The surprising announcement last week by Newman/Haas Racing that it would not compete in the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series was a blow to many, not least James Hinchcliffe. The Canadian had been looking to build on the momentum of his impressive rookie campaign with the team this year, which won him the Rookie of the Year title. However, he remains hopeful that his performances will pave the way for another chance in IndyCars.
“Immediate reaction was shock, for sure," Hinchcliffe said of his response to the team's decision. "I obviously was somewhat aware of the fact that the team had recently received some bad news about potential sponsors, but it's Newman/Haas. You just sort of always assume that they will find a way to make it work. The cars had been ordered and the engineers were into their preparation. So for sure it was a shock.
“It [the rookie title] meant a huge amount to me before, but it probably means even more now," Hinchcliffe added. "To do that having missed the first race and coming back from a huge deficit after Indy was a tremendous accomplishment for the team. Now knowing that it will be their last title – and this team has won a lot of them – makes it a little extra special. I am just so grateful for the opportunity that Sprott and Newman/Haas gave me this year to be in IndyCar and to give me the tools needed to accomplish that. That was our goal from the outset and it's a big point of pride that we pulled it off.”
Now Hinchcliffe faces the difficult task of landing another seat, but feels he is well poised to do so.
“Well after a season like the one we had, there was certainly some interest from around the paddock. It was a very flattering thing, really. For sure, initially continuing with Newman/Haas was the likely option, but it was only one option. There were others and now with that one off the table we will begin to explore some of the others.”
Meanwhile, Hinchcliffe is staying busy with karting. He ran in the Dan Wheldon Memorial charity kart race in England on Monday, and will now head to Brazil to contest the annual Granja Viana 500 kart race.
"Yeah, I don't exactly know what people mean by 'off-season!' It's been pretty flat-out since the season ended," he said. "The offer to do Granja came from (Indy Lights driver) Victor Carbone, who has an association with one of the teams. He hadn't even finished asking the question and I told him that I would go because, again, this is one of those events that I have read about for years, looked like a ton of fun, and I have always wanted to take part in.
“I really have just been so fortunate the last little while to get these opportunities. So I'm looking forward to getting down there, getting back into a more serious kart race for the first time in a while and on top of that, a few days in Brazil is a nice break from surviving December weather back home!”