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IndyCar notes and quotes: Friday evening at PIR

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AVONDALE, Ariz. – Testing is underway for the second three-hour session of the day at Phoenix International Raceway, with just over an hour remaining until 8 p.m. MT and local time and the end of the session.

There were a handful of driver availabilities following the morning session and here’s a handful of selected quotes:

  • Helio Castroneves, on whether mechanical grip will change from day to night: “It’s extremely important for us to try and drive at night, which is the actual time of the race. Even when we come back here, maybe the weather might not be much of a difference, but still it gives you a direction. But mechanical it’s part of it, for sure. It’s the whole thing. Today is basically the first practice for everyone. Everybody is adapting with the aero package, kind of like getting comfortable, getting the rhythm back. Tomorrow will be a little bit of the momentum from today.”
  • James Hinchcliffe, on the track itself: “The track is a whole lot of fun. This is a tough little place. It’s incredible how little time you have to think about anything around a lap here. It’s so flat out, you cannot let your concentration waiver for even a fraction of a second. The backstraight is not a straight. The front straight is the only chance you have, whether it’s to adjust your weight jack, your roll bars, whatever it is. You have about three and a half, four seconds to get it done over a lap. That’s exhausting.”
  • Marco Andretti, on whether this track will be a one groove track: “It’s definitely too early to say that because I guess I have to run in the nighttime to see what happens with the track temps to give you a better answer on that. I think there’s a little room in one and two to get some clean air up high. It would be a little risky to do that in three and four. You could catch the right front in the marbles. The problem is the exit of one. You could run sort of maybe two wide entry to mid. But it tightens up pretty quick at the exit. The guy on the bottom is going to come up. He can’t hold the guys on But I don’t know, having said that, halfway through the stint, the tires will go out, there will be some degradation, dirty air. It’s a little bit early to give you a full scoop on that.
  • Tony Kanaan, on the timing of sessions: “IndyCar did a great job timing because timing-wise this afternoon’s session was really close to what the times of qualifying is going to be on Friday when we come back and the night session is going to be the time of the race. That’s why you didn’t see anybody running together. Tonight you’ll see it a lot. Tomorrow you’ll see the same thing, people doing qualifying stuff during the afternoon and at night racing stuff.”
  • Will Power, on the track’s physicality: “Yeah. It’s going to be the most physical race of the year, I’m pretty sure. Especially when you add all that downforce. I mean, the wheel is so heavy. Yeah, I have to say after the previous test, I was thinking I don’t think it will be possible to do an entire race physically all green, but we’ll see.”

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.