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By 2011, Hinchcliffe’s exuberant personality helped him land a full-time gig with the once heavyweight team of Newman-Haas Racing. The IndyCar rookie produced three fourth-place finishes and seven top-10s in 16 starts that season, then lost his job when Newman-Haas ceased operations.

He wasn’t out of work long.

Andretti needed a personable driver with oodles of talent to replace Patrick and keep the sponsors happy, but he also wanted somebody who would fit in with an already established team.

Hinchcliffe was the perfect choice, and it showed. Ryan Hunter-Reay wound up winning year’s points title and this year’s second race while Hinchcliffe won the season-opener at St. Petersburg and last weekend’s race at Brazil. Andretti’s son, Marco, also is coming to Indy with the best start of his career.

It’s not a coincidence.

“He (Hinchcliffe) is just putting it all together, same as me,” Marco Andretti said. “You could say it’s a team thing because it started last year.”

But Hinchcliffe is not satisfied.

After qualifying second for last year’s 500, a bad pit stop forced him to settle for a sixth-place finish.

He’s come back as this year as one of the hottest drivers in the series and with a team that has dominated the first two months of the season.

It happened again Sunday when the Andretti drivers nearly swept the top five spots on the practice speed chart.

Rookie Carlos Munoz, of Colombia, had the fastest lap Sunday, 223.023 mph. Hunter-Reay was second at 222.825 with E.J. Viso third at 222.523 and Marco Andretti fourth at 222.485. Hinchcliffe was sixth at 220.907 before heading off for yet another appearance before starting all over Monday.

That’s life in the fast lane for Hinchcliffe.

“It never really shuts off,” Hunter-Reay said. “It’s fun and he brings out more in me. It’s a good atmosphere within the team, but he’s fun to work with and as much as he is great in front of the camera, he’s got a lot of obligations. Like now, he’s got to go cut out for the `Wind Tunnel’ obligations and he’s fast in a race car, too.”


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