Hinchcliffe: Full-time return “was the only option”

James Hinchcliffe says he never had doubts over his IndyCar future despite starting last year with just three races guaranteed.

Hinchcliffe: Full-time return “was the only option”

The immensely popular Canadian was abruptly dropped by Arrow McLaren SP at the end of 2019, leaving him scrambling to find a ride for 2020.

Genesys, a “global leader in cloud customer experience and contact center solutions” stepped up to sponsor him in the #29 Andretti Autosport-Honda for three races – at Texas Motor Speedway (a race it also sponsored), the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the Indy 500. Then when Zach Veach stood down from AA’s #26 Gainbridge entry in late September, Hinchcliffe subbed for the final three races.

But Hinchcliffe, who has six IndyCar wins to his name, says he never doubted he could switch up his bit-part role to a fulltime entry for 2021.

“Honestly I never really had that outlook because I was supposed to be on the grid,” said the 2016 Indy 500 polesitter. “I never thought that I should be anywhere else. So the drive and the fight was always going to be there to come back.

“It was a weird year, for sure, but in a lot of ways, had it not happened the way it did, the opportunity that I find myself in now wouldn't have presented itself. It's one of those ‘door close, window open’ deals. I truly am a believer that everything happens for a reason, and there's a reason it all played out the way that it did.

“I'm now back with a phenomenal race team with incredible partners like Genesys and Capstone. And yeah, that was always… there was nothing else to do. You ask what was the drive? Because that was the only option – to come back.”

While incumbent Andretti Autosport sponsor Capstone Turbine Corporation will sponsor the #29 car for six races, Genesys has increased its presence with Hinchcliffe and the team, so that it will be primary partner for 10 of the 17 races. That leaves only the sponsor for his home race in Toronto as yet unannounced.

Asked what encouraged Genesys to so substantially increase its involvement in the sport at such precarious financial times, Hinchcliffe applauded the efforts of the NTT IndyCar Series itself and Andretti Autosport.

“I think a lot of the credit has to go to the series and to the product that IndyCar is,” he said. “Genesys were new to sports sponsorship, so obviously new to motorsports. And even in a year like 2020 where one of the best parts about being a partner to a race team is the at-track activation and we couldn't do any of that, they saw the potential.

“They knew eventually the world would open back up and those opportunities would come back, and they loved the IndyCar product. They loved working with Andretti Autosport. They'd been looking for kind of a spokesperson. There was a lot of boxes to check to be more involved in the Indianapolis community specifically because they do have a big office there.

“So it was a combination of a lot of things, but I think the overwhelming one is the fact that, even with everything that 2020 was and what that took away from all the partners in the series, they still wanted to come back because the foundation, the product of IndyCar, is still very valuable to them in a lot of different ways.

“It’s a real testament to the series and then of course everybody on my personal team and then the team itself, and Andretti Autosport and Genesys people all working together to put the deal together and come to the right terms.”

Hinchcliffe, who raced for Andretti Autosport 2012-’14 and scored his first three wins there, said the pace of the cars in the St. Petersburg season finale meant that “expectations are high” between he and teammates Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Colton Herta.

“Basing off the races that we had last year with our partial season, we were really starting to gel at the end of it. It's obviously always tough coming in as a part-timer and especially with a switch to a new team. But throughout the course of the year, we got to understand each other and learn how each other works and kind of get that group back molding together and gelling together.

“I think expectations are high for the year. We've got a pretty stacked lineup with Ryan, Alex, Colton and myself. You look at Mid-Ohio [Andretti Autosport 1-2-3 in Race 2] and what could have been potentially another podium sweep at St. Pete before Alex, Colton and I ran out of talent. But the pace was there so we're very excited to get the season started and hit the ground running…

“The engineering staff that I'm working with is a little bit changed from the races last year, but for the most part it's a lot of familiar faces, so I think that's a huge advantage…

“If we can have a good sort of first stint here going into the Month of May, it's going to set us all up for a good shot at being in the championship fight come Long Beach.”

 

Photo by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images

 

shares
comments
Rossi positive on Andretti changes after 2020 “sucked”

Previous article

Rossi positive on Andretti changes after 2020 “sucked”

Next article

Ericsson targets qualifying improvements, oval breakthrough

Ericsson targets qualifying improvements, oval breakthrough
Load comments

About this article

Series IndyCar
Drivers James Hinchcliffe
Teams Andretti Autosport
Author David Malsher-Lopez
Why IndyCar's new aero parts should improve racing at Indy Prime

Why IndyCar's new aero parts should improve racing at Indy

Tino Belli, IndyCar’s director of aerodynamic development, believes the changes to the underside of the cars will allow them to run closer at Indy and make passes. The moment of truth comes on its biggest stage, writes David Malsher-Lopez.

Colton Herta – America's next racing hero Prime

Colton Herta – America's next racing hero

Last Sunday, Colton Herta demolished his IndyCar opposition in the second round of the season. David Malsher-Lopez explains why Andretti Autosport’s youngest ace bears all the hallmarks of becoming the country’s next homegrown motorsport hero.

IndyCar
Apr 29, 2021
How good is Palou and is he Dixon’s strongest title rival? Prime

How good is Palou and is he Dixon’s strongest title rival?

Last Sunday, Alex Palou delivered his first IndyCar victory on his Chip Ganassi Racing debut. Is the young Spaniard going to become his legendary teammate Scott Dixon’s biggest title threat? David Malsher-Lopez reports.

IndyCar
Apr 21, 2021
Preview: Why IndyCar in 2021 is too close to call Prime

Preview: Why IndyCar in 2021 is too close to call

The fight for supremacy in the NTT IndyCar Series will be as intense as ever. David Malsher-Lopez is your guide to the main contenders and six intriguing sub-plots.

IndyCar
Apr 15, 2021
Is Arrow McLaren SP ready for IndyCar’s title fight? Prime

Is Arrow McLaren SP ready for IndyCar’s title fight?

With Patricio O'Ward and Felix Rosenqvist leading its line-up, 2021 could be the year Arrow McLaren SP-Chevrolet joins the IndyCar elite, writes David Malsher-Lopez.

IndyCar
Feb 21, 2021
Dale Coyne picks the Top 10 drivers in his giant-slaying team Prime

Dale Coyne picks the Top 10 drivers in his giant-slaying team

Over 37 seasons, Dale Coyne has run no fewer than 80 Indy car drivers – including himself! Ahead of his first season running Romain Grosjean, we asked Coyne to pick the best 10 drivers ever to compete for him. By David Malsher-Lopez.

IndyCar
Feb 10, 2021
Why enigmatic Marco Andretti will be missed Prime

Why enigmatic Marco Andretti will be missed

Last Friday, Marco Andretti announced he is withdrawing from fulltime IndyCar racing. David Malsher-Lopez explains how this third-gen racer was a puzzle in the car, but a straight shooter off-track.

IndyCar
Jan 19, 2021
Why Roger Penske is an American motorsport icon Prime

Why Roger Penske is an American motorsport icon

In this exclusive one-on-one interview, Roger Penske reveals the inner drive that has made him not only a hugely successful team owner and businessman but also the owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar. He spoke to David Malsher-Lopez.

IndyCar
Dec 28, 2020