Hinchcliffe lives, breathes racing

Driver James Hinchcliffe practically bursts with pride that he will be part of Toronto Indy this...

Driver James Hinchcliffe practically bursts with pride that he will be part of Toronto Indy this year. (QMI Agency/Dave Abel)

DEAN MCNULTY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:06 PM ET

TORONTO - One of the first things IZOD IndyCar fans should know about James Hinchcliffe is that he gets excited when he talks about racing.

So much so that the rookie can hardly contain his enthusiasm for just about any topic that has to do with going fast.

And double that excitement and enthusiasm when the subject is his hometown Honda Toronto Indy.

In a conversation about this week’s race around Toronto’s Exhibition Place temporary street course Hinchcliffe practically bursts with pride that he will be part of the big show this year.

“The race started in 1986, the year I was born and I have been coming to the Toronto race ever since I can remember,” he said. “I have been lucky enough that the past few years I was able to compete at the Indy Lights and the Atlantic Series level. But I have always been in the grandstands on Sunday when the IndyCars with guys like Paul Tracy, Alex Tagliani, Dario Franchitti and Oriol Servia all raced.”

Not this year though.

The kid from Oakville, Ont. — just 36 kilometres down the Queen Elizabeth Way from the site of this week’s Honda Indy Toronto — will have a street level view of the race from the cockpit of the No. 06 Newman Haas Racing Sprott Asset Management Honda-powered Dallara.

“Not only am I from Toronto, but (his sponsor) Sprott is based here as well, so this race is really big for me in a lot of ways,” he said. “The biggest thing for me was knowing that, after 23 years of watching this race from the grandstands, I am going to have a whole new perspective on Sunday afternoon.”

So, really, James just how much do you love the Honda Indy Toronto?

“I always tell people that I get two Christmases every year, one in December when Santa comes and one in July when the IndyCars come to Toronto,” he said. “It’s awesome to think they are celebrating the 25th anniversary.”

Hinchcliffe said the one summer (2008) the race was cancelled after the amalgamation of the Indy Racing League and the Champ Car World Series was one of the worst of his young life.

“This race is such a big part of the summer season in Toronto and we were really gutted when we missed a year,” he said. “But it’s been back for a few years and is getting stronger every year.”

As for his own plans to celebrate the race’s 25th anniversary this year, Hinchcliffe would like to emulate one of his heroes growing up and win with Newman-Haas.

“I certainly remember in my childhood watching Michael Andretti win what seemed like every year in a Newman/Haas car,” he said. “We used to do a pool and whoever picked Michael was given the pot of money right away and only had to give it back if he didn’t win.

“Half the time that person didn’t have to give the money back. The team obviously has a great record here and it would be awesome to add something to that.”

FINISH LINES

The once powerful Williams Formula One team will go back to using Renault motors starting in the 2012 season. It is a renewal of the partnership that dominated F1 for much of the 1990s and brought Canadian Jacques Villeneuve a world championship ... Ireland’s Peter Dempsey will join Stefan Wilson in Andretti Autosport’s Firestone Indy Lights team for this weekend’s Honda Indy Toronto. Dempsey has three top-10 results, including two podium finishes, in four starts in the current Firestone Indy Lights season ... Former IZOD IndyCar driver Simon Pagenaud will co-drive the No. 75 Compass360 Racing LMP1 prototype in the America Le Mans Series race this weekend at Laguna Seca, Calif., with championship contender Ryan Eversley ... In a surprise move the IZOD IndyCar Series announced Tuesday it will return to the International Speedway Corporation’s Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., for a night race in 2012. ISC and IndyCar parted ways after the 2010 season over promotion issues ... F1’s Virgin Racing has announced it has signed a deal to hook up with McLaren to share technical information. The move comes just weeks after Virgin fired its technical director Nick Wirth.


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