After fading from the IndyCar title picture over the second half of last season, James Hinchcliffe wants to be a threat to the very end in 2013.
Hinchcliffe was second in the championship at the halfway point of 2012, but three DNFs in the final seven races — including an engine failure in front of his Canadian countrymen at Toronto — played a role in his eventual finish of eighth in the standings.
But he isn’t ready to make bad luck an excuse for how his first year with Andretti Autosport ended, and he says he and his No. 27 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet team have found the areas they need to fix.
“Certainly, you look at the first half of  compared to the second half, and the results flat out weren’t there,” Hinchcliffe said today in a media teleconference. “We’ve spent a lot of time — trust me — in the off-season looking at that, going over it event-by-event, and we’ve certainly found some weaknesses and places where we can improve.
“Luck is part of it, but I think you’ve got to work hard to get good luck, and that’s going to be our approach this year — to try and out-work everybody else and hope the rest falls into place.”
A familiar face will also provide Hinchcliffe with help this season. Craig Hampson, who engineered Hinchcliffe’s Rookie of the Year campaign in 2011 for Newman-Haas Racing, has joined the Andretti camp and will re-team with him as engineer on the No. 27 (Hinchcliffe’s previous engineer, Tino Belli, is now technical director at Panther + Dreyer and Reinbold Racing).
“Everything happens for a reason, and for me, that driver-engineer relationship is so, so critical,” said Hinchcliffe, who clearly holds Hampson in high regard. “For me to come with a different engineer from last year, but at least one that I’ve worked with in the past, is such a big step forward.
“Craig’s a tremendous engineer and he’ll be a huge asset to the whole team, but certainly, everyone on the 27 car is excited about the opportunity to work with him, and I’m over the moon about the opportunity to work with him again.”
Hinchcliffe’s always been an optimistic guy, and it looks like he has even more of it going into next month’s IndyCar opener in St. Petersburg, Florida (March 24, Noon ET on NBC Sports Network).