IMSA kicks off final four-race stretch at Road America this weekend

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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Following a summer that hasn’t seen too much racing action between May and July, things get busy once again for IMSA’s TUDOR United SportsCar Championship and Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge at Road America this weekend.

With several either limited class or limited time races in the books, each series is down to its final four races, to be held over the next two months through the season finale at Road Atlanta in October.

In the interim, Road America occurs this weekend with VIR in two weeks, Circuit of the Americas in September and then Road Atlanta to cap it off.

The four Corvette DP teams are 1-4 in the TUDOR Championship Prototype drivers standings. Heading into this weekend, Michael Valiante and Richard Westbrook lead Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi by seven points (221-214), with Dane Cameron and Eric Curran (210) and the Taylor brothers on 206.

The PC battle is even closer with Jon Bennett and Colin Braun only three up on Tom Kimber-Smith and Mike Guasch (222-219).

In GT Le Mans, Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen have the No. 3 Corvette in the lead by just two points, 188-186 over Bill Auberlen and Dirk Werner in the No. 25 BMW.

GT Daytona features the tightest top-to-bottom battle with the top four pairs separated by only 10 points.

In the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, Stevenson Motorsports’ pair of Andrew Davis and Robin Liddell lead by a healthy 24-point margin over Hugh and Matt Plumb in GS, while the ST battle sees Stevan McAleer and Chad McCumbee now four clear of fellow Mazda drivers Andrew Carbonell and Liam Dwyer.

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.