IndyCar 2016 driver review: James Hinchcliffe

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MotorSportsTalk continues its review through the field of Verizon IndyCar Series drivers, driver-by-driver.

James Hinchcliffe was probably better than 13th place in his full-time return to IndyCar following that devastating accident in practice last year. This year, he’s been not just a full-time driver once more, but a series ambassador in so many roles outside the cockpit.

James Hinchcliffe, No. 5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda

  • 2015: 23rd Place (5 Starts), 1 Win, Best Start 10th, 1 Podium, 1 Top-5, 2 Top-10, 20 Laps Led, 13.6 Avg. Start, 9.6 Avg. Finish
  • 2016: 13th Place, Best Finish 2nd, 1 Pole, 3 Podiums, 4 Top-5, 9 Top-10, 217 Laps Led, 10.9 Avg. Start, 10.8 Avg. Finish

James Hinchcliffe was a top-10 driver in points most of the year so the fact he fell to 13th by the checkered flag in Sonoma was a bit misleading. As ever, though, the fact he was back at all in 2016 was always going to be one of the year’s top storylines.

Much was made, as expected, when Hinchcliffe scored his dramatic pole position for the 100th Indianapolis 500 slightly more than a year to the day after his near-death crash in practice. But while outside media focused more on the comeback story, inside the beltway, the Hinchcliffe improved dynamic with engineer Allen McDonald and the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team on the whole was the greater focus. Qualifying was significantly better than it was in his truncated 2015 season, and more than once SPM flew the flag as Honda’s top team over the course of the weekend. In his first seven races this year, Hinchcliffe had six top-10 starts; in 2015, there was only one 10th place in five races. Overall, there were 11 top-10 starts.

And Hinchcliffe got his rewards in the races as well. His podiums at the Indianapolis Grand Prix and Toronto, the latter his home race, were thanks to dynamic strategy from Robert Gue on the box. Sadly while Hinchcliffe excelled by strategy, he also occasionally got caught out by it – a would-be second-place came up empty, literally, at Watkins Glen when the car ran out of fuel on the final lap. Then his and the team’s most dominant drive – at Texas – suffered insult to injury after coming up a fraction short to Graham Rahal when a post-race penalty was assessed for the skid plate being worn.

For the driver whose on-track results have often been erratic, this was easily the most consistent Hinchcliffe has been in five full-time seasons. The weird part is that it produced a career-worst finish in points, an unlucky 13th one spot down from his rookie year of 2011 and his last full-time season with Andretti Autosport in 2014.

Hinchcliffe heads into the offseason now without the focus of the comeback story as it was last year. Instead, he’s busy playing ambassador for the championship, with his turn on “Dancing with the Stars” coming after a couple other national media rounds and appearances this year. It was a year where his off-track accolades drew greater focus, but his on-track performances merited their best scores yet in his IndyCar career.

Xtreme Outlaw Midget Series triples to 34 races in 2023

Xtreme Outlaw Midget 2023
Xtreme Outlaw Series
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After hosting 10 rounds in 2022, the Xtreme Outlaw Midget Series 2023 schedule will more than triple to 34 races. The 2022 season featured seven different winners in the first seven races, a female racer in Jade Avedisian as the only repeat winner and Zach Daum as the champion.

“Dirt Midget racing is a growing entity in American motorsports, and the Xtreme Outlaw Midget Series presented by Toyota is proud to drive further into the growth of the division with both a diverse and lucrative schedule for 2023,” newly appointed Series Director Tyler Bachman said in a press release. “From the kickoff at our first indoor event, to each of the new tracks we’re set to visit next year, it’s a lineup we know both our teams and fans will enjoy.”

The championship purse fund has also more than double with an increase of $42,000 to $80,000 in 2023. The champion will win $25,000. Last year, Daum pocketed $10,000.

In addition, the series will offer tow money to the top 12 in points. Six drivers attempted to qualify for all 10 races in 2022 with 89 drivers attending.

The series will begin on March 10 at Southern Illinois Center in Du Quoin, Ill. and end the same place it did in 2022 at I-44 Riverside Speedway in Oklahoma City on October 15.

During the season, they will visit 21 tracks in 10 states.

Some highlights of the season include the Xtreme Outlaw Midget Series pairing up with the World of Outlaws Sprint Cars in 2023 at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 in Pevely, Mo. in April for the Outlaw Showdown and again in August for the Ironman 55 weekend, as well as the creation of a five-day Midget Speedweek.

The Midget Speedweek will immediately follow the Ironman 55 with a swing through Pennsylvania and New York.

Xtreme Outlaw Midget 2023 Schedule

Friday, March 10 | Southern Illinois Center | Du Quoin, Ill.
Saturday, March 11 | Southern Illinois Center | Du Quoin, Ill.
Friday, March 31 | Farmer City Raceway | Farmer City, Ill.

Saturday, April 1 | Farmer City Raceway | Farmer City, Ill.
Friday, April 14 | Federated AP Raceway at I-55 | Pevely, Mo.
Saturday, April 15 | Federated AP Raceway at I-55 | Pevely, Mo.

Friday, May 5 | Humboldt Speedway | Humboldt, Kan.
Saturday, May 6 | 81 Speedway | Park City, Kan.
Tuesday, May 23 | Millbridge Speedway | Salisbury, N.C.
Wednesday, May 24 | Millbridge Speedway | Salisbury, N.C.

Thursday, June 1 | Tri-City Speedway | Pontoon Beach, Ill.
Friday, June 2 | Wayne County Speedway | Wayne City, Ill.
Saturday, June 3 | Wayne County Speedway | Wayne City, Ill.

Friday, July 21 | TBA
Saturday, July 22 | Southern Illinois Raceway | Marion, Ill.
Friday, July 28 | TBA
Saturday, July 29 | Atomic Speedway | Chillicothe, Ohio
Sunday, July 30 | Brushcreek Motorsports Complex | Peebles, Ohio

Friday, August 4 | Federated AP Raceway at I-55 | Pevely, Mo.
Sat, August 5 | Federated AP Raceway at I-55 | Pevely, Mo.
Tuesday, August 8 | Clyde Martin Memorial Speedway | Newmanstown, Pa.
Wednesday, August 9 | Action Track USA | Kutztown, Pa.
Thursday, August 10 | Linda’s Speedway | Jonestown, Pa.
Friday, August 11 | TBA
Saturday, August 12 | Bridgeport Motorsports Park | Swedesboro, N.J.
Friday, August 25 | Davenport Speedway | Davenport, Iowa
Saturday, August 26 | Davenport Speedway | Davenport, Iowa

Friday, September 1 | Paragon Speedway | Paragon, Ind.
Saturday, September 2 | Paragon Speedway | Paragon, Ind.
Friday, September 15 | Jacksonville Speedway | Jacksonville, Ill.
Saturday, September 16 | Red Hill Raceway | Sumner, Ill.

Friday, October 13 | Port City Raceway | Tulsa, Okla.
Saturday, October 14 | I-44 Riverside Speedway | Oklahoma City, Okla.
Sunday, October 15 | I-44 Riverside Speedway | Oklahoma City, Okla.

* Co-sanctioned with POWRi