TORONTO (AP) — James Hinchcliffe had no idea how poorly he’s run in Toronto, his hometown race.
He knew the results weren’t great – last year in particular – but had no clue his eighth-place finish in the first of two races in 2013 was his career-best finish.
“Is that the best I’ve done is eighth? I knew it was bad. I didn’t realize it was that bad,” Hinchcliffe said Thursday.
Hinchcliffe loves returning to the street course at Exhibition Place, the track he credits for sparking his love of racing. But he heads into this weekend’s doubleheader in desperate need of a successful weekend. The Oakville, Ontario, native has been plagued this season by disappointing results, mechanical issues, collisions and a concussion suffered when he was hit by debris at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis.
Although he finished sixth last weekend at Iowa, Hinchcliffe heads home with finishes outside the top 10 in seven of 12 races. He’s 11th in the IndyCar standings.
He blames his results on a lot of bad luck.
“Running for a podium in Indy GP and somebody smoked me in the head with a piece of a wing. I mean, like why does that happen? Who does that happen to? It’s just been one of those years,” Hinchcliffe said.
“It is frustrating, certainly, because I don’t think the results match the effort in the job that the whole team is doing. But at the end of the day, we’re sleeping well at night because we’re executing very well, and it’s just really been a function of wrong place, wrong time a lot of the time this year.”
Hinchcliffe’s bad luck appeared to be on the verge of ending when he returned from the concussion to qualify second for the Indianapolis 500. But his hopes for a win ended when he collided with Ed Carpenter late in the race.
It’s all left Hinchcliffe with a very sarcastic tone as he prepares for Saturday and Sunday.
“Well, I figure I’ll win both of these ones. And then in Ohio. And then Milwaukee, Sonoma and Fontana and I call the year a success,” he said. “Really no reason to aim for anything less than that at this point because we’re pretty far out of it.
“We’re just bummed that we haven’t had the results that we feel we deserve for the effort we’ve been putting forward.”
Hinchcliffe is the only Canadian in the field because Alex Tagliani no longer has a full-time ride in IndyCar. Toronto native Paul Tracy was the last Canadian to win the event, in 2003.
Hinchcliffe finished third at Exhibition Place in his first season in the Indy Lights developmental series. But the IndyCar race has been difficult for him, especially the second race of last year’s doubleheader when a stuck throttle kept him from starting on the grid and ended in a 21st-place finish.
So, sarcasm aside, he has understandably low expectations right now.
“I just assume it’s going to go poorly,” he said. “It’s not really a superstition as much as it is a statistical thing. I’ve had it all here. Maybe now finally there’s nothing left to happen. I mean, (I) literally didn’t even make the start of the race last year. It can’t get any worse than that.”
Hinchcliffe then knocked on the table in front of him.
“My engineer would kill me for saying that because now I’ll get hit by a meteor or something,” he quipped.