When the Verizon IndyCar Series arrives at the fourth largest city in North America for its annual street race in Toronto, James Hinchcliffe of nearby Oakville, Ontario is hailed as a conquering hero. His face is displayed on billboards and magazines throughout the city and his Honda commercial runs often on Canadian television.
Unfortunately for the “Mayor of Hinchtown,” he has been able to conquer his hometown race.
In six IndyCar Series races at Toronto, Hinchcliffe has never finished better than eighth. He tied his career-high Toronto finish in Sunday’s first race and had hopes of improving that in Sunday’s second race.
Andretti Autosport had given him a speedy race car and Hinchcliffe believed it was his best chance to score a podium finish in his hometown. But as rain began to fall and the track was getting slick, Hinchcliffe was told on the radio to come onto pit road for the rain tires.
He didn’t make it back around the track. He drove into Turn 8 and clipped Juan Pablo Montoya’s car sending it into the tire barrier. Hinchcliffe’s car stalled and it triggered a multi-car crash that involved Russian rookie Mikhail Aleshin, whose car drove underneath Montoya’s with that car sitting on Aleshin’s helmet.
As safety crews tended to the more serious situation with Aleshin, Hinchcliffe tried to get his car restarted. By the time he was able to get back underway he was four laps down and out of contention.
Hinchcliffe finished 18th in the 23-car field.
It was a strange weekend in Toronto as Saturday’s race was postponed because of rain. Despite having rain-specific tires, series officials believed the course was too slippery and the visibility too poor to race so that contest was moved to Sunday morning with the second race held later in the day.
It was as if the only thing missing from this weekend in Toronto was the Locusts and the Plague.
“Pretty much,” Hinchcliffe said. “It’s the way our year has been going and the way this weekend has always gone for us in Toronto. I think we made a jump up in terms of competitiveness for us. I think we put these lessons on the book and try to come back stronger next year. Milwaukee is coming up on the schedule and the team is very strong there and I enjoy racing at Mid-Ohio and Fontana so there are still a few chances left for me to get some good results.”
Hinchcliffe is one of the star names of the series because of his popular personality. But after Sunday’s doubleheader he is 12th in the standings and 203 points out without a victory.
In the past, Hinchcliffe has arrived in Toronto with too many personal commitments that he was seemingly overwhelmed. This year, the driver believes that wasn’t an issue because it was managed properly.
“I think we did a really good job this year managing the schedule so it was no more than a normal race weekend,” he said. “In years past we tried to cram in more than we should have and this year we didn’t. From a pace point of view relative to the front we have had our strongest year, we just didn’t have the results.”
Two races in one day and Hinchcliffe was ready for more. He was able to squeeze in a 20-minute nap between the two races.
“I woke up and thought I had missed my alarm so it was more of a nightmare for a second,” Hinchcliffe said. “I think it was mentally more taxing than physically. The second race was a non-event because of the rain coming down as early as it did and the yellow flags we had. Physically, I’m fine. If you want to strap me in two hours from now and have another race I’ll do it.”
Hinchcliffe was among many drivers who thought IndyCar officials should have gone the full distance in both races and the second race shouldn’t have been a timed event at 80 minutes.
“I think they went too short on both races,” he said. “I don’t know why they didn’t try to have both races go full distances. I can’t explain why they had a red flag in a timed race. I’ve stopped trying to understand how decisions are made in this series.”
Be sure to catch Bruce Martin’s Honda IndyCar Report on RACEDAY on FOX Sports Radio every Sunday from 6-8 a.m. Eastern Time.IndyCar, James Hinchcliffe, Toronto