We Sure Missed a Lot

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Wouldn’t you know it? I take off for a few days of rest and relaxation and all the news breaks in the racing world. Fortunately we had internet access throughout our cruise to Cozumel so I was able to keep up with everything. Since the news broke a week ago, most of you know all of the news that Roger Penske broke in his “100 Days From the 500” press conference last Friday. Among the highlights announced was a bigger purse for the Indianapolis 500, that is increasing by $2 million to a record $15 million. He also announced upgrades to the facility including new video boards for the Paddock seats and improved video boards elsewhere in the facility; and much needed improved restroom facilities.

The Captain also revealed plans for an expanded Last Row Shootout in qualifying, which minimizes the chance of a cut tire preventing a car from qualifying for the Indianapolis 500. He also spoke of expanded television coverage on “Big NBC”, although he did not elaborate.

There were many other items announced such as extensive Verizon 5G coverage, an expanded area along Georgetown Road for better access on Race Day and many other improvements that fans will notice throughout the month.

As we cruised, I was selfishly glad to see that the Daytona 500 was rained out on Sunday. Had it run as scheduled, I would not have seen a single lap as we were busy pursuing the fun on our last full day at sea. By the time we arrived home on Monday afternoon, it was already about a third of the way completed. Susan was ecstatic to walk through the den and find that on as we unpacked from our trip. I say that very sarcastically. But the fun stopped when I saw Ryan Newman’s frightening crash at the line on the final lap. Like everyone, I feared the worst.

Fortunately, this tale had a happy ending as we saw videos on Wednesday of Newman leaving the hospital holding hands with both of his daughters on each side. That sight was the best news from the racing world for 2020 so far.

Had the Newman crash not happened, the best news would have been that the strange odyssey of James Hinchcliffe has finally come to somewhat of a conclusion. It’s not a fulltime ride, but it’s about the best possible scenario he could hope for at this point.

On Wednesday, Michael Andretti confirmed that James Hinchcliffe would be driving a sixth Andretti Autosport entry for the Month of May as well as at Texas. Hinch will pilot the No. 29 Genesys car for the IndyCar GP, the Indianapolis 500 and the Texas Indy 600 in June.

I am very happy for Hinchcliffe that he gets at least three races for 2020. From the way the dialogue in the press conference came across, there is a possibility for more. Most fans would love to see Hinchcliffe behind the wheel for his home race at Toronto. Whether that happens remains to be seen, but we know he will get at least those three races. It’s also a plus that Hinchcliffe gets to stay with Honda, whom he has been doing commercials for for a few years now. I’m glad to see that his personal relationship with the Japanese automaker will continue.

Michael Andretti stirred the pot a little bit when he said that Honda never told him he couldn’t run Fernando Alonso for the Indianapolis 500. Andretti said that he and Alonso couldn’t come to terms, whatever that means. Alonso’s loss turned out to be Hinchcliffe’s gain. I’m glad. I think it’s good from a worldwide marketing standpoint if Fernando Alonso is in the Indianapolis 500 in a competitive car, but I think most true hardcore IndyCar fans would prefer to see The Mayor in that car.

Alonso claims he has an IndyCar ride lined up, so we will see where that is.

Hinchcliffe is now in a position where he can win the Indianapolis 500. Some of the other possible destinations discussed would have gotten him into the race, but Hinch would have been a long-shot to win the race with most of them. Any Andretti Autosport car is a legitimate threat to win the Indianapolis 500, and Hinchcliffe knows it. That’s why he seemed absolutely elated during the press conference.

Since McLaren first announced they were buying into Sam Schmidt’s team last summer, most everyone knew that Hinchcliffe’s days were numbered. It has been a rough road for The Mayor of Hinchtown for the last six months. But he scrounged around and found an excited partner in Genesys and he worked his way into probably the best part-time ride in the paddock. I’m willing to bet that Hinchcliffe grows this relationship into more than three races this season. I’m also predicting that Hinch is a fulltime driver with Andretti Autosport in 2021.

So we chose a very busy week in the offseason to go cruising. It’s probably the busiest week news-wise, since it was announced that Roger Penske was buying IMS, IndyCar and IMS Productions back on Nov 4. It may be a while before we take time off again.

George Phillips

Please Note: For those that are curious about our trip, please see the section below the poll question. For those that don’t care, come back Monday for more IndyCar discussion. – GP

5 Responses to “We Sure Missed a Lot”

  1. I will certainly be rooting for Hinch this year, what a great story that would be if he won and it would secure his future in the series.

  2. I have a great deal of respect for Hincliffe for coming back from a horrific accident, he is a great ambassador for IndyCar, probably a great guy overall . However his stats don’t really indicate he is a top tier driver. He has won 6 races over 9 years and finished no better than 8th in the year end standings. I am sure he is good but not sure great. So what’s the big deal of him joining Andretti? I am glad he has a ride for this year but there are other drivers just as qualified who won’t. I think Alonzo brings more international exposure to the 500 than does Hincliffe which I think translate in to higher viewership , higher sponsor exposure ,higher ad rates ,more sponsor interest . I assume my opinion will be assailed on this subject but I would like to hear others opinion

  3. billytheskink Says:

    Any time we are having a slow offseason, you two need to go on vacation… The stories will just flow on in!

  4. Am much relieved that Hinch found a ride for the 500.

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