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IndyCar’s James Hinchcliffe: Thoughts ahead of Sonoma’s GoPro Grand Prix

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SONOMA, Calif.—Hey everyone. Hinch here, writing to you from wine country. You might say it’s a fine place for a race. This Sunday’s GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, a road course feature that runs 85 laps and is worth double the points, will mark the end of the road for the Verizon IndyCar Series season. For those of you unable to attend in person, fear not! You can catch all the action on NBCSN, starting at 6:30 p.m. Eastern. You don’t want to miss it.

For the 11th straight year, we’ll be crowning a champion after the checkered flags fly. It’ll either be my old Schmidt Peterson teammate, Simon Pagenaud (now of Team Penske), who has occupied the top spot on the points table since the second race of the season at Phoenix; or Will Power, my old Celebrity Family Feud teammate (and also of Team Penske), who claimed his first career series crown two years ago. Only 43 points separate them; that’s a slimmer margin than the one that Juan Pablo Montoya had on Scott Dixon before Scotty pulled off a dramatic upset. It could be easily overcome in Sunday’s race, where a driver can score a maximum of 104 points. Many things would have to go right for Simon or Will to hit the jackpot—and then they’ll have to reckon with me playing the spoiler.

Certainly, that’s not the role all of us on the No. 5 Arrow Electronics Honda envisioned ourselves in when the season began. But, alas, it’s the role we are consigned to after our season-long qualifying struggles and, more recently, a pair of super rough outings at the track. There was our near-win at Texas, which was made even more disappointing by a post-race inspection points penalty. Then two weeks later, while qualifying for the Watkins Glen race, we were ticketed again for interference and shuffled deep into the grid, in the 13th starting position. This was after the guys had turned a wobbly No. 5 machine into a top-three car. I still haven’t entirely been explained how we merited that one. (All I did was spin out.) I haven’t talked to a single person in the paddock that agrees with the penalty either. But such is the nature of the beast.

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