Force's first pitch. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI, photo courtesy John Force Racing

NHRA: Brittany Force throws first pitch out at St. Louis Cardinals game

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NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Top Fuel driver Brittany Force got her first taste of a first pitch, doing so at last night’s St. Louis Cardinals game. The Cardinals hosted the Milwaukee Brewers.

A quick summation, via the John Force Racing team, is below:

Last night at Busch Stadium Monster Energy Top Fuel driver Brittany Force threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Cardinals defeated the Milwaukee Brewers 7-3. This was the fifth straight win for the Cardinals and they now hold a four game lead over the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL Central. Before the pitch Force, the 2013 NHRA Rookie of the Year, was nervous but excited.

“I was nervous about it all day and really have been nervous since we decided to do it. I had a bad experience throwing out the first pitch once before. I told myself I would never do that again. I decided to give it another try at the Cardinals game. We had a busy day before the pitch with a press conference and media interviews,” said Force.

“We actually got down on the field for a few minutes and then we had some time to wait. I asked the Cardinals staff if there was a place I could practice. I just wanted to calm my nerves. I went into the hallway and practiced throwing a few pitches with Marc Gewertz who is one of the National Dragster photographers. I am so glad he helped me out. It calmed me down and he gave me some good pointers.”

As Force took the field she thought about how her racing career played a major role in not just affording her this opportunity but also putting her in position to make a solid pitch. The five-time Top Fuel finalist waved to the crowd and then threw a nice straight pitch right to catcher Travis Tartamella a recent call up by the Cardinals.

“I think the biggest cross-over from racing to baseball was the importance of practice. I get in my race car for about ten minutes before we run and I just go over my routine. Going through the motions just makes me more comfortable. That is the same process I did for the game last night,” said Force.

“Everyone with the Cardinals was so nice. Will Patterson from the Cardinals let me get down on the field earlier in the day. He said the Cardinal fans would be awesome and he was right. Some time you climb in your race car whether it is first round or final round and there are some runs you are so nervous but I just tell myself it will be over in four seconds. You just have to do the best job that you can. The pitch turned out really well.”

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.