Hinchcliffe to Complete Season in #26

In a move which is not a big surprise, James Hinchcliffe will take over the number 26 Gainbridge Honda for Andretti Autosport for the last three races of the season. The car had been driven by Zach Veach for the lats three years. veach stepped out of the car earlier this week. Hinchcliffe’s time in the car may be a prelude to his driving the 26 next season full time. The announcement from Andretti Autosport:

James Hinchcliffe has been confirmed as the driver of the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda with Andretti Autosport for the remaining three events on the 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES calendar. This comes following an announcement Wednesday confirming that Zach Veach would not return to the 26 car for the remaining events.

Hinchcliffe has competed in three prior events [Genesys 600 at Texas Motor Speedway, the GMR INDYCAR Grand Prix and the Indianapolis 500] this season with Andretti Autosport in the No. 29 Genesys Honda.

The Harvest GP presented by GMR will see Hinchcliffe join Alexander Rossi (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS / AutoNation Honda), Ryan Hunter-Reay (No. 28 DHL Honda), Colton Herta (No. 88 Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana Honda) and Marco Andretti (No. 98 U.S. Concrete / Curb Honda) for the doubleheader race weekend. The pair of races on the IMS Road Course will be broadcast live Friday at 3:30 p.m. ET on USA Network and Saturday at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI, CHAIRMAN & CEO, ANDRETTI AUTOSPORT
“It’s always unfortunate to have to change drivers this far into a season, but we have to look at finishing the year the best we can for the 26 team and start evaluating and looking at options for 2021. James has an existing relationship with our team that we’d love to build on and it makes the most sense for him to step in for these last three races. We are looking forward to seeing what he can do.”

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE, NTT INDYCAR SERIES DRIVER, NO. 26 GAINBRIDGE HONDA
“I know, probably better than most, what Zach is feeling right now, and I have to say that he has handled everything about as class act as you can. I’ve known Zach as a teammate, before that as a colleague and even before that as a friend, and he is a guy that I respect in every way. I know he is a fighter and will fight back to where he wants to be.

“For me now, my focus is 100% on racing the Harvest GP and getting the best possible results for Gainbridge, for Honda, for Michael and for the team. I obviously haven’t been on a road course in a while, but at least the last time I was, it was here at IMS! Hopefully that puts us in a good position to go out there and have a strong weekend.”

First Day Thoughts

Photo: Indycar, James Black

It was a strange feeling to be watching from just a few miles away. The track looked to be in good shape, but it was very odd to see the stands empty.  I think the weekend will just emphasize the emptiness, especially when someone runs a really quick lap.

Conor Daly’s car looks amazing coming down the front stretch. It is I think the most telegenic car in the field. It really pops.

I found it hard to get used to Fernando Alonso in a black, white, and green livery. I also forgot Ruoff was his sponsor.

Andretti Autosport had their best first day at a track this year. Let’s see if they are still near the top on Friday.

Ben Hanley will have a busy day tomorrow. he was given 30 minutes on track after practice ended, but only ran a few laps. He needs to complete his refresher test first.

It seemed as if most of the rookies were feeling out the track today. Alex Palou finished in the top 10, but the others were near the bottom of the charts.  I don’t put much stock in the first practice. I look for more speed from this talented group tomorrow.

This is certainly one of the more colorful fields in a while. There is a lot red/orange, some yellow, and some blue. The pace laps should look great with the red Corvette leading the pack.

I know the media that is onsite means well, but their photos this morning before practice were difficult to see. I do appreciate that they are there to keep us up to date. I hope to be back next year.

Tomorrow on The Pit Window is the debut of Pole Tales. I will share some of the more dramatic pole runs in 500 history.  The good news is there will be no Bump Tales this year. No bumping does have its advantages.

The time sheet from today

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Hinchcliffe Joins NBC Broadcast Team

James Hinchcliffe will be part of the NBC motorsports broadcast team this year, beginning with the NTT Indycar Series season opener in St. Pete. Hinchcliffe has what is now a three race deal with Andretti Autosport todrive in the GMR Grand Prix, the 104th Indianapolis 500, and the Genesys 600 at Texas Motor Speedway.

He will serve as a driver analyst on pit road at St. Pete, Long Beach, Toronto, and Laguna Seca in addition to working as a part of NBC’s coverage in the week prior to the Indianapolis 500. Hinchclffe will also be part of the team covering select IMSA races beginning with the Sebring 12 hour March 20-21.

From Earlier: Season Preview Part I

https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/90591962/posts/2604485664

Hinchcliffe will also work on the broadcast of the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 4th weekend. Additional duties include Indy Lights commentary on NBC Gold.

I think this can only enhance NBC’s coverage. Hinchcliffe was in the booth in 2015 while recovering from injuries in a practice accident at Indianapolis. He was a huge hit with the fans. He also had a few great experiences on Wind Tunnel.

Genesys Assumes Sponsorship at Texas

It makes sense now. I wondered why one of James Hinchcliffe’s three races with Andretti Autosport was Texas instead of Toronto. His sponsor is the new title sponsor of the June 8 NTTINDYCARSERIES race, now known as the Genesys 600. The company replaces DXC Technologies in the title role.

It’s nice to see a new sponsor jumping in with both feet like this. I would have been happy with their three race sponsorship for Hinchcliffe. That would be a nice beginning for a new Indycar partner. I hope their involvement leads to a full time of half year sponsorship for Hinchcliffe and Andretti.

Earlier today, the Firestone Grand of St. Petersburg announced Frontier as the official television and internet provider of the season opening race. I posted the announcement here:

https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/90591962/posts/2603641037

I love days like this when there are several announcements, especially when they concern more companies getting involved with the series.

My season preview will start tomorrow. It will be a three part series where I assess each team’s outlook for the 2020 season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hinchcliffe Returns to Andretti for Indianapolis 500

It seems everything in Indycar comes back to the starting point. In a news conference at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this morning, it was announced that James Hinchcliffe will return to Andretti Autosport for the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500. He will also race in the GMR Grand Prix at Indianapolis on May 9 and at Texas Motor Speedway  June 6. Genesys, an Indianapolis based technology company will sponsor car number 29.

Hinchcliffe drove for the team from 2012-2014, and he had his best years with the team.   Three of his six career wins came in 2013, and he was eighth in points in 2012 and 2013. With Andretti Hinchcliffe started the Indianapolis 500 twice from the middle of the front row and had a career best finish of sixth in 2012.

From 2015-2019 at Schmidt Peterson Motorsport Hinchcliffe’s best season finish was 10th in 2018. He was released from driving duties at the end of 2019. He won the pole for the 100th running of the 500 in 2016.

Hinchcliffe will be attempting to start in his seventh 500 mile race this May. He has struggled to make the race the last two years. In 2018 he was bumped from the field and last year qualified 32nd. Making the race should not be an issue this year.

Notes

Hinchcliffe will have some orange on his car.Genesys’s colors are orange, charcoal, and white.  Ironic considering he was let go by Arrow McLaren SP.

I’m surprised that Toronto was not one of the additional races. I would have that race would have been his second priority. Perhaps it will be added later.

Michael Andretti mentioned that the team would like to try to get Hinchcliffe on full time.  If that happens, who might be out? I would think Zach Veach  is on the hot seat unless he has a strong season. Could Ryan Hunter-Reay be looking at Indy only after 2020?

 

 

Hinchcliffe Gets Funding; Looking for Ride

James Hinchcliffe has the funding to run the Indianapolis 500 and possibly afew more races. Thanks to Genesys, a technology firm providing cloud services, he now has the money to take to a team. But which team? I assume he would want one of the Honda teams.  Andretti is full as they already have seven cars for Indianapolis. The other Honda teams, Ganassi, Coyne, and Rahal, are possibilities. I would think either Coyne or Rahal would be more likely than Ganassi.

The news comes just two months after Hinchcliffe was told by Arrow McLaren SP that he would not be driving for them. The team signed Pato O’Ward and rookie Oliver Askew and  for the 2020 season. Hinchcliffe still has a contract with the team and will do personal appearances on their behalf. My understanding is he can still drive for another team.

I have to give Hinchcliffe credit for working hard to secure the money needed for the 500 in just two months. Some drivers work on this aspect of racing all year and come up short. Hinchcliffe qualified 32nd and finished 11th in 2019. He failed to qualify in 2018. The sponsors will announce further details at a later date.

Hinchcliffe is one of the most popular drivers in the NTT Indycar Series. It’s great knowing he will be at IMS during May.

Indycar at the Chili Bowl

Indycar has its best representation at the Chili Bowl in several years. Santino Ferrucci, James Davison, and Conor Daly are entered in the week long midget event in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Daly drives for the first time tonight.

Ferrucci did well in his first ever midget event. He started 11th and finished fifth, just one spot short of transferring to that evening’s feature round. Davison was 10th in his debut last night.

The Chili Bowl finals are on Saturday night from 8:30-11:30 Eastern Time on MavTV.

Coyne’s Short List

Three drivers appear to be in the running for the number 18 car in 2020. James Hinchcliffe, who lost his ride at Arrow McLaren SP last month; Sergio Sette Camara, who drove in F2 in 2019 and had two wins and eight podiums; and Alex Palou, who scored one win and finished third in the season standings in Super Formula.

While Hinchcliffe would be the most popular choice with the fans, I think the ride will go to one of the other drivers. Palou is likely the front runner. He was impressive at a Coyne test at Mid Ohio. He is also a Honda driver. Sette Camara has done three seasons in Formula 2, and needs to move up. He is also talking with Carlin Racing.

Coyne has not set a deadline for a decision. There may also be a fourth driver in the mix.

Still Quiet at Foyt and Carlin

I’m not confident about hearing any news from Carlin or A. J. Foyt Racing before Christmas. There is simply no news from either camp. We could be in for some surprises from both teams.

Ganassi Out of IMSA for Now

Chip Ganassi Racing will not participate in the IMSA Weather tech Championship for the first time in 16 years. Their GTLM Ford program has ended. Ganassi cars have three overall wins and two class wins at the Rolex 24. The team has not ruled out returning to the series, possibly in the new prototype cars.  More on this story in my Wildfire Sports column tomorrow.

 

 

An Arrow Through the Heart

I just love it when I have an article in mind and have to do a 180 degree spin in the middle of a turn. As I began setting up my post on the current status of the 2020 NTT Indycar Series grid, the grid experienced a seismic change. James Hinchcliffe, one of the most popular drivers in the paddock, lost his seat at Arrow McLaren SP. The team will announce Oliver Askew and Pato O’Ward as their drivers for next season. The news from Racer magazine’s Marshall Pruett and Robin Miller around 9:15 Monday night sent an earthquake of outrage through the Indycar fan community.

There have been whispers since Labor day that Hinchcliffe’s job was in jeopardy. The rumors persisted despite team owner Sam Schmidt saying at Portland that Hinch would be back with the team.  Everyone knew Marcus  Ericsson would not be back and that the team was interested in O’Ward. In the last month, Askew entered the picture.  My thought was they will pick one of the two rookies and keep Hinch for his experience.  Now, we have essentially a combined new team consisting of  McLaren, which didn’t qualify for the Indianapolis 500 in 2019 and Arrow Schmidt Peterson, which barely squeaked in.

Hinchcliffe’s choices of a ride are very limited.  His Honda choices are cars that  currently don’t exist. Dale Coyne looks committed to Santino Ferrucci’s return in the 19. Coyne has said he will not run a third car and is not interested in an alliance. Ganassi has talked about a part time  fourth car. I’m not sure that interests Hinchcliffe. Rahal has third car in mind but is still looking for funding.  Hinchcliffe and Honda Canada probably don’t have enough money to pull that deal together. Will HPD help? Rahal seems like the best fit at this moment on the Honda side. Hinchcliffe needs to stay in a Honda car for a couple reasons I’ll discuss in a minute.

Chevy rides available are Carlin, Foyt, and the Ed Carpenter road course only car. None of these rides are great options for him other than keeping Hinchcliffe in the series.

The Honda Indy Toronto may take a bit of a hit without a Canadian driver on the grid. Hinchcliffe’s contract with Honda Canada and his Honda commercials in the United states are also on the line here. On a fan basis, Hinchcliffe is a good river who can races, he’s generous with is time, and ha a sense of humor the paddock and the fans enjoy. He has always taken time to talk to me and i appreciate his time.

Conor Daly may be squeezed out of the paddock again. He was looking to be the last driver left with a decent amount of experience.  Now there is a six time race winner on the market who has had a full time ride for several years.

I really like O’Ward and Askew. I hope they have  great seasons next year. . At the same time, I will  find it hard as a fan to root for Arrow McLaren SP as a team. McLaren has entered the team and from my view, they have been a PR disaster already. The new logo left me cold with its starkly corporate look and the exclusion of the SP from the official team name. While I understand the business side of choosing drivers, Hinchcliffe could have been told a month ago and had more time to put something together.

It is sad to see what looked to be a rising team that in 2018 seemed to have found its soul when Robert Wickens joined but  lost it in his’ horrific crash at Pocono that summer and never found it again.

 

 

Thoughts on McLaren

Silly Season was straightforward this year. Alexander Rossi stays with Andretti. Done. Wrap it up. Look to next year. Today, with McLaren’s announcement that they are joining Arrow Schmidt Peterson for 2020, the dam has burst. There are ripples throughout the paddock. Here are some of my thoughts about this development.

McLaren has a lot to prove after their debacle in May. Will partnering with Schmidt Peterson help them?

I’m disappointed that McLaren does not add to the car count. I’ve said before they are looking to come in the easy way, becoming part of an existing team instead of building their own team with  a technical alliance with an established team.

It’s a shame the way Honda’s hand was forced to make this deal happen. I can’t think of a Chevy team that would be a good match for McLaren. I’m not sure they even considered one.

My first concern was for James Hincliffe and Robert Wickens.  In Marshall Pruett’s story, he said that the commitment to Wickens will be honored. Later this morning, Hinchcliffe issued the following statement:

hinch statement

I hope he also  has a contract extension. Hinchcliffe’s current contract expires after the 2020 season. He also is losing his Honda commercial deal. I hope that he receives compensation for that.

Marcus Ericsson was likely going somewhere else anyway. he may be in a carlin car next year. Which brings up the question- who will drive the second car for the new team? Fernando Alonso said he is not interested in a full time Indycar ride.

Colton Herta may be available, but I think he will become the fifth driver at Andretti Autosport.  If he is, is Conor Daly once again out of a potential full time ride? It’s those paddock ripples splashing up.

With whom  does Meyer Shank now partner with as they prepare for a full schedule in 2020? The team is committed to Honda. An alliance with Andretti or Coyne seems most probable. I don’t think Ganassi is interested in being anyone’s partner.

The new team name is Arrow McLaren Racing SP. It bothers that mcLaren comes before Schmidt and Peterson and that the two founders names are reduced to initials. Since mcLaren is buying the team or acquiring the shares of either owner, I guess it’s a name recognition thing.

The biggest positive in today’s events is that Indycar now has a worldwide name in its paddock. it should help with recognition in Europe and may cause a bit of a bump in the United States.

I will keep updating as i learn more.  Everything I just wrote could be incorrect by now.