(via Forbes.com) – James Hinchcliffe is one of Verizon IndyCar’s star drivers. There were high hopes that the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports racer would put his Arrow Electronics Honda in the fast nine for this year’s Indianapolis 500 – or even take the pole (he had it in 2016). What happened this past weekend, though, was the unthinkable – he failed to even make the starting field of 33 cars. We sat down for breakfast with “Hinch,” as he’s affectionately called, for some perspective on the disappointment and on racing.
Jim Clash: How tough is it not making the Indy 500 this year?
James Hinchcliffe: Obviously, it’s the worst-case scenario as this is the biggest race of the year for us, the one that means so much to everybody on the team. It’s not just the drivers. It’s the crews, the owners, the commercial department – it doesn’t matter. Everybody that’s involved in IndyCar racing lives for the 500. To be faced with the reality of next Sunday sitting in the garage watching is very, very tough. I’m not sure we’ve been through the worst of it yet. Saturday, when it all went down, was one of the worst days of my career. But you ebb and flow over the next couple of days. It’s a bit of a rollercoaster emotionally. It’s the nature of the beast. That’s what our business is all about.
Clash: Compare this disappointment with your near-fatal accident at Indy in 2015.
Hinchcliffe: That’s just it. I think I have a unique perspective. What happened in 2015 makes me realize it could be worse. What happened was not the worst day I’ve had at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. When you think about it that way, it does really help. That’s what the accident did for me in everyday-life situations. It’s given me a lot of perspective, and I genuinely think it prepared me for dealing with this.
Clash: Any chance we will see you in someone else’s car for the race?
Hinchcliffe: That’s definitely a decision above my pay grade. At the end of the day, I drive for Sam and Rick, and if the team finds an opportunity for me and wants me in it, I’ll do what I’m told as any good employee does. But, at the moment, I don’t know any more than anybody else. Here’s the thing. The same way that I rationalize what happened getting bumped on Saturday is the way I would rationalize something like this. I’m not mad at anybody, I don’t blame anyone, because I understand the rules and how this all works. We just didn’t get the job done. To the same extent, I‘ve read a lot over the last couple of days how people feel about buying into a ride, or this, that and the other. The fact of the matter is that this is just as much acceptable in the rules as anything that went down Saturday.
Clash: That’s the diplomatic answer. How do you feel about it personally?
Hinchcliffe: How do I feel about it personally? The rules are the rules. That’s how I dealt with Saturday and how I’d deal with this situation if it comes up. Would it be fun? No. Would I enjoy it? No. Like I said, this race means so much to everybody that to rob somebody someone of participating the race would be devastating. But if that’s what asked of me, that’s what we’ll do.