Allan Brewer, IndyCar correspondent
The "Mayor of Hinchtown" is moving. IndyCar's 2011 Rookie of the Year James Hinchcliffe, who maintains an internet website bubbling over with personality, has signed to drive for Andretti Autosport in the 2012 open-wheel season. He will pilot the No. 27 Dallara/Chevrolet vacated by Danica Patrick at season's end. The car will retain its familiar black and green Go Daddy sponsorship with Hinchcliffe behind the wheel.
I hope that makes me the first Go Daddy Guy.
"I'm stepping into Danica's heels, if you will," Hinchcliffe said. "But that's part of what makes this deal so exciting. I hope that makes me the first Go Daddy Guy."
"We've all realized you have to be 80% businessman, 20% race car driver, but you also have to stand out, because there's a lot of guys who can drive a car fast," he continued. "With the sport being so sponsor-driven these days, if you want to stand out as the spokesman for a company, you have to be so much more than that. That was the concept behind Hinchtown. At first people thought I was nuts. As the years went on, the site started to get its own personality."
"To know that I was the next guy in line for the spot (behind the late Dan Wheldon) and thought of along the same lines is an incredibly humbling thing, and it makes me really proud. I'm going to think about him every time I get in that car. There's no doubt that a part of me will be driving for Dan this year."
"Hinch", as he's known in both real and virtual circles, made his first IndyCar start less than a year ago (April 10, 2011) at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama. He capped a successful freshman run for Newman Haas Racing by taking a 12th place overall result in the year's championship standings. His best finish was fourth on three occasions (Long Beach, New Hampshire and Kentucky), but it was his long stint at the front in the Kentucky race ahead of eventual series champion Dario Franchitti that was the highlight of his season.
Hinchcliffe finished second in the 2010 Indy Lights championship for Team Moore Racing, and fifth in 2009 for Sam Schmidt Motorsports. He won three events during his two-year stint in the Lights series (Long Beach, Edmonton and Chicagoland). Hinch grew up in karting, then passed through A1GP, Formula Atlantic, Formula BMW and Formula Mazda in his ascendancy to the big cars.
The popular 25 year-old Canadian lists long walks on the beach, flannel shirts, maple syrup and dog sled racing as his off-track passions. "I am also a competitive lumber jack in my spare time," he jokes.