INDIANAPOLIS — With dwindling seats left in the NTT IndyCar Series silly season, one driver is taking his name out of consideration for one of the few remaining full season seats remaining. James Hinchliffe announced on Tuesday via his social media channels that the 2021 season would be his last as a full time driver in the series.
The thing is, he’s not going to be a stranger. Hinchcliffe isn’t ready to fully hang up his helmet quite yet. He’s still open to part time rides not just in the NTT INDYCAR Series, but also in other forms of motorsports as well.
Hinchcliffe, 35, has a nice resume for someone to come scoop up. He’s competed in 161 career INDYCAR races over the past decade. He’s won six times to go along with 18 podiums as well. One of his top honors was winning the pole for the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 back in 2016, which came exactly one year after nearly being killed in a practice crash in Turn 3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The popular Canadian driver started his INDYCAR career back in 2011 as a rookie with Newman-Haas Racing. He had a top five in just his second career start which saw him finish 12th in the final standings, netting him as Rookie of the Year.
With Danica Patrick leaving for NASCAR that offseason, Andretti Autosport and Go Daddy named Hinchcliffe as her replacement. He had five straight top six finishes in his first season at Andretti including seven in the first eight races. One of which was a sixth place result in the 2012 Indy 500.
In 2013, he won the season opener which was the first of three victories that season. He’d come home eighth in the final standings in each of his first two years at Andretti.
Andretti dipped as a team in 2014, which was also his last year with them. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports signed him in 2015 but his season was cut short via that practice crash that year. He came back in 2016 with three podiums then won the Long Beach Grand Prix a year later.
He’d run five seasons in total at SPM, but when McLaren got involved for the 2020 season, they cut ties with both he and Marcus Ericsson and started over. How it all went down was sketchy with Hinchcliffe being left out in an awkward way.
Luckily, he found something new via a DM from Genesys. They wanted in INDYCAR and wanted to be with Hinchliffe. They agreed to take their money to Andretti again on a three-race deal that included the Indy 500.
When the No. 26 Honda was struggling to stay in the Leaders Circle money and with driver Zach Veach’s contract being up at seasons end, Andretti elected to put Hinchcliffe in that car for the final three races of 2020 to keep them afloat in the bonus money. In turn, that led to another full season opportunity last year but unfortunately, it was only a one year deal.
With Alexander Rossi and Colton Herta back with Andretti for 2022 and the signing of Romain Grosjean and Devlin DeFrancesco, it left Hinchcliffe on the outside looking in.
Without much room at other teams, that’s why he’s looking for something part-time. Most rides these days take a lot of money and Hinchcliffe didn’t have a lot of funding options to bring. So, why not eye an Indy 500 only seat for 2022 and be open to sports cars or anything else where a ride could be secured? That’s exactly what he’s doing.
He’s going to be missed on the INDYCAR side though. Hinchcliffe has a bubbly personality with a ton of talent. That’s why whatever role NBC Sports can find for him as well as an Indy 500 seat needs to happen.