Photo: Tony DiZinno

NHRA’s Don Schumacher Racing trio visits Karam’s DRR IndyCar (PHOTOS)

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INDIANAPOLIS – One of the cooler parts about the Indianapolis Motor Speedway week of practice is it offers an opportunity for a bit of cross-promotion whereby drivers from the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series can come check out the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers in their natural habitat.

Antron Brown visited Ed Carpenter a couple years ago and this morning, Don Schumacher Racing’s talented trio of drivers in Shawn Langdon, Tommy Johnson Jr. and Leah Pritchett visited the Dreyer & Reinbold – Kingdom Racing garage of Sage Karam, who’s driving the No. 24 Gas Monkey Energy Chevrolet in the 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

Pritchett, who made her DSR debut at Atlanta last week after a circuitous start to her season following the unfortunate and unexpected demise of the Bob Vandergriff Racing team, loved getting to sit in the No. 24 car.

She told NBC Sports she doubts she’d ever have the interest to drive one of these cars but was wowed at the dashboard, steering wheel and overall cockpit environment of an IndyCar.

Langdon and Johnson Jr. followed Pritchett into a quick sitting in the car – Langdon, a past Top Fuel class champion – joked before he got in he wasn’t sure whether he’d be able to get in the car!

Photos from the morning event are below:

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.