IZOD IndyCar Series Driver James Hinchcliffe Enjoying Success With Andretti Autosport
The end of the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series season was bittersweet for driver James Hinchcliffe. He wrapped up his season with a rookie of the year title fueled by three top-five and seven top-10 finishes, but his team, Newman/Haas Racing, was closing its doors. Hinchcliffe was looking for a ride and hoping for a powerhouse sponsor.
Cue Michael Andretti, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Andretti Autosport. He was looking for a driver to pilot the neon green Go Daddy car and replace motorsports' most popular female driver, Danica Patrick, who was making the move to fulltime stock car racing.
"I never in a million years would have thought I'd be getting that phone call," Hinchcliffe said. "It was very quick to realize that there was a mutual desire to work together and get the deal done. For this kind of deal, it all came together very, very quickly."
Hinchcliffe describes the deal as "a match made in heaven," noting that Go Daddy, the world's largest web hosting provider, was immediately attracted to his saavy, edgy personality as well as his website - hinchtown.com.
"I’m this off-the-wall, goofy kid who doesn’t take life too seriously in a lot of ways and that’s sometimes frowned upon in the corporate world and in the sponsorship world, and I just happened to come across the one sponsor that loves that," Hinchcliffe said. "Not only do they let me be myself; they encourage it.”
Hinchcliffe certainly hasn't held back, as he donned a black wig during driver introductions prior to his first race in Patrick's old car.
“Michael thought it was hilarious," Hinchcliffe said. "It was all light-hearted and in good fun. Let’s be honest, I’m following one of the toughest acts there is to follow in sports with Danica Patrick. So I figured let’s break the ice and get it out of the way."
His quirky personality also comes out in his series of unconventional YouTube videos in which he is known as the "Mayor of Hinchtown." In one episode, Hinchcliffe takes a bath in a spa made for dogs and cats.
Though Hinchcliffe doesn't take life "too seriously," it seems he takes his performance on the track very seriously. And that's a passion he shares with his team at Andretti Autosport.
“The equipment is tremendous as well as the support and the people," Hinchcliffe said. "And then also the chemistry among the drivers. That’s such an important part of racing at this level. I always say racing is not about cars or tires or engines, it’s about people. If you have the right combination of people, you will be successful. Period.
"Right now with Marco (Andretti), Ryan (Hunter-Reay) and myself, the energy of the team and the cooperation of the team is just out of this world for such a competitive environment and I think it’s also showing on track."
A driver that embodies that competitive nature it takes to maintain championship-winning organization is exactly what Andretti was looking for. It's something Andretti also saw in former series champion Dan Wheldon. Reports surfaced near the end of the 2011 season that the two were in talks of a contract to race the Go Daddy car in 2012 before Wheldon's passing during the season finale at Las Vegas.
"There's no doubt that weighed on me from the first phone call," Hinchcliffe said in an interview with USA Today. "It's pretty common knowledge Dan was a shoe-in with Go Daddy and Andretti. I look at Dan Wheldon as a tremendous race car driver and a champion but also a tremendous person and human being. And if that's the guy that Go Daddy wanted, to know that I was the next guy in line and thought of along the same lines is an incredbily 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."