Mind of a Motorhead: James Hinchcliffe on thrill-seeking and taking calculated risks


(Editor’s note: Mind of a Motorhead is a series in which motorsports athletes from various disciplines (such as IndyCar’s James Hinchcliffe) will be analyzed according to surveys of their personalities. Series host Dr. Ken Carter, the Charles Howard Candler Professor of Psychology at Oxford College of Emory University, writes below on what he learned about Stewart in the latest episode.)

In 2011, James Hinchcliffe was the IndyCar rookie of the year. In 2016, he was the pole-sitter for the Indianapolis 500 just one year after a horrific crash almost cost him his life at the same track.

In this episode of Mind of a Motorhead (watch the video above), Hinchcliffe spoke with me about his personality and those of other race car drivers.

You might expect all race car drivers to score off the chart on a thrill-seeking questionnaire. But Hinchcliffe’s scores on the Sensation Seeking Survey weren’t particularly high. His highest score wasn’t even on the part of the scale that measures how much people like frightening activities.

Hinchcliffe admits he doesn’t like frightening activities.

“I wouldn’t bungee jump,” he said. “I did skydive once, because I wanted to experience it. Now that I have, I would never jump out of a perfectly good airplane again.”

Fear and thrill aren’t what he’s after.

“The thing about racing is you never want to be out of control,” he said. “You never want to be frightened. It’s not supposed to be thrilling. It’s a calculated risk. I’m in a car that’s built to keep me safe with six safety belts and a helmet … and a safety team.”

Hinchcliffe’s highest score? It was for the part of the scale that measures how much people crave adventures, called experience seeking. Experience-seekers seek out encounters that are unique rather than dangerous, e.g., trying new foods, meeting new people or going to new places.

These experiences can affect sensation-seekers emotionally, intellectually or interpersonally. They’re not simply the visceral physical thrill (and danger) of going on the world’s highest roller coaster or running with tigers.

But Hinchcliffe wasn’t always an experience-seeker. That desire and quest changed after his 2015 crash at Indianapolis Motor Speedway that required multiple surgeries.

“I used to be one of these people that was always like…I’ll do it next time… I’ll try it [later]…And then I realized after that there might not be a next time…Now I always say ‘yes’ to stuff and always give it a try because you never know if you are going to get that opportunity again.”

About those in his sport he observed, “There’s a huge correlation between intelligence and success at this level. This is very much a thinking sport. It involves split-second decision making.”

Curious about your score on Sensation Seeking? You can take a test at this link or read more about sensation seeking in my book, “Buzz! Inside the Minds of Thrill Seekers, Daredevils and Adrenaline Junkies.

You can watch the video above or by clicking here or you also can watch by subscribing to the Motorsports on NBC YouTube channel.

Ken Roczen signs with HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki for 2023

Roczen Progressive Ecstar Suzuki
Align Media

ANAHEIM, California – Ken Roczen will make the move from HRC Honda to H.E.P. Motorsports with the Progressive Ecstar Suzuki team, ending a long and eventful offseason that saw his split from his longstanding team after he committed to running World Supercross (WSX).

“H.E.P. Motorsports is thrilled to announce that the team has signed Ken Roczen as its premier rider for the 2023 season,” the team announced on Instagram. “Former AMA Motocross champion Roczen will be aboard a Suzuki RM-Z450. Roczen, who won his most recent championship on a Suzuki, will be reunited with the brand and bring his exciting style, determination, and grit back to the RM Army.

“Ken Roczen will compete in the upcoming 2023 Supercross and Motocross Championship series which is set to start on January 7 at Anaheim Stadium in Southern California.”

For Roczen, it is a return to the bike of his youth and on which he had some of his greatest professional success.

“This thing has been going on for weeks and weeks and weeks in the making, but there was so much uncertainty,” Roczen told NBC Sports during Monster Energy Supercross Media Sessions. “It was a very unique situation. I just finally signed two nights ago, so it’s really only legit once the ink hits the paper. It’s been in the works for a long time, but there were just a lot of questions and a lot of input from a lot of other teams too.

“Good things take time, and I’m okay with that. I grew up riding Suzuki. Ot’s like a homecoming. It’s a special feeling”

Roczen won the 2016 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship on a Suzuki before making the move to Honda. That year he won nine of 12 Nationals and finished no worse than second as he easily outpaced Eli Tomac by 86 points. He finished third in his next Pro Motocross outing in 2018 after sitting out the outdoor season in 2017.

“I am beyond excited to reconnect with Suzuki for the 3rd time in my career. We’ve had a lot of success in the past and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish together in our future.” Roczen said in the Instagram post.