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SPROTT DRIVER HINCHCLIFFE EARNED HIS BEST ROAD COURSE START OF FIFTH FOR THE INDY JAPAN

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James Hinchcliffe, No. 06 Sprott Dallara/Honda/Firestone: “The first practice wasn’t super-smooth this morning.  I went off on my first run and bent something on the car and it pretty much took the rest of the session to fix it.  We only got back out to bed some brakes before the session was over so we didn’t get as much work done as we hoped and I was really hoping that didn’t put us too far behind the eight ball.  In the second practice we sort of got back on track on our plan and made some good gains and ended up in a pretty good spot (P1) so we were confident going into qualifying.  I know we were quickest in the last practice but I don’t think we were expecting quite the same performance in qualifying because not everybody got good runs on new tires in that session.  Then we got into qualifying and we drew the hard group again — there is no doubt about that — so it was going to be difficult to try to advance.  The car on the red tires was really good.  Its always a guess when you are putting on red tires for the first time but Craig (Hampson; race engineer) and everybody really nailed it because the car felt very quick right away.  The balance was the best it’s been all weekend so that was a relief and we got into Round 2.  We found a nice chunk of time there and got into the Firestone Fast Six.  From there we had done as few of laps as anybody on our tires but decided to save the better set for the race because we probably weren’t going to be in contention for pole so we opted for a more worn set for the Fast Six and came away with fifth which is something we are pretty happy with.  Starting up front is always important in these races and I think being on the inside is going to be important for the start.  I would probably rather be fifth than fourth to be honest so we’ll see how it all plays out in the first lap.  It looks like its going to be a tough track to pass but a good starting position helps and you are running up there with the pros so there is less likelihood of incidents.  We’re just looking forward to a good consistent race, no mistakes and we will just try to bring it home a good result.”

FAST FACTS:  Earned his highest road/street course start of the season with fifth place in his first race at Twin Ring Motegi and in Japan in general…Toronto native Hinchcliffe, 24, finished second in the 2010 Firestone Indy Lights season standings after three wins and four poles.  In total he earned eight podium finishes in 13 races… His highest road/street course start of the season is seventh at Mid-Ohio and highest road/street finish of fourth at Long Beach.  Is ranked 16th with a total of 255 points and is only three behind Rookie of the Year leader Hildebrand (258) after 13 of 14 events so far this season (did not compete in St. Pete).