34-year-old Canadian driver James Hinchcliffe was unceremoniously dropped from his ride with Schmidt Petersen Motorsports when McLaren took over the team at the end of 2019. The fan-favorite driver, who is arguably the face of IndyCar right now, was forced to sit out much of the 2020 season, running only a partial program with Andretti Autosport. With Marco Andretti moving into partial retirement from the sport, The Mayor Of Hinchtown finally has a car with his name on it again.
Hinch will drive the #29 Genesys Honda for Andretti Autosport in 2021, marking his 11th season in the sport. This will be a return of sorts for James, as he previously raced for, and won for, Andretti back in 2012, ‘13 and ‘14. He will join the rest of the returning roster in the form of Colton Herta, Alex Rossi, and Ryan Hunter-Reay. Marco will be running the Indy 500 for the team this year, effectively swapping roles with Hinchcliffe.
From 141 races Hinchcliffe has six victories, 17 total podiums, and crucially a pole position at the Indy 500. That record belies the man’s talent, if you ask me, as he always seems to be performing above the level of his car. In honesty, I don’t believe he’s among the top tier in IndyCar, but he’s certainly good enough for a few podiums this year, maybe a couple wins. If the team puts him in the right position at Indy, I could see him getting the job done. I certainly feel he’s a better fit for a full time ride at Andretti Autosport than Marco has been.
For most drivers, sitting out a season would have been a career-ending move. Hinchcliffe managed to string together a few decent performances from his partial 2020 season, including a top-10 finish at Indy. And when he wasn’t in the car, he was still in the IndyCar paddock as an NBC Sports announcer to make sure his name was on everyone’s mind when it came time to sign a driver for 2021. This is good for him and it’s good for us. The Mayor is back.