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Hinchcliffe preparing for another Indy comeback story

Hinchcliffe preparing for another Indy comeback story
Autos
It was hard to accept then and it s not any easier now, as the popular Canadian driver returns to the speedway almost exactly one year after getting left out.

"Qualifying for a 500-mile race isn t the most important thing but, obviously, you have to make the show," he said Thursday with a chuckle. "You just don t know what s going to happen and we (the team) appreciate that better than most."

The fate of Hinchcliffe, a national spokesman for IndyCar engine manufacturer Honda, jump-started an immediate debate over the tradition of bumping at Indianapolis.

Some contend series regulars like Hinchcliffe should be guaranteed a starting spot, a format previously used during the Indy Racing League s fledgling years.

Hinchcliffe disagrees. He argues the 500 is so unique that normal rules should not apply and perhaps points shouldn t even be awarded for the race.

Instead, Hinchcliffe and his Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team went back to work, reassessing what went wrong, what needed to change. They are coming back this year with what they believe will be a stronger plan.

"We took the time we needed as a team to look internally at what we could have done differently," he said. "A lot of it was procedural stuff, we moved personnel around, in preparing our cars and tires and everything for qualifying and then just the year-to-year stuff that every team does to make the car go faster during the off-season."

But if Hinchcliffe has learned anything about this historic oval over the past eight years, it s that little goes according to the script.

The lucky ones sip milk and rewrite history.

Just about everyone else recounts their struggles with phrases that sound like chapter titles: The Curse, Close Calls, Bad Luck or Contested Finishes.

Nobody, not even the most successful team in Indy history, is immune from trouble. Roger Penske still says the memory of leaving the track after qualifying in 1995, with defending champion Al Unser Jr. and 1993 Indy winner Emerson Fittipaldi, remains one of his most vivid memories.

Hinchcliffe already had one such moment when a mechanical failure sent him into a concrete wall during Indy practice in 2015. A broken piece punctured the car s protective tub, piercing Hinchcliffe s left upper thigh and damaging an artery that caused life-threatening bleeding. It took 22 units of blood and surgery to save Hinchcliffe s life.

He didn t race again until 2016, when he earned seven top-10 starts in the first eight races and won his only career pole at the 500 where he also promoted a blood-donor drive and finished seventh in the race.
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