Retirement never an option for James Hinchcliffe after crash

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Fresh out of surgery following his May 18 crash in Indianapolis 500 practice, James Hinchcliffe had only one way to communicate.

The 28-year-old Canadian, on a ventilator in his hospital bed at IU Health Methodist Hospital, took to pen and paper.

While he relayed to his team his recollections of his crash in Turn 3 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver also had one pressing question he scribbled down.

“When can I drive again?”

In a teleconference with media on Wednesday, Hinchcliffe said the possibility of retiring from racing following the crash – which left him with a pelvic injury and a pierced upper-left thigh – never crossed his mind.

“I certainly never contemplated it,” Hinchcliffe said. “If anyone around me was thinking about it, they were smart enough not to say anything. I think everybody close to me knows that wouldn’t be something that was on my mind.”

Instead of retiring after five years and eight wins, Hinchcliffe will likely be sidelined for the rest of the Verizon IndyCar Series’ 2015 season as he recovers.

He has one more surgery in the next 4-6 weeks and hopes to be able to get back in the gym another 4-6 weeks after that, working to regain the 12 pounds of muscle mass he’s lost in the four weeks since the crash.

“I have to be opened from the abdomen to undo some things that were done during the emergency surgery, just to keep me healthy and safe,” Hinchcliffe said. “Unfortunately it’s the kind of surgery that is of the nature that will put me down again for another couple weeks.  Anytime you go into the abdomen, there’s a lengthy recovery.  That’s kind of the difficult part to swallow.”

In the meantime, he will be replaced Conor Daly in his No. 5 Honda this weekend in the Honda Indy Toronto, Hinchcliffe’s home race, and will likely be replaced by Ryan Briscoe in the remaining six races.

“I think some people in the room found it so bizarre and confusing that somebody in the state I was in, hooked up to 10 different machines, recently sewn up would say, ‘How can I get back into the machine that did this to me?'” Hinchcliffe continued. “I think that’s how racing drivers are wired.

“(Retirement’s) definitely not a thought that went through my mind. Anybody that knows me well enough knows better than to bring that up to me.”

Hinchcliffe, who won the season’s second race at NOLA Motorsports Park, doesn’t have any fears about second-guessing his decision once he returns to the cockpit, something that may happen in off-season testing which Hinchcliffe believes will start in September.

“The only thing I worry about is making sure I’m at the fitness level I need to be at when I get the chance and the approval and clearance to get back in,” Hinchcliffe said.

Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night
USACRacing.com / DB3 Inc.
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On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.


Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)