BIRMINGHAM, ALA. (AP) - IndyCar’s newest winner is no longer bombarded by people wondering when he’ll get his first victory.
The question now for James Hinchcliffe is when will he get win No. 2?
Hinchcliffe picked up his first career victory two weeks ago in the IndyCar season-opener at St. Petersburg, but it did little to quell the pressure on the Andretti Autosport driver.
“The external pressure has come down a little bit, but now my internal expectations have gone up,” Hinchcliffe said Friday at Barber Motorsports Park. “It’s easy for people on the outside to say, `When are you going to win? When are you going to get that first one?’ Now that I’ve won a race, that question isn’t being asked externally anymore and I think to myself, `I’ve done it. I still know how hard it is and it’s just as hard as it was before. But now I know I can do it, I want to do it again.’
“It took me 32 tries to get the first one. Hopefully, it won’t take 32 to get the next one.”
It was an emotional win for Hinchcliffe, who scored the victory in front of the friends and family of the late Dan Wheldon in the city Wheldon called home.
It was Wheldon who had signed with Andretti Autosport to drive the GoDaddy car following Danica Patrick’s move to NASCAR. The team never even got a chance to announce the signing before Wheldon was killed in a 15-car accident in the 2011 season finale at Las Vegas.
The ride then went to Hinchcliffe, who had found himself suddenly out of work in early December when his Newman-Haas team closed its doors with almost no warning.
Overwhelmed with adrenaline as he closed in on the checkered flag, Hinchcliffe was then overcome with emotion as he crossed the finish line.
“I spent a good chunk of the cool-down lap bawling my eyes out,” he said. “It’s tough to admit, but it’s the truth. It was the culmination of a very long journey that me and my family and the people who supported me have been on for the last 17 years. To do it the way we did it, and where we did it, there were a lot of things that added up to being a very emotional and special day.”
Now he’s looking for another special day and has good reason to believe he can contend Sunday at Barber, where he was second fastest in testing last month behind Will Power. Problem is, Power and his Penske Racing teammate Helio Castroneves have dominated Barber since IndyCar’s first visit three years ago.
Castroneves won IndyCar’s 2010 debut, and Power won the last two years.
And although Hinchcliffe got the win with his Andretti Autosport team at St. Pete, he concedes the Penske cars were likely better. Power dominated early but finished 16th after a fluke incident in which JR Hildebrand ran over his car under yellow, and Castroneves led a race-high 42 laps before finishing second to Hinchcliffe.
“If you look at St. Pete, there’s no doubt they were the quickest cars and we put together a better Sunday,” Hinchcliffe said. “I think we aren’t going to lie to ourselves and say we were the best in every category last race.”
But his first win has Hinchcliffe believing he can at least hold his own this weekend.
“We need to buckle down, but I think having that win under our belts does give u a little bit more confidence that if we’re in position near the end of the race, we know how to seal the deal and bring it home.” he said.
He’s got work to do, though: Hinchcliffe was 15th in practice Friday.
“Today did not go as planned, but you get these days in racing,” Hinchcliffe said.
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