James Hinchcliffe describes how inspired he was by Justin Wilson

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It’s the night of the lone Texas Motor Speedway same night doubleheader race in the 2011 IndyCar season.

The battle was for 18th or 19th place. Maybe 21st.

James Hinchcliffe doesn’t remember which spot it was.

But that night saw the “Mayor of Hinchtown” race Justin Wilson cleanly and fairly in what was one of the Canadian’s favorite racing moments of his career.

It didn’t matter the position, but the level of respect Wilson showed the rookie on track even as both drivers were fighting ill-handling race cars stuck out to him.

“He and I were both struggling so bad,” Hinchcliffe told MotorSportsTalk at Sonoma this weekend. “I don’t even remember the number were racing for.

“It was my first mile-and-a-half race. He sees my struggling with my car, I see him struggling with his. But we had this great race.

“Afterwards we had a great laugh about how hard we were driving for 18th, 19th, whatever it was. He was such an awesome guy to be around.”

Unlike some of Wilson’s longtime on-track competitors – Sebastien Bourdais, Oriol Servia and Will Power come to mind – Hinchcliffe and Wilson only had three full-time seasons together on-track from 2011 to 2015.

Wilson missed the second half of 2011 with a back injury and also most of 2015 due his part-time status.

Hinchcliffe and Wilson only shared the track once in 2015 – the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis – the race before Hinchcliffe’s accident in practice for the Indianapolis 500 sidelined him for the rest of this season.

Coincidentally, Wilson wound up as Hinchcliffe’s replacement in Andretti Autosport’s fourth car this season, albeit in the car that only ran part-time.

Still, Hinchcliffe’s memories of Wilson date back even further than their racing days together.

They go back to when the then-teenager, then-Atlantic driver announced Champ Car World Series races in 2006 and 2007, as color commentator alongside sage North American open-wheel talent scout Jeremy Shaw, for Champ Car’s international feed.

Wilson was on the verge of an emotional – if draining – second straight Mexico City win to close out the 2006 season. With only one good hand, he led and strategically defended against Bourdais all race.

On the final lap though, Bourdais channeled his inner Paul Tracy and “chrome horned” Wilson out of the way at the top of the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez road course en route to his seventh win in 14 races of his third straight title year. Wilson was left with a solitary win at Edmonton.

And yet the guy pissed off about the bump-and-run, externally anyway, wasn’t Wilson. It was Hinchcliffe up in the booth.

“There’s a lot of memories, but the one that always stood out to me was Mexico City in ’06 with Bourdais,” Hinchcliffe explained. “Justin hadn’t won a ton of races at that point, and Bourdais had already been a champion a couple times over.

“Justin leads the whole race and the last lap Bourdais just chucks it down there at the hairpin, bounces over a curb, punts him out of the way. Basically, he did what Regan Smith did to (Alex) Tagliani at Mid-Ohio. It was a very NASCAR-esque move.

“At that point, I didn’t even know Justin that well. But I was so mad for him! I’m thinking, ‘This move is a joke… how is Race Control not doing anything for him?’

“He gets out of the car and gives one of the most impressive interviews I’ve ever seen. It was super calm. He was totally accepting of the situation. He wasn’t angry at Seb, he wasn’t angry at Race Control… he was just there in the moment. It was the ultimate gentleman reply to what had happened.

“I remember right then and there thinking, I hope one day I can respond like that in a similar situation, with that kind of poise and professionalism. It really was inspiring to a young driver.”

Hinchcliffe also made a particularly valid point about how important it was for the IndyCar community to gather so soon after Pocono this past weekend at Sonoma.

“We were talking about this this morning,” Hinchcliffe explained. “It’s the polar opposite to Dan (Wheldon), where we had the entire offseason to grieve about it, think about it, and dwell on it. And now, we’re five days later forced to get right back to work.

“On one hand you feel almost guilty for being here and doing it, but on the other… and I know this sounds cliché… but ask any driver that has the ability to tell you, if that was you, would you want to be racing this weekend and the answer would be yes 100 percent of the time.”

Soon enough, Hinchcliffe will get his chance to do so, as he finishes his own recovery process before the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season.

Hunter Lawrence defends Haiden Deegan after controversial block pass at Detroit


Media and fan attention focused on a controversial run-in between Haiden Deegan and his Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing teammate Jordon Smith during Round 10 of the Monster Energy Supercross race at Detroit, after which the 250 East points’ Hunter Lawrence defends the young rider in the postrace news conference.

Deegan took the early lead in Heat 1 of the round, but the mood swiftly changed when he became embroiled in a spirited battle with teammate Smith.

On Lap 3, Smith caught Deegan with a fast pass through the whoops. Smith briefly held the lead heading into a bowl turn but Deegan had the inside line and threw a block pass. In the next few turns, the action heated up until Smith eventually ran into the back of Deegan’s Yamaha and crashed.

One of the highlights of the battle seemed to include a moment when Deegan waited on Smith in order to throw a second block pass, adding fuel to the controversy.

After his initial crash, Smith fell to seventh on the next lap. He would crash twice more during the event, ultimately finishing four laps off the pace in 20th.

The topic was inevitably part of the postrace news conference.

“It was good racing; it was fun,” Deegan said at about the 27-minute mark in the video above. “I just had some fun doing it.”

Smith had more trouble in the Last Chance Qualifier. He stalled his bike in heavy traffic, worked his way into a battle for fourth with the checkers in sight, but crashed a few yards shy of the finish line and was credited with seventh. Smith earned zero points and fell to sixth in the standings.

Lawrence defends Deegan
Jordon Smith failed to make the Detroit Supercross Main and fell to sixth in the points. – Feld Motor Sports

“I think he’s like fifth in points,” Deegan said. “He’s a little out of it. Beside that it was good, I don’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention.”

Deegan jokingly deflected an earlier question with the response that he wasn’t paying attention during the incident.

“He’s my teammate, but he’s a veteran, he’s been in this sport for a while,” Deegan said. “I was up there just battling. I want to win as much as everybody else. It doesn’t matter if it’s a heat race or a main; I just want to win. I was just trying to push that.”

As Deegan and Smith battled, Jeremy Martin took the lead. Deegan finished second in the heat and backed up his performance with a solid third-place showing in the main, which was his second podium finish in a short six-race career. Deegan’s first podium was earned at Daytona, just two rounds ago.

But as Deegan struggled to find something meaningful to say, unsurprisingly for a 17-year-old rider who was not scheduled to run the full 250 schedule this year, it was the championship leader Lawrence who came to his defense.

Lawrence defends Deegan
A block pass by Haiden Deegan led to a series of events that eventually led to Jordon Smith failing to make the Main. – Feld Motor Sports

“I just want to point something out, which kind of amazes me,” Lawrence said during the conference. “So many of the people on social media, where everyone puts their expertise in, are saying the racing back in the ’80s, the early 90s, when me were men. They’re always talking about how gnarly it was and then anytime a block pass or something happens now, everyone cries about it.

“That’s just a little bit interesting. Pick one. You want the gnarly block passes from 10 years ago and then you get it, everyone makes a big song and dance about it.”

Pressed further, Lawrence defended not only the pass but the decision-making process that gets employed lap after lap in a Supercross race.

“It’s easy to point the finger,” Lawrence said. “We’re out there making decisions in a split millisecond. People have all month to pay their phone bill and they still can’t do that on time.

“We’re making decisions at such a fast reaction [time with] adrenaline. … I’m not just saying it for me or Haiden. I speak for all the guys. No one is perfect and we’re under a microscope out there. The media is really quick to point a finger when someone makes a mistake.”

The media is required to hold athletes accountable for their actions. They are also required to tell the complete story.