Pagenaud downbeat after demise of Baltimore race

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He’ll always have Baltimore.

For the time being – but perhaps, for all time – Simon Pagenaud will stand as the final winner of the Grand Prix of Baltimore. The Frenchman claimed the checkered flag by the Inner Harbor this past Labor Day weekend, standing tall after perhaps the craziest race of the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series so far.

But unfortunately, word came yesterday that the Baltimore event would be cancelled for at least the next two years as INDYCAR and race organizers were unable to find a new date for it. Scheduling conflicts for Labor Day weekend in 2014 and 2015 proved too much to work around.

And that makes Pagenaud, in his words, “really sad,” according to a report from Childs Walker of The Baltimore Sun. While understanding of the difficulties of scheduling races, the Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports pilot is unhappy to leave behind both a top-notch street circuit and a great setting.

“It’s disappointing to me, because it’s a place where I’ve had so much success and a race that has been a real turning point in our season the last few years,” Pagenaud told The Sun.

“It’s a long street course with a lot of diversity. A little bit of everything. It’s one of the best to drive on because of how far you can push yourself. Honestly, I think everybody loved it. It’s a shame. It’s a great city that I enjoy coming to.”

Pagenaud’s explosive move from sixth to the lead on a mid-race restart was a highlight in the 2012 race at Baltimore, which ended with him on the podium after starting ninth. Then a few weeks ago in Charm City, he passed Marco Andretti for the lead with seven laps to go and went on to claim his second win of the season.

He won’t be able to make any more Maryland memories for a while. But at least he has some fond ones to look back on.

James Hinchcliffe on Andretti: ‘It’s certainly the place I want to be’

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Since before the start of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season, James Hinchcliffe tirelessly has worked to ensure the future would include a full-time return in 2021.

And with an opportunity to run the final three races this season with Andretti Autosport, there seems a surefire (albeit unlikely) path.

“If I go out and win all three,” Hinchcliffe joked with IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview Friday (watch the video above), “it would be hard for them to say no, right?”

Regardless of whether he can go unbeaten at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course next weekend or the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida (where he earned his first career win in 2013), Hinchcliffe will have the chance to improve his stock with the team that he knows well and now has an opening among its five cars for 2021.

All three of Hinchcliffe’s starts this season — the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, July 4 at the IMS road course and the Indianapolis 500 — were with Andretti, where he ran full time in IndyCar from 2012-14.

“Obviously, the plan from January 2020 was already working on ’21 and trying to be in a full-time program,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed being reunited with Andretti Autosport, and everybody there has been so supportive. It’s been a very fun year for me on track. It’s been kind of a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways.

“It’s certainly the place I want to be moving forward. We’ve been working on that, working on those conversations. Genesys has been an incredible partner in my three races. We’ll be representing Gainbridge primarily, but Genesys will still have a position on our car in the last three.”

Gainbridge is the primary sponsor of the No. 26 Dallara-Honda that was vacated by Zach Veach, who left the team after it was determined he wouldn’t return in 2021. Hinchcliffe can empathize having lost his ride with Arrow McLaren SP after last season with a year left on his deal.

“You never want to earn a ride at the expense of somebody else in the sense that has happened here with Zach,” Hinchcliffe said. “I feel bad that he’s not able to see out the last three races of his season. I’ve got a lot of respect for him off track. He’s been a teammate this year, a colleague for years before that and honestly a friend for years before that. I’ve got a lot of time for him and his family. I understand a little bit of what it’s like in that position and what he’s going through.”

Hinchcliffe is ready to seize the moment, though, starting with the Oct. 2-3 doubleheader race weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He had been hoping to add the Harvest Indy Grand Prix to his schedule and had been working out for the possibility.

“Then last week I had given up hope (and) was resigned that wasn’t happening,” he said. “I told my trainer, ‘I think we’re done for this year.’ Three days later, this call comes. I’m glad we didn’t make that decision too early. I feel great physically.

“I look at it as a great opportunity to continue to show I’ve still got what it takes and should be there hopefully full time next year on the grid.”

Watch Hinchliffe’s video with Leigh Diffey above or by clicking here.