Big news? I don’t think so. Let me be completely frank. James Hinchcliffe is a great guy. The kind you want to have as a friend. Unfortunately though, he is not now, nor has he ever been, a championship contender. The name of the game is winning, and frankly, he just hasn’t won enough. He’s had some good runs and won some races, but he has not consistently threatened for wins or podiums. I totally get the decision to replace him. I don’t like it, but I get it. Arrow McLaren SP wants to win and contend for championships, and there is nothing in the last few years that shows that James can do that. Whenever there is a restart following a caution, he almost always loses positions. He won the pole at Indy, but rarely contends for front row starts. In nine years he has one pole and eight second starts out of 146 races since the start of the 2011 season. His best season in that regard was 2014, when he qualified second five times in the first seven races but then fell off the rest of the season with only three tops six starts.
Some drivers – Little Al comes to mind – have been poor qualifiers but have excelled during the race when it counted the most. So lets look at Hinch’s racecraft. His best year was 2013 where he had three wins and a third. That was a long time ago, and he ended up eighth in the year-end standings. His podium count over the nine years of competition is six wins, one second and 10 thirds. By comparison, Will Power is 33–20–13. Scott Dixon is 24–26–14. Maybe it is unfair to compare him to Power and Dixie because they drive for powerful teams. If Hinch was more of contender, maybe he would be with one of those teams. His best championship finish was eighth, which he accomplished twice. All the others were between 10th and 13th, with the exception of his Indy crash year when he missed most of the season.
As for laps led over his career, he ranks 10th with 778 laps lead. Will Power has led 3,263 and Scott Dixon has led 2,258. To contend for championships and race wins you have to lead laps. Now, I hope James is able to find a decent ride for next year and that he has success and proves me wrong.
Doug Mayer, Revelstoke, BC, Canada
I am a James Hinchcliffe fan and always have been. I am a Honda fan and always have been. I enjoy the Road to Indy and enjoy following the careers of drivers as they move up the ladder. I have enjoyed watching Pato O’Ward and Oliver Askew in Indy Pro 2000 and Indy Lights over the years. They are the future of IndyCar, have great stories and will grow to be fan favorites. I wish them the best in their careers and will eventually be a fan of theirs… when they aren’t driving for Arrow McLaren SP or Chevrolet.
Arrow McLaren SP made a business decision; business decisions happen and they are not always easy or popular. I respect Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson for the efforts they have contributed to IndyCar and the Road to Indy. If they eventually move on to other ventures in the sport, they have my fandom. However, their (collectively with McLaren) timing was s*** and disrespectful to one of the most popular drivers in the paddock and a true fan favorite. I will, albeit silently, cheering inside whenever an Arrow SP Chevy isn’t up to speed, has a bad race or has a race end in non-violent crash. I wish no harm or ill on their two young drivers or the crews, but I do wish them a lack of success.
I have no doubts that Hinch will eventually land a ride. Should he not have a full season, NBC would be insane to not have him on the broadcast for races he isn’t driving. Good things happen to good people. Hinch is a good person. He deserved better and will triumph in the end. His fans are loyal to him and the sponsors he brings. I have a feeling Arrow, McLaren and Chevrolet are learning that. Arrow McLaren SP: unfollowed. I am sure I am not alone in that.
Chris, Oak Forest, IL
All good news for Askew and O’Ward… but I have $50 to send Hinch, and if everybody did that, he could fill the gap for a third car at RLL. I’d donate to a GoFundMe for The Mayor. We need him.
I’m here to offer a contrarian opinion on the Hinch situation (perhaps the lone one you’ll see?). SPM was riding high with championship finishes of fifth, third, and fifth with Simon when Hinch joined the team. The team regressed, for whatever reason(s), when he left and James filled those shoes. James’s last five full, non-injury, years with SPM have had championship finishes of 12th, 13th, 13th, 10th, and 12th.
The best current driver to compare him to? Marco. Marco’s last five years have been ninth, 16th, 12th, ninth and 16th. James’ five-year average is 12, and Marco’s is 12.4. Is James better than a 12th-place driver out of 20? Probably. But ultimately you are what your record states, and that states James is an average driver in this series. I don’t blame SPAM for wanting a new direction with this reset and fresh start. Good guy? Yes. Personality? Absolutely. Great comeback story? Oh yeah. Check off the Canadian demo? Yep. But for a team that now has lots of new financial resources, those are things that don’t matter if he’s an average driver.
Zak Brown seems to have brought his F1 mentality to IndyCar where he thinks that drivers are nothing more than an accessory. FI drivers are robots and have no personalities. They are taught that from their very first formative years in F3 and below. “Shut up and drive the car” is the rule, not the exception. What makes IndyCar great is that we have great personalities. Castroneves, Tracy, Hinchcliffe, Kanann, hell, even Taku-san. Zak Brown benching Hinch sets is a very bad precedent. I hope that the other owner’s in the paddock take note of this indiscretion. I for one will never support any sponsor on the side of an AMSP car.
Gary, Anza, CA
The way Arrow SP McLaren handled the release of James Hinchcliffe, they have earned the moniker SPAM.
Dino, New Hanover, Pa.
Here is number 7.396th email about the McLaren/Hinchcliffe saga. You and I plus maybe 3,000 or 4,000 others knew he was gone. I do not believe he was ever a McLaren driver until O’Ward became available, as they say. I hope IndyCar and/or Honda can help The Mayor land a seat. I can only hope, as McLaren have said, that they will still have Robert Wickens around and do not throw him to the curb like his pal. What are the numbers regarding this topic in volume, and the number of positives versus negatives?
I’m 100 percent for Pato having a ride, but how can one of the more talented and popular drivers get kicked to the curb with no real alternatives? Any hope for Hinch? Rahal? Or will he be driving the pace car next year? Very sad.
Brian Henris, Fort M