It’s a pleasant May in Indy, but it still feels ‘bizarre’ for James Hinchcliffe

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It’s May in Indianapolis, but for James Hinchcliffe, something naturally feels amiss as a resident of the city that won’t have its beloved world-famous race this month.

“It’s so bizarre,” Hinchcliffe said during a Tuesday interview on “Lunch Talk Live” with host Mike Tirico. “I live in Indianapolis, I know it’s just down the street, but it’s crazy to think you’re spending all this time rather than at the racetrack.

“I’ve never sat in my backyard around the pool in May before. You’re always stressed out at the track in engineering meetings, living out of the bus, so you miss a lot of what May really means because this town and this city, they really do get behind the race from the minute the calendar strikes May 1 and missing some of that stuff, even when the race does happen in August, it’s not going to be quite the same, but it’s still Indy.”

‘BACK HOME AGAIN’: NBC special will celebrate last year’s Indy 500 thriller

STILL RACE WEEK IN INDY: It’s the #500atHome

The 104th running of the rescheduled Indianapolis 500 will be held Aug. 23 on NBC, which will be revisiting the highlights of last year’s race Sunday. Tirico will be the host of “Back Home Again” as 2019 winner Simon Pagenaud and runner-up Alexander Rossi revisit their epic battle.

There is an IndyCar race on the horizon, though, as Texas Motor Speedway finally will open the 2020 season June 6 after a nearly three-month pause because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Unlike NASCAR, which hit the track Sunday at Darlington Raceway without practice or qualifying, IndyCar will have a full warmup (on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold) leading into the green flag at Texas – which will mark the first race since Laguna Seca Raceway last September.

“For the most part everyone’s racecraft is going to to be a bit rusty, and we’re going to one of the most daunting places in Texas Motor Speedway,” Hinchcliffe said. “So the challenges for us are going to be just getting us up to speed. It’s a very difficult track, and the margins for error are small, and the cost of error are quite high.

“Again, it’s going to be a game of patience. We have an hour and a half of practice straight into qualifying and the race. There are a bunch of rookies that have never raced at Texas. There’s one driver (rookie Alex Palou) that has yet to turn a lap in either testing or practice at Texas. It’s going to be a learning experience in a lot of ways.”

It’ll be a good experience for Hinchcliffe, who will be racing at Texas with Andretti Autosports (along with the Indy 500 and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course July 4) after originally expecting to be working as an IndyCar on NBC analyst in the since postponed March 15 opener at St. Petersburg, Florida (which has been moved to the season finale on Oct. 25).

The Canadian is looking forward to be “suited and booted” at Texas instead of fully on camera as he’d been preparing to do at St. Pete with mixed emotions.

“It was tough; I was getting a little bit of FOMO,” Hinchcliffe said. “Definitely wanted to be on the grid, but at the same time, I was really embracing this new opportunity with NBC Sports Network.

“I’d done a ton of research and a ton of prep, and it’s kind of a baptism by fire situation. You have to learn on the job in a lot of ways. So I was excited to get started and get my feet wet there. I’ll obviously still get that opportunity at some point later in the season now. It’s cool to know for Race 1 at least, it’ll be with helmet instead of a microphone, and then we’ll switch gears back to the other job.”

Attention NASCAR teams: IMSA drivers available for Daytona!

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NASCAR will be making its debut on the Daytona International Speedway road course next month, and there’s a big fan who’d like to join the historic weekend.

This fan actually has impressive credentials, too — a few thousand laps around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile layout that annually plays host to the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.

In 2014, the winning GTLM team in the sports car endurance classic included IMSA Porsche driver Nick Tandy, who rabidly has followed NASCAR for more than 30 years since growing up in England.

So why not try racing NASCAR? Especially because Tandy has the weekend of Aug. 14-16 free.

He’s not picky, either — offering up his services on Twitter (as well as those of Porsche teammate Earl Bamber) for an ARCA, Xfinity, trucks or Cup ride.

Tandy’s affinity for American stock-car racing runs deep.

His first trip to the World Center of Racing was as a fan attending the 50th running of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 17, 2008. During Rolex testing in January, Tandy, 35, said he hadn’t missed a Cup race on TV in 15 years.

Among his favorite NASCAR drivers: the Earnhardts, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch. When IMSA ran the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in 2014, Tandy stayed a few extra days at the Brickyard and bought Kyle Busch gear for himself and his children.

He briefly took the stage during a NASCAR weekend last October. After IMSA’s season finale at Road Atlanta, Tandy made a few demonstration laps and a burnout in his No. 911 Porsche before the Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway.

He also has some experience in stock cars, having raced Modified-type grass-roots series on England’s quarter-mile short tracks.

Couple that with a Daytona road course record that includes two consecutive podium class finishes (including last Saturday) and a sports car resume with 13 IMSA victories and an overall win in the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans … and maybe a NASCAR team should take a look.

And Tandy isn’t the only IMSA driver who likely would be available.

Corvette driver Jordan Taylor, who won the 2017 Rolex 24 overall title with Jeff Gordon as a teammate (and the inspiration for his Rodney Sandstrom persona), also tweeted his availability for the weekend on the high banks.

Sports car veteran Andy Lally, a GTD driver with multiple class wins in the Rolex 24 as well as 38 Cup starts (he was the 2011 rookie of the season in NASCAR’s premier series), also hung out his shingle.

There also is AIM Vasser Sullivan’s Jack Hawksworth (who just won at Daytona last Saturday), the Englishman who teamed with Kyle Busch at the Rolex 24 in January and made an Xfinity start at Mid-Ohio last year with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Many sports car drivers (such as Taylor) already live in Florida, and many are hunkering down in the Sunshine State with IMSA returning to action at Daytona last week and Sebring International Raceway next week. Because of COVID-19-related travel concerns and restrictions, several IMSA stars who live outside the country are riding out the pandemic within a few hours of Daytona with nothing to do.

Why not a weekend at the World Center of Racing?

Over the years, scads of “road-course ringers” (including some Formula One veterans) have tried their hands in stock cars at Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International.

How about considering the many sports car drivers who already have reached victory lane at Daytona by making a few right-hand turns, too?