Tomas on Hinchcliffe: Becoming the face of IndyCar

Canadian James Hinchcliffe climbs into his car during the first practice at the Edmonton Indy in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, on Friday, July 20, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Ulan

Not jumping the gun here since he’s only won his first IndyCar race, but now that “the cork has been yanked out of the jug” and more wins will come pouring out before he’s done, Oakville’s James Hinchcliffe could become something more than just a powerful, competitive force in the series.

Hinch could become the new face of IndyCar.

Like what Dale Earnhardt Jr. in NASCAR and Sebastian Vettel in Formula 1 provide, IndyCar needs a celebrity, maybe even a hero to get some of its lost identity back.

And Hinch could be that guy!

I know other writers and journalists have made similar pronouncements, but having followed James’ career from step-one out of karts on Raceline Radio, the pattern he is presenting is obvious in its potential.

With relentless pressure to succeed at the top levels of this sport, companies paying the bills through sponsorship demand you be a lot more than just a fast, fearless driver.

You need to be the entire big-brained package, in and out of the car.

A driver has to become a spokesman for his or her sponsor’s company, in effect becoming a high velocity member of the company’s marketing effort.

A driver needs to be eloquent in his speech and highly intelligent when it comes to speaking not only to the media, but also be able to get up at sales seminars and meetings, and yes even sales calls to help the sponsor motivate staff and sell product.

The basic rule now is, it’s simply not enough to be fast in the car.

If you get nervous talking to people in person, on TV or radio, you are dead in the water, no matter how fast you think you are!

But all of the above is where Hinchcliffe shines.

From his first interview with us, barely into his twenties, I was struck by how mature and relaxed James was. He had the poise and maturity of a man twice his age.

He knew what he was talking about.

He was believable and smart, and it all flowed so naturally.

Other drivers can be good, but too many sound strained and artificial.

Not everyone can be an award-winning speaker and linguist, but drivers aren’t going to get to the top unless they can present themselves like a pro with some grey matter working upstairs.

GoDaddy sponsorship a sign of things to come

GoDaddy, Hinch’s sponsor has extremely high profile Danica Patrick working for them on the NASCAR side.

For their IndyCar effort, they could have chosen a number of American, European or South American pilots to drive that bright popsicle-green machine.

But they went with the Mayor of Hinchtown and are repeatedly convinced he’s the right guy.

James tells us that GoDaddy is the coolest company he’s ever worked for. They get it. They understand the sport and the showbiz side of the game.

That’s why they put James in their car and will keep him there.

And I haven’t mentioned how splendid he is face to face with the ticket-buying fans.

See what I mean by complete package?

If IndyCar is smart, they will exploit what GoDaddy, and the media and the fans already know.

That James Hinchcliffe right now is the perfect face for the IZOD IndyCar Series.

And he’s still only 26.

How good will he be when he’s 30?

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