Hampson: Hinchcliffe’s unsung hero


James Hinchcliffe’s first IndyCar victory was helped, no doubt, with his reunion with engineer Craig Hampson. Hampson helped calm down the driver known more for his quirky, self-deprecating personality than driving ability (they’re both good).

The veteran was only involved on a partial season effort with Dragon Racing a year ago after performing the same role with then-rookie Hinchcliffe at Newman/Haas Racing in 2011. The two combined to win rookie-of-the-year honors; Hampson’s greatest achievement in open-wheel racing came in Champ Car when he and Sebastien Bourdais won four straight titles from 2004 to 2007.

Hinchcliffe and Andretti Autosport team principal Michael Andretti explained the impact Hampson has made on the team.

“He’s probably the most decorated engineer on pit lane,” said Hinchcliffe. “What I like about Craig is just how honest he is. Drivers and engineers have a tremendous habit of being completely full of BS and blaming everything on other people. He’s the first engineer I’ve worked with that when it was absolutely his fault, he was the first guy to put up his hand and admit it, and he was harder on himself that anybody else could have been.

“That work ethic he brings to a program is just incredible. He brings that whole extra level. It’s just that last little bit you need to be at the front in this series.”

Andretti said the pursuit of Hampson made the reunion between he and Hinchcliffe all the sweeter.

“We had tried to get Craig back in the off-season before that, like right around November, but he couldn’t do it because things were happening with Newman/Haas. Almost that same day we found out that Craig could leave, so it was like a perfect thing. Adding him to our team is just going to make us that much stronger because we rate him very highly, we always did. We’ve been trying to get him for a while!”

NHRA Gatornationals: John Force has another spectacular motor explosion

Photo courtesy NHRA
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Legendary NHRA Funny Car driver John Force endured yet another spectacular motor explosion – his third in the NHRA’s first three national event races – during Friday’s qualifying at the Amalie Motor Oil Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida.

It’s the kind of consistency the 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ could do without.

The 68-year-old Force came to Gainesville hoping to break the jinx that saw him endure explosions in both the season-opening Winternationals and the second race of the season in Phoenix.

Both motor explosions sent Force to the hospital for examination before he returned to the race track.

Friday, even though the motor in his Chevrolet Camaro blew up again (in the second round of qualifying), at least this time, Force didn’t wind up in the hospital.

He did have his right hand bandaged from a cut suffered in the explosion, but did not have to go to the hospital this time.

He even joked about not having to add yet another ambulance bill to the nearest Gainesville hospital.

But the explosion still proved costly.

“That was another body and that hurts the financial (bottomline),” Force said. “I was out $500,000 to $600,000, and now we are probably out $800,000, going on a million. In drag racing, you have to be tough.”

He ended the day qualifying 14th, not a very comfortable position with two more rounds of qualifying set for Saturday.

Force continues to be mystified why the motors keep exploding.

“I really thought we had it, I thought we were there,” Force said. “In the first round we drove it 500 feet and shut it off. It looked great. We ran it again that run and I was only going to drive it 800 feet even if we didn’t make The Show.”

Force will attempt to improve his qualifying spot during Saturday’s final two rounds to make Sunday’s eliminations.

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