James Hinchcliffe was 10 when he first learned to drive standard.
His father, Jeremy, had a 1959 Austin-Healey Sprite, and Hinch learned how to drive it by having his dad roll it down to the end of the driveway of their Oakville, Ont., home. Then, the younger Hinchcliffe would figure out how to get it back to the top.
He received his first go-kart the year before that, and it was the passion that both he and his dad would soon share.
“I had never entertained the idea of driving something before that,” he said. Twenty years later he stood on the podium at Long Beach, and it was an amazing experience for the 30-year-old. It was a feat Hinchcliffe finds especially sweet, since it was his first podium after the crash he suffered in 2015.
A suspension failure during his practice at the Indy 500 caused his car to hit the wall and go onto its side.
Back to Long Beach, it’s the longest race next to the Indy 500, and it also has the second highest attendance rate. It’s also the race everyone wants to win the most.
“To stand on the top step, at one of the greatest events, was incredible,” he shared during an afternoon phone call from Phoenix.
He’s looking forward to Toronto in July, as he admitted a desire to podium. Of course, that means plenty when it’s a win at home.
“My dad was the guy who got me to fall in love with racing when I was a kid, and him and I managed my career all the way up to IndyCar together,” he said. “Having family in my corner that whole way up was really important.”
Family isn’t the only cog in Hinchcliffe’s engine. Just before his race in the Arizona desert, he posited a few more facts as to what fuels his life.
1. FRIENDS AND FAMILY
“We live a pretty stressful and hectic life, and it’s always nice to have close friends around to keep you sane, keep you grounded. It makes you remember that it’s all worth the effort and sacrifices.”
“It’s the symbol of my life. It’s what I’ve spent over 20 years now working towards. Every time I get to the racetrack and seeing an IndyCar with my name on it, it’s validation again, of all the hard work.”
“(Netflix and chill). Who doesn’t? I’m a huge fan of House of Cards.”
4. SCUBA DIVING
“I think when I retire from racing I’m going to go on a six-month trip around the world, hitting all the dive stops I want to do … For me it’s my escape, it’s the exact opposite of what the rest of my life is.”
“There’s this running joke in racing that a driver never travels without his helmet because you never know when an opportunity comes up to drive something.”
6. MANUAL TRANSMISSION
“For me, there’s nothing that connects you to the driving experience more than a proper six-speed.”
The Muskoka home has been the family since the 1960s when his grandfather purchased it. “It’s the best place to run away to for the weekend.”
8. PEPPERONI PIZZA
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That’s the classic pizza, and that’s all you need. You don’t need funky vegetables or pineapple. It’s my food vice.”
9. PAIGE JEANS
“When you travel so much, it’s nice to have something very comfy that still looks the part.”
“You’ve got their lives in your hands, and they’ve got your life in their hands, and there has to be a level of trust and respect. The friendships you create from that kind of situation are really strong.”