the areas I needed to improve in if I was going to be a winner at this level.
And having somebody like Ryan on the team and getting to watch how and he his engineer conduct themselves on a race weekend, and more specifically throughout a race, I learn an awful lot from them.
And coming into this season, there was a couple areas that I was very conscious and I knew as a driver that I had to improve on. I knew in terms of communication with the team that we could improve on and we sort of hit on all those points before St. Pete, and you know, I guess it worked.
But, you know, again, even with three wins now this season, there's still a lot of learning to do and there's a lot of growing to do as a team, and the continuity has been a huge part of it. And having Craig come on board in the engineering role has been a huge part of it. We just need to keep learning and keep growing and hopefully we can just keep being competitive each race.
Q. The race this weekend at Pocono, kind of NASCAR track, have you been watching race clips from the NASCAR races, as well as old IndyCar clips, to gauge how it goes in comparison to your test session recently?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: You know, I watched a bunch of footage before we got to the test, and mostly from NASCAR, and I decided about the lap two that I was going to spend more time looking up old IndyCar footage, because it's just so different for us than it is for a stock car.
We learned an awful lot at the test obviously and got up to speed in a lot of ways, but there's definitely still something to be learned. I know the last race was back in the 80s, but the race craft and sort of how to pass, be passed, set things up, you can still learn a lot from those guise. A lot of talented drivers were in the field back then and it's going to be cool to see how it plays out for us, for sure.
Q. First of all, congratulations on your season this year. As far as your TV work, when you're on SPEED Center or Wind Tunnel, how much of that is scripted, how much is ad libbed, and what's the value of that to your sponsor, because you're wearing a suit, not a driver's suit.
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: Well, the shows are, I would say, 50/50, scripted/ad libbed. A lot of times you'll go up there with something scripted and one of us will screw something up and we will just have to start winging it from there or vice versa. Rick Allen and I have done that a couple of times together in our two shows together; it works out, and we cover each other very well, and that's the nature of live television. You sometimes are going off script, and sometimes just going off the seat of your pants there, and you always have to be adaptable, and I find that part of it a lot of fun.
In terms of value to sponsors, it's true, I'm not wearing branded clothing, but I would like to think that a lot of the people who are watching know who James Hinchcliffe is and what I drive, and you know, we are associated with Andretti Autosports and Go Daddy and Chevy and Firestone and all those people and usually see it at some point during the show, some clip of the latest IndyCar race, and the guys there are very good about giving me my shout out and all the rest of it.
It's more a way for me to get some more experience there, try to draw more fans towards IndyCar, and like I said, hopefully if they are watching that, they will pay attention to what James Hinchcliffe is and who we drive for.
Q. Is this going to be an ongoing thing for you this summer? Do you have more appearances scheduled?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: Yeah, I'm going to try to be there as much as possible. We have great relationship with the guys there at SPEED and they have been so kind to me for the opportunity and it really is a pleasure working. They make it so easy for somebody who is completely untrained in television and frankly has no right to be there, to get him to look like he knows what he's doing.
So, yeah, we are going to keep at it as long as we can and hopefully get a couple more good runs there.
THE MODERATOR: Seeing as we have no further questions for James, we will thank him for his time and wish him the best of luck this weekend at Pocono.
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