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IN THE COCKPIT: James Hinchcliffe: Brazil

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Now I am sitting here a few days out from getting my first laps around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in an Indy car. I almost feel undeserving.

It’s amazing how similar the IndyCar Series is to a traveling circus. We roll into town with a massive cast of people, unload a ton of equipment and animals (drivers), and then build a show from the ground up.

For a few days at a time we turn a dormant stadium or docile city streets into a multi-day, action-packed festival fit for ladies and gentlemen and children of all ages.

We stay for only a few days at a time before packing the whole show up and hitting the road again.

There is no better illustration of this than the trip to Brazil we all just completed. Without even the team trucks, the crews loaded all of the cars and gear onto a couple of jets and promptly traveled nearly 5,000 miles. Got there, unloaded, held a race for a great crowd of passionate Brazilian fans, and within two hours of the checkered flag all of our stuff was loaded into crates and ready to head on to the next one.

Constantly being on the move can wear you down after a while. Especially for these crew guys who do not get enough credit. So I think everyone was happy to get home from Brazil for a few reasons. First, we were a day late. Second, the whole series has been pretty flat out since the Barber test back in March.

And last, but certainly not least, everyone knows that ‘the next one’ is a race where we get to stay in one place for more than four days! Oh, yeah, it also happens to be the biggest race of the year.

There is no doubt that everyone in our road show was beginning to feel the first four events of the season. But something happened when we were in Brazil. The calendar flipped over to May 1st. Even though we were all in a different hemisphere and still had a race to run, as soon as we hit May everybody had a little bounce in their step.

Conversation at dinner had already moved on to “The Month.”

Many of the fans out there know what the 500 is and what it means so I am sure you can imagine how much more it means to all the teams and drivers. These are the guys that are as big fans as anybody, but they also live it. It’s their blood, sweat and tears that go into every Month of May. They have so much emotionally invested in this race. I loved sitting around the table and listening to all the various 500 stories from drivers, engineers and mechanics.

My ‘500’ education only really started a few years ago. I’ll admit, even though I always watched the 500 growing up and I knew it was a really big deal, I didn’t get it until I attended my first Indy 500 in 2008. Watching on TV was one thing, but seeing it in person was incredible.

Even then, I now realize that I didn’t get it until I was living in Indy for the entire month for the first time in 2009. Seeing how the whole city got behind this event from the first of the month until race day was overwhelming. I had never experienced anything like it. I also got the chance to participate in a lot of events since I was racing in Firestone Indy Lights and obviously they support the big show with the Freedom 100 on Carb Day.

Now I am sitting here a few days out from getting my first laps around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in an Indy car. I almost feel undeserving. To be racing in such a great series, with such a great team, at the greatest event. On top of all of that it’s the 100th anniversary of the race. It’s a lot to take in as a rookie!

All that I know is that I couldn’t be happier that May is finally here. I am itching to get going and it’s amazing to see the entry list for this race! No doubt it’s one of the most competitive fields in recent memory and there is no more fitting way to celebrate 100 years of awesome.

I hope you’ll all come out, ladies and gentlemen and children of all ages, to see this circus’ star attraction.

Things to think about going into Indy:

1.    Respect: the car, fellow drivers, the track.
2.    What 220 MPH feels like.
3.    Foyt, Mears, Unser.
4.    Longest race of the year=pee before you get in the car.
5.    Holding your breath for four laps.

Hinch out.

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Source: SpeedTV