James Hinchcliffe remains optimistic despite rough start to 2016


It would be an understatement to say Saturday night’s Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix race at Phoenix International Raceway didn’t exactly go anywhere near as James Hinchcliffe had planned.

He had hoped for a stronger finish than 18th, particularly since it was Hinchcliffe’s first race on an oval since his horrific crash while practicing for the Indianapolis 500 last May.

Hinchcliffe had also high aspirations to shine in the desert, given that it was the first return of the Verizon IndyCar Series to the 1.022-mile D-shaped short oval at PIR since 2005.

But ever the optimist, Hinchcliffe acknowledged the bad but also looked at the good that came out of an otherwise trying night.

“The bad news, we were running up hill all weekend after a crash in early practice Friday,” Hinchcliffe said in a media release.

“The good news? Our great team got us back on the track to the point that we got in maximum laps on a notorious short oval, something that should help us later in the year.”

MORE: Hinchcliffe, doctors reflect on his remarkable recovery

Indeed, the driver of the No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda knows this season will be a work in progress after last May’s frightful crash.

Hinchcliffe has long recovered from the physical and emotional aspects of the May 18 wreck, when a mechanical failure sent him crashing into the Turn 3 wall at Indianapolis Motor Speedway at approximately 190 mph.

He endured several surgeries and several months of rehabilitation and recovery.

But to best illustrate Hinchcliffe’s nature, one only need to go back to when, just a few hours after undergoing surgery on the same day as his wicked crash, Hinchcliffe took pen to paper to ask doctors when he could get back in a race car.

He of course did during his test at Road America last September. After a tough St. Petersburg opener, where he qualified eighth but finished 19th after sustaining a flat tire on the opening lap and played catch-up, he was keen to return to Phoenix.

Then came the optimism heading to Phoenix, only to wreck in practice last Friday due to understeer issues and then play catch-up from that point forward.

“I think we got a direction,” said Hinchcliffe, who was forced to start last in the 22-car field at Phoenix due to the Friday wreck. “The unfortunate thing is it’s the exact opposite of what we were planning on doing coming into the weekend. That’s how different the track feels.”

As Hinchcliffe reflected back on Saturday’s race, while he regretted how things turned out, in his ever optimistic way, he’s ready to get things headed back in the right direction on April 17 at Long Beach.

“Man, a long day at the office for sure,” Hinchcliffe said. “No doubt, missing as much practice as we did hurt us. It took us a couple shots to get the car dialed in to what we needed to feel that we could race those guys.

“Unfortunately, by that point we caught an unlucky yellow just after a pit stop and that put us two laps down. It was sort of the same story as St. Pete, where we were running around tailing the field but where we were able to keep the leaders behind us.

“All in all, a long day. This kind of thing is to be expected when you start the weekend off the way we did. … We will bounce back in Long Beach and hopefully get some good points there.”

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IndyCar disappointed by delay of video game but aiming to launch at start of 2024

IndyCar video game 2024

An IndyCar executive said there is “absolutely” disappointment that its long-awaited video game recently was delayed beyond its target date, but the series remains optimistic about the new title.

“Well, I don’t know how quick it will be, but the whole situation is important to us,” Penske Entertainment president and CEO Mark Miles said during a news conference Monday morning to announce IndyCar’s NTT title sponsorship. “Motorsport Games has spent a lot of money, a lot of effort to create an IndyCar title. What we’ve seen of that effort, which is not completely obvious, is very reassuring.

“I think it’s going to be outstanding. That’s our shared objective, that when it is released, it’s just widely accepted. A great credit both to IndyCar racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, something that our fans love.”

In June 2021, IndyCar announced a new partnership with Motorsport Games to create and distribute an IndyCar video game for the PC and Xbox and PlayStation consoles in 2023.

But during an earnings call last week, Motorsport Games said the IndyCar game had been delayed to 2024 to ensure high quality.

Somewhat compounding the delay is that IndyCar’s license for iRacing expired after the end of the 2022 season because of its exclusive agreement with Motorsport Games.

That’s resulted in significant changes for IndyCar on iRacing, which had provided a high-profile way for the series to stay visible during its 2020 shutdown from the pandemic. (Players still can race an unbranded car but don’t race on current IndyCar tracks, nor can they stream).

That’s helped ratchet up the attention on having a video game outlet for IndyCar.

“I wish we had an IndyCar title 10 years ago,” said Miles, who has been working with the organization since 2013. “We’ve been close, but we’ve had these I think speed bumps.”

IndyCar is hopeful the Motorsports Game edition will be ready at the start of 2024. Miles hinted that beta versions could be unveiled to reporters ahead of the time “to begin to show the progress in a narrow way to make sure we’ve got it right, to test the progress so that we’re ready when they’re ready.”

It’s been nearly 18 years since the release of the most recent IndyCar video game for console or PC.

“(We) better get it right,” Miles said. “It’s something we’re very close to and continue to think about what it is to make sure we get it over the line in due course.”