James Hinchcliffe believes he has the best chance to finally win at the Honda Indy Toronto this weekend.
The 26-year-old from Oakville, Ont., earned his first career victory at the IZOD IndyCar Series opener in St. Petersburg, Fla., and followed that up with wins in Sao Paulo and Iowa to put him in fifth place in the championship standings.
But with those wins have also come five finishes outside of the top 10 and Hinchcliffe jokingly said the expectation level coming home is actually the worst he’s felt.
Programming alert: Catch coverage of the Honda Indy Toronto Race 1 on Sportsnet Ontario, Pacific, West and East at 2:30 p.m. ET on Saturday and Race 2 on Sportsnet Ontario Pacific, West and East at 2:30 p.m. ET on Sunday | TV schedule
“I am still expecting some sort of bad luck to come into play,” Hinchcliffe said with a laugh. “It is a bit of a double-edged sword, certainly with the year that we’ve had. Statistically on paper, yes, it’s the best chance that we’ve had. It’s one of those things you just want to come here and do so well but history hasn’t been kind to us.”
While Hinchcliffe loves the Toronto race, the feeling hasn’t always been mutual. Although he finished third in the 2009 Indy Lights race on the street course, a last lap crash in the 2010 Indy Lights event cost him a spot on the podium.
He joined powerhouse Andretti Autosport in the No. 27 GoDaddy-sponsored car for his sophomore IndyCar season last year, but engine problems plagued his homecoming weekend and he was forced to settle for a disappointing 22nd place after dropping out of the race.
“Some weekends we generally haven’t been competitive and other races I’ve been here, we’ve been the quickest guy, we’ve led here in different series but whether it’s mechanical problems or being taken out by other guys, I’ve just had bad luck here as well,” Hinchcliffe said. “Sometimes when we’ve been competitive and in contention for a podium or a win and things outside of our control have taken us out of contention.”
Hinchcliffe has attended the Toronto race every year since he was a toddler and he has fond memories of past events and what it means to him.
“This race I came to as a kid and it really is what started my passion for racing and really got me interested in the sport,” Hinchcliffe said. “To now be here and part of the big show on the other side of the fence and to be the hometown guy, it’s just tremendous. The support is great and I’ve got a lot of memories here so it’s great coming back.
“I remember being five or six years old and climbing under and around all of the grandstands and meeting Mario Andretti and getting his autograph. One time the PacWest team, one of the mechanics let me hold a steering wheel and it was just the coolest thing ever.”
While the humble Canadian driver may have some doubts, his confidence level is high since teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay took the checkered flags here a year ago.
“You look at the race (last year) and on the restart where I eventually went out with a mechanical problem, I was starting right next to Ryan. He went on to win and we dropped out of the race,” Hinchcliffe said. “So we were there, we were in the right position to be running for the win but it just didn’t work out.
“Hopefully we can all be up there, all the Andretti Autosport cars, but it would be sweet to get the GoDaddy car into victory lane.”
Hinchcliffe said he wouldn’t be jealous if Hunter-Reay, whose mother was from Hamilton, Ont., continued his success on the streets of Toronto and was victorious again.
“It is special for him to come here and if it’s not going to be me who wins, the fact it’s another Andretti Autosport driver and a guy that’s half Canadian, that’s not a bad guy either,” Hinchcliffe added with a smile.