NHR's Hinchcliffe Indy 500 preview

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

SPROTT DRIVER JAMES HINCHCLIFFE
Centennial Running of the Indianapolis 500 – Indianapolis Motor Speedway

NEWS & NOTES:

1 POLE (1987) & TWO SECONDS AT INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY (IMS)

The 2011 entry will mark the 19th year for the team in the event and the sixth since 1995. Prior to 2011, the team prepared a total of 28 entries for drivers such as Mario and Michael Andretti, Nigel Mansell, Paul Tracy, Bruno Junqueira, Sebastien Bourdais, Justin Wilson, Graham Rahal, Robert Doornbos and Hideki Mutoh. Spaniard Oriol Servia, driver of the No. 2 Telemundo entry, and Canadian James Hinchcliffe, driver of the No. 06 Sprott entry, will bring that total to 30 in 2011.

My first memory of the Indy 500 was when Jacques Villeneuve won the race in 1995.

James Hinchcliffe

NHR’s highest finish in the Indy 500 is second place with Mario Andretti in 1985 and Michael Andretti in 1991 although team drivers have led a total of 791 laps here. Mario Andretti also brought the team its highest start in the event when he won the pole position in 1987. NHR’s 2004 entry of Junqueira marked the first time for the team to compete here since 1995 and they qualified fourth and led 16 laps in the late stages of the race before pitting a few laps before the race ended early due to tornados. They returned again in 2005 with Junqueira, who led two laps but was injured in a crash while trying to lap a backmarker, and IMS rookie Bourdais. In 2008 the team ran Justin Wilson and Graham Rahal here during a transition season in the series and ran Rahal and Robert Doornbos in 2009. Hideki Mutoh qualified for the Firestone Fast Nine shootout in 2010 and started ninth but retired with handling problems. The team has earned Rookie of the Year once, with Mansell in 1993 when he finished third. The team will attempt to win Indy 500 Rookie of the Year again this season with James Hinchcliffe, 24.

MORE ON FINISHING SECOND TWICE AT INDY

Mario Andretti led 107 of 200 laps in the 1985 Indianapolis 500 but finished second to Danny Sullivan’s “Spin and Win” effort. Michael Andretti led 22 laps but stalled in the pit entrance on his final stop and finished second to Rick Mears in 1991. Nigel Mansell led 34 laps and finished third in his first (of two) Indy 500’s in 1993 and was also named “Rookie of the Year” that season. NHR drivers have led a total of 791 laps at Indianapolis Motor Speedway which is possibly the highest number of laps led by a team yet to win the legendary race.

IN 500-MILE RACES -- 5 WINS & 6 POLES

The team has won five 500-mile races. The most recent 500-mile wins came in 2000 (Christian Fittipaldi, $1 million purse) and 2001 (Cristiano da Matta, $1 million purse) at California Speedway. The team also won the 500-mile events at Michigan International Speedway in 1984 (Mario Andretti), 1989 (Michael Andretti) and in 1993 (Mansell). The team won poles for 500-mile races at Indianapolis (1987; Mario Andretti), Michigan (1984 – Mario Andretti, 1992 – Mario Andretti, 1993 – Mario Andretti, 1994 – Mansell) and Pocono (1987 – Mario Andretti).

JAMES AT INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY

Sprott driver Hinchcliffe, 24, will attempt to qualify for his first Indianapolis 500 race this year. Indianapolis Motor Speedway will also be the site of his first laps behind the wheel of an Indy car on an oval. He will participate in Rookie Orientation on Thursday, May 12 from 8:30-2:30 p.m. ET. Only one Canadian has won the Indy 500 to date -- Jacques Villeneuve won the race in 1995 at the age of 24. Hinchcliffe refers to that race below. Villeneuve was also Indy 500 Rookie of the Year in 1994.

Hinchcliffe has competed on the 2.5-mile IMS oval two times. He competed in the 2010 Firestone Indy Lights (FIL) race at IMS where he started eighth and finished third and in the 2009 FIL race where he started 12th and retired in 16th place with mechanical failure after 25/40 laps. In 2004, he competed on the IMS road course in the Formula BMW USA series event that was a support race for the US Grand Prix. He started and finished fourth in the first race and started fifth and finished third in the second.

James answers a few questions on the upcoming 95th running of the Indianapolis 500:

WHAT WORDS COME TO MIND WHEN YOU THINK OF THE INDY 500?

“The first word is probably ‘history.’ This race has so much of it and it has been so prevalent in the build up to the 100th anniversary. The next word is ‘speed,’ for obvious reasons. And ‘milk!’”

WHAT IS YOUR FIRST MEMORY OF THE INDY 500?

“My first memory of the Indy 500 was when Jacques Villeneuve won the race in 1995. Being Canadian it was a great day, but also a heart breaking day after what happened to Scott Goodyear. Canadians were running 1-2 with 11 laps to go! But at the time I was a big JV fan so I really remember that race clearly.”

James Hinchcliffe, Newman/Haas Racing
James Hinchcliffe, Newman/Haas Racing

Photo by: Bob Heathcote

WHEN DID YOU KNOW FOR SURE YOU WOULD ATTEMPT TO BE IN THE 2011 INDY 500 AND WHAT WERE YOUR THOUGHTS?

“I first knew for sure that I would get the chance a few days before our (season) announcement came out. It was a crazy feeling because even though we were only a few days out from my first start at Barber, that night I was lying in bed thinking about standing on the starting grid at Indy! But now that May is here and you realize how many good cars there are and it hits you that as a rookie in a field this good, just making the race will be like a victory in itself.”

ARE THERE ANY DRIVERS WHOSE PERFORMANCE YOU ADMIRE AT INDY SPECIFICALLY?

“Obviously Helio is something special at Indy for sure. I remember watching his qualifying run from pit lane and literally having chills as he went by. But, I also admire Dario. The race he ran last year was incredible. It was one of those days you rarely have in your career and it was something else to watch. He was on another planet. I also really respect the love and appreciation that he has for the race and its history.”

WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT NEWMAN/HAAS RACING’S HISTORY AT THE INDY 500?

“The biggest thing I know is that they have always been very quick at Indy. They have come super-close, but Newman/Haas Racing has never won the Indy 500. It's weird to think that a team this successful could have a box on their scorecard unchecked but such is the mystique behind Indy. It's not a normal race and it is the most difficult thing to win. Having said that, the team is the strongest it has been in a number of years right now and there is no reason that in the near future they can't be running right at the sharp end of the field at the Speedway and finally get the win there they deserve.”

WHEN YOU FIRST HEARD OF OVAL RACING, WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THE CONCEPT? WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST EXPERIENCE ON AN OVAL? HOW HAS YOUR PERCEPTION CHANGED FROM THEN TO NOW?

“Well when I first started watching Indy car racing, ovals were always part of it. I really enjoyed watching the racing and loved that to be a champion you had to be good at all different types of tracks. Then there was a phase, as I was getting more seriously into racing, where it seemed like a lot of drivers were getting hurt, so that definitely dampened my like of ovals. I think that hit a height when Greg (Moore) was killed. On top of that, I had never done it myself so I really didn't understand the challenge behind it. But I knew it was part of the sport that I loved so I never feared them. Then I got the chance to race on ovals in Firestone Indy Lights. Wow, what an eye opener! Not only were they way more challenging than I expected, they were way more fun too! The racing is incredible; such a rush. Even on TV you don't get the full appreciation of what it's like out there. You really have to be a gladiator to go wheel-to-wheel with a guy in an open wheel car at that speed.”

THIS WILL NOT ONLY BE YOUR FIRST TIME AT THE INDY 500, BUT ALSO YOUR FIRST TIME IN AN INDY CAR ON AN OVAL – ANYWHERE. MORE CHALLENGING?

“Indy is one of the toughest tracks we go to, so for me it makes my first time on an oval a little more challenging for sure. If we had had the chance to go to Kentucky (to test) it would have at least given me a chance to experience something closer to the speeds we will see at Indy. But at the end of the day I am supposed to be a professional, so I am just going to go there and do the job I need to do! I have a great team and I know they will have a great car for me, but most importantly they are so experienced there that I know I will have a great support system to help get me up to speed.”

YOU STATE THAT AN INDY CAR ON A ROAD/STREET COURSE IS 20% MORE OF EVERYTHING THAT AN INDY LIGHTS CAR WAS. IS THAT YOUR EXPECTATION FOR AN OVAL TOO?

“You know, I don't really know what to expect when I get out on an oval. I really hope that the Indy car drives as similar to the Lights car on the oval as it does on the road courses because that will help speed up the learning process. But when we are on road and street courses, the top speeds aren't a whole lot different between the two cars. At Indy, a good Lights qualifying run is around 191 mph. Thirty-five mph faster is BIG! I am trying to go in with a totally open mind and reserve all expectations until after I have some laps under my belt.”

WHAT WOULD IT MEAN TO YOU TO WIN THE INDY 500?

“I don't think it is really a feeling that you could put into words. It's the biggest race in the world so to win it is every drivers dream. The impact of winning the Indy 500 for a driver is immeasurable. It's like Chip Ganassi said to (Juan Pablo) Montoya over the radio when he won, ‘You are the most famous racing driver in the world right now,’ and it's completely true. From then on you become an Indy 500 champion before anything else. It's like an actor winning the Oscar, they are always introduced as Oscar Award Winner (name)... It's the same with Indy.”

YOUR GOAL FOR THE INDYCAR SERIES SEASON IS TO WIN ROOKIE OF THE YEAR SINCE YOU MENTIONED IT IS A FAIR, ATTAINABLE GOAL. WHAT IS YOUR GOAL FOR THE INDY 500?

“Obviously to win Rookie of Year is our goal over the season. It has been super-tough and very competitive up to this point and I imagine that will continue for the whole season. We just have to look at the last race when three of us finished ninth, tenth and eleventh! For Indy, you have to make the show to race! So that is definitely the main goal. I think if we get through the month unscathed and find ourselves on the grid Sunday morning then the big pressure will be off and I will just be able to go out there and enjoy myself. I for sure want to finish the race and if we can lead the rookies home, again, that would be like a victory for me. Its just less prize money and no trip to Letterman!”

HOW WILL YOU PREPARE FOR ROOKIE ORIENTATION?

“I have such a great and experienced group of people around me so I am confident that they will make sure I am well prepared to get through the stages of the orientation. The name of the game that day is getting through stages 1-3. We have plenty of time to do it so I am sure we will be ok.”

James Hinchcliffe, Newman/Haas Racing
James Hinchcliffe, Newman/Haas Racing

Photo by: Adriano Manocchia

PIT STOPS ARE RELATIVELY NEW FOR YOU IN INDYCAR. WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES YOU EXPECT FOR PIT STOPS ON AN OVAL?

“The biggest thing for pit stops on an oval is the approach to the speed limit. At most road and street tracks it's usually just another corner to the pit lane, so it's not a whole lot different than being on track. On an oval, you come off the banking, your brakes are cold and you are slowing down with car that has weird cambers so it's easy to lock up. The experienced guys are so good at making up time on the in-lap and I know that it will be a huge learning curve there for me.”

WHAT ARE YOU SPONSOR SPROTT’S PLANS FOR THE INDY 500? WHAT SORT OF EXPEREINCE ARE THEY IN STORE FOR?

“I am really excited because we have a big Sprott contingent coming out for the race and obviously without Sprott's support I wouldn't even have had the chance to come to Indy! About 80 people are coming in for the day. A lot of them have never been to this race before. A lot I imagine have never been to an IndyCar race. So to have this one be your first, I think they are going to be blown away! I really hope we can give the No. 06 Sprott car a good starting spot and a good race so they have someone to cheer for all afternoon.”

ANY FAMILY MEMBERS OR FRIENDS COMING TO WINESS A HINCHCLIFFE IN THE GREATEST SPECTICLE IN RACING?

“My parents and sister are coming down for the race. My brother would have loved to have been here but he is studying for his PhD at Oxford University and couldn't get the time off, but I know he will be watching over in England. I also have some good friends driving down from Toronto so we will have a decent cheering section waving the Canadian flag!”

source: -NHR-

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Series INDYCAR
Tags haas, hinchcliffe, indy 500 rookie, newman