Hinchcliffe marks return to podium after strong Indy GP

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INDIANAPOLIS – It’s not quite conquering the oval part of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway yet, but a podium in his first start at the iconic track since his accident in practice last year marked a great result and comeback to the track for James Hinchcliffe.

Even better was the fact it came following a breakthrough weekend from a performance standpoint, as the driver of the No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda was consistently one of if not the fastest Hondas all weekend, and a regular in the top three. This came after the team recovered from diagnosing a mechanical issue – a small fire – which sidelined them all of first practice and into second practice.

Hinchcliffe and the SPM team had been close with three prior top-10 starts on the other three road or street course events this year.

But a fourth place qualifying effort, which became third on the grid once Graham Rahal was sent to the back, would set him up nicely to deliver on Saturday.

“I’m super proud of the No. 5 car, everybody on the Arrow Electronics team has done such a good job the last few races,” Hinchcliffe said post-race. “The momentum has really been rolling with us. We had a great race in Long Beach, great race in Barber, better race here. Missed all of first practice and still managed to get the car out there and qualify in the second row, race our way to a podium.

“Wasn’t easy. There was a lot of back and forth there. Some great racing, great work in the pits. Can’t thank the guys enough for the pit stop. That second stop was just killer. Unfortunately I couldn’t quite stay in front of Simon there.

“But had a great battle with Charlie a couple times there side-by-side for a few corners, and it was nice not having to save fuel. Just getting to go and drive a race hard and push this thing every lap and have some great battles along the way. Huge credit to Honda; obviously there’s a big upturn in form there, and really proud of the effort those guys have done.

“Big congrats to Simon. Three in a row is pretty impressive, and Helio coming from where he started, he was doing decent, came back at the end. We caught up to him but couldn’t quite get by him. As you said, catching him is one thing, passing him is another. But no, great effort from the guys all around.”

It marks Hinchcliffe’s first podium since his win at NOLA Motorsports Park last year. It was admittedly strategy and weather aided while this result spoke directly to the performance improvements from both driver and team in their second season, and first full season together.

“A win always feels better, I’ll be honest,” he laughed. “Helio can agree with that one.

“But no, for sure, to start in the second row was great and to be able to stay up there all day long, to have good pace at the end of the race there, like I said, I don’t think we had quite enough to do anything with Simon. But we maybe could have at least kept up with him, and that’s huge. It shows huge gains on the team’s side, on the manufacture’s side, and in certain ways, it’s more rewarding, but a win is still a win, let’s be honest, you know.”

The other good element of the day for the “Mayor of Hinchtown” – who with his third successive top-10 result now moved up to eighth place in points – was that he donated his prize winnings to the victims of the wildfires in Fort McMurray.

“It was a good day to have a good day with, what was happening up there, it was tough to watch, and with Ric Peterson, one of my team owners, his business is based kind of up in that part of the country. And Petro-Canada has a lot of people on the ground in Fort-Mac, and it’s terrible what happened to that place.

“It’s small, but like I said, it’s a good day to have a good day and hopefully the little bit that we are contributing, it’s obviously going to a good cause and hopefully it can help out.”

Hinchcliffe and the rest of the IndyCar field will return to action on Monday with oval practice at IMS.

NTT re-signs as IndyCar title sponsor in multiyear deal starting with the 2024 season

James Black/Penske Entertainment

The IndyCar Series has re-signed NTT as its title sponsor in a multiyear agreement starting in 2024.

NTT, a global information technology and communications company based in Japan, became the series’ title sponsor before the 2019 season after starting as a sponsor of the No. 10 Dallara-Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing.

NTT Data (a subsidiary of parent company Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp.) will remain the official technology partner of IndyCar, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indy 500 and the NASCAR Brickyard weekend.

With the extension, an IndyCar spokesman said NTT would become the second-longest title sponsor in series history. The longest title sponsor was PPG from 1980-97 (under the CART sanction of the Champ Car Series).

NTT replaced Verizon, which was IndyCar’s title sponsor from 2014-18 after IZOD from 2010-13.

“NTT is an excellent partner across our enterprise with strong expertise and a deep commitment to our sport,” Penske Corp. chairman and IndyCar owner Roger Penske said in a release. “From Smart Venue technology at the Racing Capital of the World to the reimagined Series mobile application, NTT is transforming the fan experience in new and innovative ways. We look forward to a bright future together.”

NTT has used artificial intelligence-enabled optical detection technology at IMS to provide information to the track’s operations and security teams, helping improve fan traffic flow and safety, the track said.

“IndyCar is a great partner for NTT Data because of our shared commitment to driving innovation, increasing sustainability and delivering amazing experiences,” NTT Data CEO Kaz Nishihata said in a release. “We also appreciate how IndyCar is so diverse, with drivers from 15 different countries, and races that range from short ovals and superspeedways to road and street courses. It’s both an incredible sport and a wonderful example for our world.”

NTT also has been instrumental in helping redesign the IndyCar app and providing more race and driver data for use in NBC Sports’ broadcasts by utilizing 140 data points from every car in the field.

“NTT is fully invested in the development and growth of our sport and has already established a terrific track record in our industry with problem-solving capabilities and access to top talent and tools,” Penske Entertainment president and CEO Mark Miles said.

Said NTT Data Services CEO Bob Pryor: “We’re thrilled to continue our collaborations that enhance and expand the fan experience for motorsports and serve as proof points for data analytics, AI, and other innovative digital technologies. For more than a century, this racing series has pioneered innovations making driving safer for everyone, and by continuing this relationship, we will accelerate the pace of innovations and new technologies, particularly related to sustainability that ultimately can benefit organizations, communities and individuals around the world.”

Starting as a Japanese telephone company, NTT grew into a $100 billion-plus tech services giant with U.S. operations based in Plano, Texas.