IndyCar: Byrd’s Racing plans Indy 500 return… for 2016

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The elements between the 1990s-early 2000s and modern day Verizon IndyCar Series for the Indianapolis 500 continue, with the news Monday that Jonathan Byrd’s Racing plans an Indy return.

Problem is, the sponsor’s release announces the return for 2016 – a full two years from now.

That year will mark the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 but given the brand’s heritage, having been part of the ‘500 for most of the 20-year period between 1985 and 2005, the decision was taken now for the Greenwood, Ind.-based operation to announce its return plans. It’s had 17 total entries in the race.

“From the beginning , racing has been part of the DNA of our business,” said Virginia “Ginny” Byrd, wife of the late Jonathan Byrd and owner of Jonathan Byrd’s, “and the Indy 500 has been an especially important part of shaping our identity in central Indiana.  The annual participation of the various Jonathan Byrd’s Racing teams in the Indy 500 from 1985 through 2001, and again in 2005, which allowed us to have a place in the event that has provided an identity to the City of Indianapolis and the State of Indiana, and to which hundreds of thousands of our fellow Hoosiers have such a strong emotional attachment, enabled us to connect with the greater central Indiana community in a profound way.  Since we have been away from Indy, I believe that connection has been missing.”

Ginny Byrd explained the rationale to announce now.

“Even though we won’t be back until the 100th running of 500 in 2016, we thought it would be good to make our efforts on this front public and to share this news with our customers and all those that have supported us over the years.  Not only does it give us something to look forward to, we have what I think is a brilliant plan in place as we will be taking steps to tie our brand to our participation in the Indy 500 in a very meaningful way.  Now that we’re going back, we intend to be there for a long time to come.”

As ever, a driver and the team partnership will be announced later on. It will be good to see an iconic name return to the Brickyard, even if the wait is for a couple years.

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.