PLYMOUTH — Having spent this summer battling for his life, and then his livelihood, a popular race car driver has taken a big step towards putting things back together, right here in Wisconsin.
James Hinchcliffe won over a legion of fans as he built his IndyCar career. His outgoing personality and willingness to participate in sponsor events, to say nothing of his prowess behind the wheel, made him one of the most popular drivers on the circuit.
Thus, his crash in practice during a harrowing month of May at Indianapolis affected many — particularly as the severity of his upper thigh injury became known. Hinchcliffe says he wound up needing 14 pints of blood — which is amazing when you consider the human body generally contains about 12 pints.
Accordingly, Hinchcliffe had the hopes of many when he climbed back into the car for the first time on Monday, September 28th for a closed test at Road America.
“I think getting here this morning was a bit emotional and seeing everybody — and I was probably grinning like an idiot, and the pit crew guys were doing the same thing. It’s going to have that effect to a certain extent, but I’m a professional, in theory, and once the helmet goes on, it’s all business,” Hinchcliffe said.
“It’s not easy climbing back on the horse, you know? If you get hit, you have a big wreck, and you get right back in the race car. It’s easy to put behind you — but the months off and the rehabilitation and all of that, that’s when it becomes hard to get back in the car, and that’s when it’s hard to get back up to speed and get every last ounce out of the car, so he did an excellent job today,” Ryan Hunter-Reay said.
In order to reach the finish line in 2016, Hinchcliffe has to start on his rehab. A big step took place at Road America in late September.
“The main goals for me personally coming into the day, we’ve checked all the boxes. I feel good in the car. I fit in the car. The speed seems to be there — and so there’s not a whole lot more I can ask for personally,” Hinchcliffe said.
Hinchcliffe’s many fans can’t ask for much more either. Their man is back where he belongs. He is still pushing for top speed, and he’s still talking about his pursuit in conversational, self-deprecating style. At the same time, the crash and the long summer have changed him.
“I’ve always tried to be a driver that loved every day of his job and appreciated it, because even the worst day of my job is better than the best day of most jobs, and it even heightens that a little bit more. It’s not just your job. It’s your every day life too. You can’t take anything for granted, and you have to enjoy absolutely everyone and everything around you,” Hinchcliffe said.
Hinchcliffe plans to be in the field when the IndyCar series returns to Road America in June 2016.
If the Milwaukee Mile has an event on the schedule, he says he wants to be there next summer as well.