‘Hinch’ looks to win on home track

Ryan McKenna The Canadian Press

TORONTO—A year removed from a near-death experience at last year’s Indianapolis 500, Canadian James Hinchcliffe is back home and searching for his first victory of the season.
The Oakville, Ont. native will aim to pick up career win No. 5 at this weekend’s Honda Indy Toronto, which goes Sunday at Exhibition Place.
Although this season has been inconsistent so far, the 29-year-old is feeling good entering his hometown race.
“The craziest thing about it is I’m healthier, fitter now than I’ve ever been,” Hinchcliffe noted yesterday.
“When you’re in a position like that, you start paying a lot for attention to yourself, to your body,” he remarked.
“And now I know a lot more about myself personally and physically.
“Like I said, I’m fitter than ever, more prepared than I’ve ever been to get into an Indy car and do some damage, figuratively speaking,” he reiterated.
Hinchcliffe was rushed to hospital during the practice session of the 2015 Indy 500 after his car spun hard into the wall.
The car briefly slid on its right side and almost flipped before coming came to rest upright.
Hinchcliffe’s left thigh was pierced by the car’s right front rocker and the piece of equipment needed to be removed, sources told The Associated Press.
The injury required surgery on his left thigh and pelvic area to stop massive bleeding.
Hinchcliffe missed the rest of the 2015 season and has yet to win so far this year.
The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver does have five top 10 finishes entering the Indy Toronto—highlighted by a third-place finish at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis back in May.
He followed that up by taking the pole position at May’s Indianapolis 500 before finishing seventh.
“It’s been a roller-coaster ride,” Hinchcliffe admitted.
“We’re proving the paces week in and week out, we just need luck to fall our way a little bit,” he said.
“Not something that’s traditionally been in my cards at this race, but hopefully we can buck the trend this week.”
After a series of poor finishes following his strong Indy 500, Hinchcliffe finished ninth at last weekend’s Iowa Corn 300.
Hinchcliffe said good qualifying is going to be key if he’s to win this weekend.
He finished eighth in the first race of the 2014 Toronto Indy before placing 18th in the second leg of the double-header.
“This track, although you can pass, it’s a street course, it’s still tough,” Hinchcliffe stressed.
“But the big focus for us is going to make sure we’re quick over the lap, get a good qualifying position, and that usually helps a lot in trying to get that first victory.”
A win at home also would be a sweet feeling for the 2011 IndyCar series rookie-of-the-year.
“I mean, short of winning the 500, this is as exciting as it gets for me to bring home a victory here,” Hinchcliffe said.
“We’ve done it on street courses before in St. Pete and Brazil, so we know how to do it,” he reasoned.
“It’s just a matter of getting all the pieces to fall into place.
“It will be a big celebration in ‘Hinchtown’ if that happens,” he said.