Hinchcliffe: “I just assume it will go poorly”

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TORONTO – One thing the “Mayor of Hinchtown” – Canada’s lone full-time Verizon IndyCar Series driver James Hinchcliffe – has in spades is a self-deprecating sense of humor.

Hinchcliffe heads into Toronto this weekend looking to break his duck, where seemingly everything other than a cartoon anvil has struck him in eight prior starts between IndyCar, Indy Lights and Formula Atlantic at his home race.

A third place in the 2009 Indy Lights race, behind then Andretti Autosport drivers Sebastian Saavedra and JR Hildebrand, marks his only podium finish in Toronto.

“I just assume it will go poorly,” Hinchcliffe joked Thursday, during his media availability ahead of the weekend.

“I had an engine problem in contention for a podium in ’12. I got turfed by PT in ’11… although it’s kinda cool getting punted by a Canadian legend who’s known for that. I didn’t even start last year in race two because I stalled on the grid.”

With a quote that’s bound to inspire his engineer, Nathan O’Rourke, of his No. 27 United Fiber & Data Honda to want to pummel Hinch, he said the luck simply has to change.

“Maybe there’s nothing left to happen,” Hinch said. “My engineer will hate me saying that. I’ll get hit by a meteor now or something.”

Although Hinchcliffe has had great pace all season, for whatever reason there’s been a litany of moments that have cost him a decent result. Fifth twice (Detroit 2, Houston 1) marks his best result.

“No doubt it’s frustrating,” he said, as he enters the weekend 11th in points. “We’ve done a good job and had good pace. The results don’t match the effort. Its just been one of those years.”

Seventeen different drivers have scored podiums this season, and Hinch would add to that tally if and when he breaks through. He hasn’t said the field’s competitiveness was a reason why they haven’t got that result yet, though.

“I don’t think that’s part of it, to be honest,” he said. “It wasn’t that we got passed by others. It’s just more timing of yellows falling against us. Or at a place like Iowa, we lost the balance.”

Regardless of the struggles, Hinchcliffe remains thankful to the Canadians fans for support. He’s the sole Canadian driver in the Honda Indy 2 in Toronto, which is the first such occasion of just one Canuck since 1990.

“It means the world to me,” he said. “There’s been an incredible amount of support, and it’s the same this year with it being a tough year as it was last year when I came in here with three wins.

“Toronto and Canadian fans? They’re not bandwagoners. They’ll still support you.”

Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry. Time just published a brief piece by Wallace saluting Hamilton as a trailblazer.

The idea of Hamilton attending the NASCAR season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it would seem right for Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — to spend some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).