Photo courtesy of IMSA

Sports cars: Trent Hindman’s whirlwind year of growth

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One of the hottest young prospects in the North American sports car paddock this year is Trent Hindman, the 22-year-old Wayside, New Jersey native and past Team USA Scholarship recipient who has bordered on being a chameleon with the amount of different cars, series and continents he’ll have raced on this year.

An open-wheel convert to sports car racing, Hindman marked his true arrival to the IMSA world in 2014 when he won that year’s GS class title co-driving with John Edwards in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge at age 19, driving for Mark Boden’s Fall-Line Motorsports in the venerable BMW M3.

But precocious as he was then, Hindman’s been through a roller coaster of a ride since. As the first American brought on more than a decade to BMW’s Junior Driver program in 2015, Hindman experienced a number of peaks and valleys that season as he balanced an occasional international racing platform with a tough follow-up season in the Continental series. A change in co-driver to the talented but perpetually unlucky Ashley Freiberg and an overall lack of competitiveness for the aging car left him wondering what might come next after a tough season, as BMW didn’t retain him and Fall-Line dropped out of the series after Hindman and Freiberg won at the season finale in tricky, wet conditions at Road Atlanta.

The No. 12 Porsche has excelled in CTSC last two years. Photo courtesy of IMSA

Joining up with Cameron Cassels and Mike Bavaro’s Ocean Township, N.J.-based Bodymotion Racing team in 2016 set in motion the fruits of Hindman’s crazy 2017 season and as Hindman explains, it was a journey back from being aligned with a manufacturer to helping a privateer team and developing gentleman driver that he wouldn’t have traded for the world.

“I’d learned a ton from John and from Fall-Line Motorsports in 2014 but I had way less experience and I was so much more immature… I mean I was 18, then 19 years old at the time!” Hindman told NBC Sports.

“With the same car, same team and a different situation I didn’t grow as much as I needed to. I had that component in America and now I was part of the BMW Junior program, and overall, I didn’t perform how I wanted to and didn’t get the most out of myself.

“With the opportunity from Cameron Cassels and working with the Bodymotion team out of my hometown, it was getting thrown into a different scenario. Here, I’m not just a closing driver, but I also help my co-driver learn the tracks, the series and the environment. Having the time with John and Fall-Line to learn, and now with Cameron and Bodymotion to grow, has helped infinitely.”

A debut win with the team’s Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport at the 2016 Sebring race – they’d missed Daytona with Cassels having a family commitment to attend to – was the true proof of potential for the team and new combination, and with Hindman having defeated one of the world’s top GT drivers Jeroen Bleekemolen in a straight fight with the two in equal cars, it spoke volumes. Keep that note in mind for later.

Hindman and Cassels reeled off two more wins after Sebring at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and Watkins Glen International, respectively, and ended third in points. While the wins were nice, pressure was higher to perform this year as the GS field – courtesy of an infusion of new GT4 machinery – leapt from five or six regular entries to 14 or 15 cars at most races, sometimes more.

Hindman and Cassels (center) beat 2016 sparring partners CJ Wilson Racing at Daytona. Photo courtesy of IMSA

The performance didn’t change though as the pairing won the 2017 season opener at Daytona, now a four-hour race, against the biggest GS field of the season north of 20 cars.

“The competition is much greater this year,” Hindman explained. “Perception is reality. The top teams last year are also the top teams this year, but we knew we had to raise our game as last year the average was only five or six cars, and now it’s more than double that.

“Winning Daytona and battling through the summer months to be in championship contention at Road Atlanta goes to prove the amount of hard work and effort that has gone in from Cameron and this team.”

Ultimately the pairing ended second in GS this season, with the Bodymotion Cayman a year older compared to the newer, updated Porsche Cayman GT4 MR fielded by RS1, and the pro/pro duo of Dillon Machavern and Dylan Murcott.

Photo: Jamey Price/Lamborghini

Hindman’s year though was primarily spent bouncing between paddocks. The GS program was one of his two primary ones, with the other coming in the Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America series with Prestige Performance in its Lamborghini Huracán LP 620-2, and sharing the car with Riccardo Agostini. Hindman is part of Lamborghini’s Young Driver Program this season. The two lead that championship in the all-pro class by 28 points over Richard Antinucci with just two races to go, at the Lamborghini World Final to be held in Monza later this year. They won four races in a row earlier this year, one at Watkins Glen, two at Road America and one at VIR.

Lest two series be enough, Hindman also co-drove with Adam Merzon in the Pirelli World Challenge GTS class during its SprintX races, in another Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport. They won that series’ GTS Pro/Am title after five weekends of competition.

And then there were his three IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship starts this year, all of which came under unique circumstances in each cars. Merzon drafted Hindman into the lineup for one of BAR1 Motorsports’ PC class Oreca FLM09s for the Rolex 24 at Daytona, and they got on the podium in second place in class.

Two further GT Daytona class starts later this year were what has propelled him into the frame deserving of a full-time seat in 2018 in IMSA’s top championship. At VIR, with Ben Keating unable to drive as he tended to his family and business commitments in Texas following Hurricane Harvey, Bleekemolen came through to remember that driver who’d beat him in that one Continental race was available, and a call from that team’s principal Bill Riley was placed to see if Hindman could fill in.

Not that he already didn’t have a full dance card with both Continental and Lamborghini both racing on the same weekend.

“I always plan on staying for the main show of the weekend, the WeatherTech Championship, in order to kiss babies, shake hands, and make hay while the sun is still shining,” Hindman wrote in his post-VIR blog for Sportscar365, “The dream of every driver, on the outside looking in, is to one day get that last-second call up to drive in the WeatherTech Championship, and I was fortunate enough for that dream to become a reality this weekend at VIR.”

Surprise call-up to GTD at VIR saw Hindman on podium. Photo courtesy of IMSA

He elaborated on just how crazy it is hustling between paddocks, with two series on most weekends and third now added for this VIR one.

“I don’t feel bad about going back and forth, because that’s how you make it here,” he said. “To me it is what I live and love to do. I just love to drive! It’s that simple. Ever since I was 8 years old, pounding around in a go-kart. No matter how tired I was, that’s just what I love to do. And nothing’s changed, 14 years later.”

Hindman was tasked with running the middle stint of a two-hour, 40-minute GT only race at VIR and taking over from and handing the car back to Bleekemolen in one piece. He did so, and the pair got back on the podium.

Hindman drove both No. 48 Lamborghini (leading) and No. 26 BAR1 Oreca (trailing) this season. Photo courtesy of IMSA

Courtesy of his success in the Lamborghini Super Trofeo series, Hindman also got another appointment to the GT3 variant of the Lamborghini Huracán GT3, this time with Paul Miller Racing, as the third driver with Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow at Motul Petit Le Mans. The trio finished a respectable seventh in that race, although contact with another car spoiled a potential podium finish and cost them several laps.

Of his Petit Le Mans debut, Hindman reflected, “It’s a lot more nerve-wracking to sit outside of the car for the last six or seven hours than being in the car! I’d like to thank Chris Ward and Giorgio Sanna for making this possible as well. I’m grateful for Bryan and Madison to include me and make me a part of this as well.

“For me, it was an incredible learning experience. There are certainly things I will go back and evaluate and work on. It’d be nice to work with these guys again, and be even stronger. My goal was fulfilled and that was to keep it simple and give it to Bryan and Madison without a scratch, so I’m pretty pleased.”

Hindman is a driver whose determination and taking every possible opportunity available to him has served him well as he’s grown within the sports car paddock, and stands on the precipice of making it big if he can get that next great opportunity. Having showcased his versatility with success in BMW, Porsche, Mercedes-AMG and Lamborghini machinery has also opened doors with several manufacturers.

Soft-spoken but focused, Hindman looks at each situation he’s had with open arms and tries to figure out how he can seize it.

“You’re always focused on appreciating the people you’re associated with, and the overall situation at the time,” he said. “Every time you’re racing, you’ll always be after that same feeling. You don’t know if it will be heartbreak or relief, or overall excitement if things go your way.

“It’s the high you’re always chasing.”

What Drivers Said after the finish of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama

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Here’s What Drivers Said after the rain-delayed conclusion of the INDYCAR Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park:

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet) – WINNER: “That was more eventful than I would have liked. But everybody did a great job. How about Team Chevy today – they gave us a great engine, good fuel mileage and good reliability, and that’s what we needed to win this race. It’s great having Hitachi – we got Verizon a victory, now we got Hitachi a victory, so thank you guys. Everyone at Team Penske did a great job, but like I said, that was more eventful than I wanted it. It would seem like smooth sailing for the most part, we didn’t have any yellows, which we were hoping no yellows today, but then the rain crept in. I couldn’t believe how long everyone stayed out. It was really risky what they were doing, but I understand why there were doing it. I’m glad we made the call to come in so soon.”

RYAN HUNTER (No. 28 DHL Honda) – finished 2nd: “It was a good race, it was tough getting the fuel number and trying to keep the pace up, but it was a lot of fun when it started raining, trying to find the grip again and searching around. I was almost worried that I was going to burn the front (tires) off. We came in early for the wet (tires). I stayed out there as long as I could, but on the slicks, I was a lot quicker and it was that inconsistent snap that you have. When you have one of those (snaps) with the slicks you can absolutely lose it completely, so we thought that was the best time to come in and grab the Firestone wets. It was good from there. I just needed a little bit more time to cut in on (Josef) Newgarden’s lead. Congratulations to Team Penske and (Josef) Newgarden. Great job by the DHL guys this weekend. We rolled off the truck, we weren’t that happy with the car and we kept working on it methodically, chipping into it and everybody just executed it – so a good weekend overall.”

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda) – finished 3rd: “I feel bad for the fans as much as anything. We were driving around out there, and it’s like, ‘Right guys its getting wetter, it’s getting wetter….’ ‘Wet enough for rains?’ ‘Nah, not wet enough for rains…’ ‘Wet enough for rains?’ ‘Nah…’ ‘Pit for rains.’ ‘Are you guys sure?’ It was the right call for sure, so big props to the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports guys; solid weekend for us in the end. As I said before, not a great test here, but two cars in the top 10 after qualifying and then two cars in the top five in the race, so pretty proud of these boys and everyone on the Arrow Electronics car. It’s good to get a couple of Hondas up there, maybe not on the top step of the podium, but we took the rest of it.”

ROBERT WICKENS (No. 6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda) – finished 4th: “I was having to save a lot of fuel in that second stint, so once (Scott) Dixon started getting close to me, I was thinking I might have to give this position up. Then the rain came, so the fuel mileage kind of happened naturally. The rain saved us a bit, but overall great job by the Lucas Oil guys. I was a little gutted that we came out into a big bunch of traffic, but it made the race fun. It was also a little bit frustrating as we lost a bit of track position there, and I think we could have both been fighting for higher steps on the podium today.”

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 Team SealMaster Honda) – finished 5th: “It was just a tough day for the SealMaster Honda No. 18 team. It was looking perfect. We executed the plan to perfection. I started on scuffed Firestone red (alternate) tires, so we had a lot of tire degradation, but were still able to save more fuel than almost everyone. Josef (Newgarden) went for the push and it looked like we were still going to beat him because he pitted the second time and we got ahead. I had enough fuel to finish, but unfortunately, Mother Nature decided to open the skies and there wasn’t anything we could do about that. We tried to stay out and it bit us. On top of that, when we put on the wet tires, I don’t know what happened but the car was diabolical. I couldn’t do anything. I barely kept Scott (Dixon) behind me. I gave it my best shot, the guys did a good job, but it wasn’t enough. Everyone is executing perfectly. Unfortunately, you can’t predict what the weather is going to do, so you have to make a call one way or the other and we were on the wrong side of the fence today. The good news is we finished fifth and keep putting ourselves in position. Our pace is good and we are in the championship mix.”

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) – finished 6th: “I think I was one of the drivers on the fence in regards to if we should restart or not yesterday. I guess overall, it was the same for everyone. I literally couldn’t see a thing from the PNC Bank car and was just trying to hold it straight. Cars were just going by me, and there was nothing you could do because I couldn’t see anything out of my visor. It’s a shame we couldn’t get in the full distance Sunday because Barber is an amazing track with an incredible crowd. I think the one-stop strategy was the one to have today and it would have put us third, but the rain took care of that, unfortunately. The car was fast and really good on fuel mileage, but it is what it is. Hopefully we can get a break to go our way in a few weeks.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Mi-Jack Honda) – finished 7th: “In the dry, we were able to make some moves and get by some guys, and turn in some good laps when we needed to before the pit stops and cycle out to a pretty good spot. Overall, it was a decent day. I can’t say too much bad about it. I’ll take seventh. We lost some ground to a few of the guys ahead, but overall it’s good to be third in points.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda) – finished 8th: “We tried a one-stop strategy, and basically everyone else was on two-stoppers, so we looked like we lacked pace, but we had to save a massive amount of fuel. It looked good until the middle. My teammate came on charge and was on a hard two-stopper, so I let him go and lost some positions a couple of times, but then it looked good. If the yellow came, we would have been in a very positive position. Even not, a lot of people had to come into the pits. However, unfortunately the rain came and I had to stop again for rain tires, which meant my second stint was basically just a slow pace. It’s a big shame. The rain helped me a lot yesterday to get to eighth and today, in the end, the rain didn’t help my strategy. I will take it after a difficult qualifying.  We need to make the car fast at the (INDYCAR) Grand Prix because we have a lot of work to be done.”

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet) – finished 9th: “We had a pretty good race going and I think we potentially could have been a top five (finisher). So, I was very frustrated with Gabby (Chavez). He was two laps down. And I just got stuck behind him, which gave an opportunity to (Scott) Dixon as I was trying everything I could to make it happen. But, it’s a real shame because when it’s not your day, it’s just not your day. You’ll have better days later, but you won’t have everybody on your side when you have a good day. And at the moment, he doesn’t have me on his side, let me tell you. But, it’s a real shame. I think the Menards No. 22 was really from where we started. The strategy to go on rain (tires) when we went on rain was a good choice and I thought it was a really good pace. We just started from too far back.”

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 98 Kerauno / Curb Honda) – finished 10th: “It was a lot of fun out there, but I think finishing 10th is the worst we should’ve finished. I think myself and the guys earned a third-place finish. We beat (James Hinchcliffe) out in the end – so we had third locked up until the rain made all the one-stoppers work. We were looking really good for a podium; the Kerauno team was way better than what the race results showed, but we know we have the pace, so we’ll keep digging and move on to Indy.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 Kerauno / Honda) – finished 11th: “It definitely wasn’t our best day. We initially went into the race with the plan of doing a two-stopper, then we switched to a one-stop strategy once the race started because of the extra formation laps. Once the race got going, we were on the wrong tire for the one-stop plan, and couldn’t make the fuel work, so we switched back to a two-stop strategy. It was looking OK, but we tried to survive the rain probably one lap too long and we lost time to guys that had already switched to rain tires. We ended up 11th. It wasn’t a great day from a performance or strategy standpoint. It’s a day that we’ll certainly be putting behind us as soon as possible and look forward to (the INDYCAR Grand Prix) where we had a really strong test a couple weeks ago.”

MATHEUS “MATT” LEIST (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet) – finished 12th: “We made some great progress from where we started the weekend, so I’m pretty happy with that. The car was good with the reds (Firestone alternate tires) in the race, so I think we had good pace. We were running with (Simon) Pagenaud, and when (Scott) Dixon came in front of me he was not that much faster, which means we made some progress from practice. Unfortunately in the rain, the car wasn’t as good, we were struggling with understeer, so I couldn’t push as I wanted. If we look at where we started and where we finished, it was a good weekend. I’m happy for the ABC Supply team and myself. Onto Indianapolis.”

ZACH VEACH (No. 26 Group One Thousand One Honda) – finished 13th: “The weekend overall was good for us, confidence-wise – advancing to the top 12 in qualifying and getting up to position sixth yesterday for the first part of the race. Today, I think we definitely had the pace to finish inside the top 10, but we had a few mechanical issues during the race. I lost all of my adjustments inside of the car, so once that happened I was a sitting duck. Extremely thankful for my Group One Thousand One crew for the job they did this weekend. We held on the best we could to come home 13th. Hopefully we can improve for the (INDYCAR Grand Prix) and of course build on everything in time for the Indianapolis 500.”

JORDAN KING (No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet) – finished 14th: “I had a really good restart. I did exactly what I wanted to do, I wanted to dispatch a couple of cars quite quickly. I managed to get past both Ed (Jones) and Scott (Dixon) before Turn 2, so that was really good actually. That gave me good track position, we were then in the top five. Unfortunately, the rain yesterday may have caused an electrical problem that took quite a while to clear. Once we got going, it was then alright. Our strategy was then compromised with the rain and we were caught out. Overall slightly annoying, we really would have been fine for a top-five finish quite comfortably, I think.”

SPENCER PIGOT (No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet) – finished 15th: “It was definitely a difficult race out there. We thought we were making up some ground by pitting early and running hard, which seemed to be working a bit. We tried to gamble at the end to stay on slicks. We were hoping for a yellow that the race would end under and we could stay up where we were. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen and I just tried to keep it on the road the best I could. Eventually, it just got too wet and we had to come in at the end. There are some positives to take away from this weekend, we’re going to take those into the INDYCAR Grand Prix and hopefully be back up front.”

RENE BINDER – finished 16th: No comments

GABBY CHAVES (No. 88 Harding Group Chevrolet) – finished 17th: “Today’s conditions were not ideal for us to start. Our strategy we used yesterday to hope for a yellow to get our lap back obviously never came. We just did more to learn, try to gauge our pace and try to keep improving. I thought we really improved on our pace compared to everyone else and we did well to pick up a few positions at the end of the day and brought the car home. Now we get to work on our most important month of the year.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet) – finished 18th: “We had a very difficult weekend and I’m glad it’s over. Looking forward to Indianapolis.”

ZACHARY CLAMAN DE MELO (No. 19 Paysafe Honda) – finished 19th: “Yesterday was tough with all the rain, and I think it was a good call to postpone the race to today. With the two-lap penalty that we received yesterday, we knew we were already at a disadvantage. So, the main goal today was to show my race craft aboard the No. 19 Paysafe car, show that my pace was there and to show that if we would have been on the lead lap that we could have definitely fought for a top 10 position. I think we did that with how I was able to pass other cars on a track that is known to be difficult for passing. We had good pace, and the fastest race lap, so it was a positive weekend overall even if it didn’t go our way.”

ED JONES (No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) – finished 20th: “Yesterday at the start, I was trying to attack, but it was very difficult. I just couldn’t see anything. Especially on the restarts. Maybe I could have been more aggressive or kept my foot down, but I didn’t think it was worth the risk in the NTT DATA car. Conditions were just very, very tough. You couldn’t see a thing. Today we got restarted and we were making progress, but we had mechanical issues and had to pit way before it was over. The guys will have to take a look at the car to see what happened I think. Hopefully we can move on and have a good start to the month of May in Indy.”

WILL POWER – finished 21st: No comments

MAX CHILTON (No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet) – finished 22nd: “That was a really unfortunate way for us to end the weekend. We were happy with the qualifying effort of the No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet and felt like we were making progress, but after the race was red-flagged and everyone was allowed to start on full fuel, we knew we were going to have a hard time doing much strategy-wise to move toward the front. Unfortunately for us, we didn’t get a chance to see what we could do during the remainder of the race because of an electrical issue that had us stopped on track before the field went green. The boys had it fixed and back out on track, but once we had confirmed the issue was fixed out on track and the heavy rain picked back up again, there was no point in us continuing and possibly tearing anything up.”

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 23 Tresiba Chevrolet – quote given Saturday) – finished 23rd: “The No. 10 car of Ed Jones just drove into the back of me. The stewards reviewed it and decided that no action would be taken, which I vehemently disagree with. Yeah, visibility was tough out there, but it was tough for everyone. I didn’t run into anyone and no one else ran into me, except for the No. 10 car. I don’t know what the stewards were looking at, but I’m going to have a discussion with them after the race. I’m just disappointed because the Carlin guys know how to run in the wet and they gave me a great car. We were moving up the field a few spots, and with the Marco (Andretti) spin, we were able to elevate another spot. We were just knocking on the door of making it into the top 10 and coming out of here in these conditions with a top-10 result heading into May would’ve been really good for the team.”

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