Andretti Autosport IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe will take part in his second Rolex 24 at Daytona this weekend. The 25-year-old will share the No. 70 SpeedSource GT entry with Marino Franchitti, Jonathan Bombarito, Sylvain Tremblay and Tom Long. Here's his take on thee round-the-clock race:
Q: Having debuted in the Rolex 24 at Daytona last year, and taking sixth in class, what are you hoping to take from the event the second time around?
JH: “A Rolex! But seriously, just being part of this race with a company like Mazda and a team like SpeedSource is such a great opportunity. We had a great run last year and we just want to build on that. Being part of a new program like the SKYACTIV engine is an added bonus. I love what Mazda is doing with this car."
Q: What was the biggest thing that surprised you from the whole experience of the race and why do you think it holds such an appeal for such a wide variety of drivers – not least from the IndyCar Series?
JH: “The biggest shock last year was the team telling the drivers that once our stint is finished, leave. Get out of the pits, forget about the race. Just detach and rest. I thought I'd be in the pits watching most of the race, but getting away and staying fresh is such an important part of getting the most out of yourself.
“I think this race holds such an appeal because of the history behind it, the challenge of it and luckily for all of us, it happens early in the year that most drivers have an open schedule and are dying to get back in a car!"
Q: Is it safe to say that the competitive fires still burn brightly even though this is a one-off for many of the participants?
JH: “Absolutely! Maybe a little more because its the first proper competitive event in a few months for most of us! Everyone is itching to get racing and, again, the history behind this race means that every driver wants to add their name to the list of winners."
Q: How easy is it to adapt to the "sharing" element of sports car racing?
JH: “It's a lot of fun working with teammates in the same car. It really unites the team because you need four people to all be fast and comfortable with the same car, same setup. It's very unique but I love that aspect of it. Having said that, I love then getting into my Indy car and knowing she's all mine."
Q: Does the 2012 IndyCar season feel like a long time ago already? Does participating in an event like the Daytona race give you a kick start for the 2013 season?
JH: “Fontana feels like a lifetime ago. I think that since that race was a bad one for us, it makes the off-season even longer. It was a bittersweet day because we were celebrating for Ryan [Hunter-Reay] but disappointed with what happened to us. For sure, getting back racing in the 24 really makes it feel like the season is coming and now it's down to business.”
Q: As it's getting toward that time of year, do you have the inside scoop on the Go Daddy Super Bowl commercial set to air next month? Can we assume for some reason you declined to be in it with Danica Patrick and Bar Refaeli?
JH: '“Inside scoop'? I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you."
The Rolex 24 At Daytona opens with practice and qualifying on Thursday. Friday features a one-hour final practice session ahead of Saturday's green flag which is set to drop on the 51st Rolex 24 at Daytona at 3:30 p.m. SPEED will carry live coverage of the race beginning at 3:00 p.m. ET.
For tickets to the Rolex 24, CLICK HERE.