Cinema » IN THE COCKPIT: James Hinchcliffe: Barber
So here I am with column Número Uno for SPEED.com. See that? My Spanish teammate Oriol Servia is already rubbing off on me!” says the Mayor of Hinchtown.
What do you do when SPEED.com tells you to write a column?
You say ‘have your people call my people, we’ll do lunch, negotiate the terms, start getting the contracts to the lawyers and provided the compensation is adequate, we will start as soon as possible.’
Then they respond with, ‘Hey rookie, just write the damn column.’
So here I am with column Número Uno. See that? My Spanish teammate Oriol Servia is already rubbing off on me!
Rather than doing a recap of the race, or, well, of my 40 something laps of the 90-lap race, why don’t I run through the whirlwind trip of being a full time Mayor who got the call to go from politician to Indy car driver in seven days?
I’ll take your silence as acceptance.
Picture this; I’m standing at the Newman/Haas Racing timing stand in St. Petersburg watching first practice. It sucked having to put on a headset instead of a helmet that morning. I was watching all the drivers I was on track with a few weeks ago happily pounding around the track.
The feeling was equal to seeing someone out on a date with your girlfriend.
I was, however, determined to learn as much from the experience as possible. While standing there, my phone buzzed in my pocket with a text saying that one of the companies we had approached about sponsoring an Indy car, a Canadian company called Sprott Inc., had committed and we would likely be racing in Barber.
Now I wasn’t actually allowed to celebrate in any way, because this was obviously still ‘classified’ information. I have to tell you, it’s tough work keeping secrets. Especially when the secret is that you have essentially achieved a life-long goal. Instead of any kind of public celebration, I had to periodically sneak behind the trailer and jump up and down.
I had a good laugh when people saw me that weekend and would say that I was handling not being in the car very well because inside my head I was singing ‘I know something you don’t know’ like a five-year-old… At this point most of you are probably thinking that most things inside my head operate like a five-year-old and all I have to say to those people is…well, you’re right.
The young Canadian cracked the top 10 in qualifying on the rolling Barber road course. Now he’s headed for the flat Long Beach street circuit. (LAT)
Then came a week of paperwork, booking flights, ordering new race gear, getting said race gear embroidered, approving press releases and alerting friends and family.
Oh, I also had about 60 pages of homework to get through from the Newman/Haas engineers.
Evidently this IndyCar gig is a lot of work, and I was loving every minute.
Then came the announcement. It went out at 8:30 Tuesday morning. Monday night I didn’t sleep a wink. Now, obviously the deal was done before the announcement came out. But for some reason – that reason likely being that we have all heard stories of deals falling apart at the last minute – it wasn’t real to me until that press release went out.
The official word was finally released and my day was slammed with phone calls, emails, interviews, a photo shoot, etc. Tuesday night was the best sleep of my life.
Pretty quickly I found myself in the paddock at Barber Motorsports Park. On Friday I had my first drivers meeting, which was a little surreal. I was sitting there with all these people that I have been watching for years, and was now one of them.
Even guys I’ve known a while like JR Hildebrand and Charlie Kimball seemed like they had been there forever, not just a race or two, and since I was the only first timer I sort of felt like the last kid picked for the dodgeball team.
The meeting was fairly straight forward, the highlight being a little humour dished out by Helio who explained that he had been so traumatized by the unexpected pre-race pyrotechnics on the driver intro stage that he missed his brake point for Turn 1. Everyone had a good laugh at that one!
And then it was time for practice. My first laps as an IndyCar driver. I won’t go into detail since all that stuff was pretty well documented during the weekend. Instead, I’ll leave you with these few things I took away from the weekend:
0. Firestone ‘Reds’ are the business.
1. I have a great team and teammate.
2. My friends, family and fans are the best.
3. Alabama has super polite fans.
4. Roll Tide.
5. Being an IndyCar driver…well it’s just the best.