‘Hinch 2.0’ emerges from Danica Patrick’s GoDaddy shadow

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Two years ago, James Hinchcliffe launched what he called “Hinchtown 2.0” – a renovated, updated and improved web profile of his fictional town, where he serves as self-appointed Mayor.

On Sunday in St. Petersburg, driver version “Hinch 2.0” was unveiled to the general public. A revised, renewed, and re-dedicated Canadian enters his third full IndyCar season, second with Andretti Autosport and second non-consecutive year with engineer Craig Hampson made a pass for the lead and held off three-time St. Pete winner Helio Castroneves for the victory.

“Craig told me I needed better restarts, to be more aggressive, and save fuel when we need to,” Hinchcliffe said. “We had to minimize the mistakes. The team is good, the car is good, the engineers are good. We proved last year the team is capable of winning. It’s down to me on any given Sunday to minimize mistakes.”

He did just that, to open his 2013 account on top. The win was particularly satisfying given his frustrating and challenging second half of 2012. After seven top-six finishes in the first eight races of 2012, Hinchcliffe had only one finish better than 12th in the final seven rounds (a fifth at Mid-Ohio).

“To come here 12 months later, especially when you think how our season ended, it was not a good end to our season,” he admitted. “Fontana was just the worst, longest day of my life. It was so demoralizing going into the longest off-season in history with such a poor record finishing the season.

“But we’ve got such a good group of guys on that car. It’s all the same crew we had last year. These guys worked so hard. Chevy did such a good job over the winter to come here and grab that first win for those guys as much as GoDaddy, it’s really cool.”

The win is the first for sponsor GoDaddy in IndyCar, a big deal given its history with prior IndyCar and current NASCAR driver Danica Patrick. Hinchcliffe said that perhaps this result can remove him from her shadows.

“Certainly following Danica was a big ask,” he said. “I guess we put a lot of effort into making sure it wasn’t the guy driving Danica’s car. We really wanted to make it our own by playing off her last year, doing like the “Hinch for Homepage,” and things like that. It was, ‘You’re the guy driving Danica’s car.’ Hopefully when we get to the races this year, it will be, ‘That’s Hinch’s car.’”

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MRTI: Keith Donegan earns Mazda Shootout Scholarship

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Dublin, Ireland’s Keith Donegan claimed a $200K scholarship from Mazda after emerging victorious at the second annual Mazda Road to Indy Shootout. The 20-year-old Donegan earned an at-large nomination for the scholarship based on his performance at this year’s Formula Ford Festival, in which he finished second in the final, and emerged from a pack of 17 drivers from across the globe to claim the scholarship.

“It really hasn’t hit me yet,” said an emotional Donegan, who earlier in his career actually spent two years away from racing as he focused on academics. “The weekend was really good and I enjoyed it. I have to say a huge thanks to Mazda and Cooper Tires and everyone at the Mazda Road to Indy. I enjoyed every moment. Throughout the weekend we were consistent and I kept the small things in check. I didn’t make any stupid mistakes and kept my head cool and that really paid off in the end.”

The two-day shootout was held at the Bondurant Racing School in Arizona and saw the nominated drivers tackle the school’s 1.6-mile circuit in Formula Mazda race cars before facing on and off-track assessments. Donegan was selected by a panel of judges that included former driver and current Verizon IndyCar Series TV analyst Scott Goodyear, Mazda drivers Tom Long, Andrew Carbonell, and Jonathan Bomarito, as well as Victor Franzoni – the current champion of the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires – and Oliver Askew, the current champion of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.

Donegan was humbled to be in the presence of drivers who have won scholarships and championships previously, and added that he is grateful to have the opportunity to continue his racing career.

“You see all these champions here today that will go on to great things in the future and I’m sure the names you see here today aren’t going to disappear,” Donegan added. “They will be back up there and I’m sure I will be racing them again some day. It is an unbelievable opportunity to be given and for Mazda to provide that for any young driver. It just gives that bit of motivation that you need because the [U.S.] is where you need to go to become a professional these days. It is such a boost to my career.”

Donegan is now slated to join the 2018 USF2000 championship, with further announcements regarding the team with whom he’ll be racing to come in the future.

Follow @KyleMLavigne