MRTI: Hargrove (Porsche GT3 Canada) and Burkett (Atlantic) capture other titles

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A pair of drivers who competed in the Mazda Road to Indy this year have captured championships outside their normal open-wheel seats. Pro Mazda’s Scott Hargrove took home the Porsche GT3 Canada Platinum Cup title, while Daniel Burkett of USF2000 won the Atlantic Championship.

From a one-off guest starring appearance to a championship, Hargrove enjoyed quite the year in Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin.

Hargrove, the 19-year-old from Surrey, British Columbia, rounded out his debut season both in the championship and in a GT car with his fifth and sixth wins of the year over the weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

It made for a perfect book-end after also sweeping the CTMP doubleheader opening weekend in May, driving the No. 69 OpenRoad Racing Porsche for team principal Christian Chia. Overall, Hargrove finished first or second in each of the 10 races and won the title by 22 points over Chris Green.

“It’s a phenomenal feeling,” Hargrove said. “I can’t thank the guys enough. Michelin tires, IMSA, Porsche, everybody that helps put this series together. I’m proud to be the champion in only my rookie year. I can’t wait to see where this goes.”

Hargrove also shook off the previous week’s defeat in Pro Mazda, where Spencer Pigot emerged with that title at the final race of the year in Sonoma. Pigot ended third in the GT3 Canada season.

“I put that behind me,” Hargrove said. “This is a different championship, and now this is the highlight of my year. I’ve just got to move on from what happened last weekend and just cherish what we did this year in both series. I’m just excited to be here and the champion.”

Hargrove wasn’t alone in winning Porsche GT3 Canada class titles. Hargrove took the Platinum Cup title with Marco Cirone (Platinum Masters), Tim Sanderson (Gold Cup) and Chuck Harris (Silver Cup) also leaving the CTMP weekend with additional season long hardware.

For Burkett, who also made waves this year with a series of humorous videos about the quest for sponsorship, his Atlantic Championship Series win was a season-long tour de force.

Burkett, also 19 and from Winnipeg, Manitoba, won seven of the 10 races this season driving for K-Hill Motorsports, including the finale at Thompson Speedway in Connecticut. He clinched the championship in race one of the Thompson weekend.

Burkett ended 11th this season in USF2000, driving for Belardi Auto Racing.

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.