Tony Stewart: Kyle Larson will learn not to block me

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Kyle Larson may be one of the most heralded young drivers to hit NASCAR in some time, but three-time Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart isn’t impressed after Larson blocked him on a restart last week at Michigan.

“He’ll learn it’s not a good idea, too,” said Stewart, who was caught wagging a finger out the window at Larson afterwards (Larson himself has said that Stewart flipped him off under caution).

“If he didn’t learn it last week, he’ll learn it in the next couple of weeks.”

Stewart believes that Larson’s move to block him directly impacted his performance in the second half of the Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan.

After lining up ninth for the Lap 127 restart, Larson rose up to block him and knocked a hole in the nose of Stewart’s car. Stewart faded back to 21st following repairs on pit road during a Lap 147 caution, but rallied to finish 11th.

He thinks that Larson is in for a lesson on the matter, but that it’s up to him to decide if it will be a harsh one.

“I think he’ll learn, just like we all learned when we were rookies, one way or the other,” Stewart said today at Sonoma.

“He’ll either slow down enough and think about what he’s doing or he’ll be forced in a situation where he’ll have time to think about it [because] they’ll still be cars on the race track.”

Larson appeared to indicate that he believed he wasn’t in the wrong during a media lunch on Thursday.

“In sprint car racing, blocking is a little more, uh, normal, I guess?” Larson said according to USA Today’s Jeff Gluck. “I don’t know if he gets as angry in that as he does in stock cars when it comes to blocking.

“But I guess a guy like Tony Stewart probably respects you more if you don’t back down. So coming to a place like Sonoma, I’m sure we’ll be around each other and we’ll see what happens.

“I don’t feel like I’ve done anything dirty, so I’m not going to do anything to make the situation worse – and I hope he doesn’t. But I’m sure it’ll happen someday.”

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.