- Associated Press - Sunday, May 26, 2013

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - One of James Hinchcliffe’s first racing memories was an 8-year-old kid watching the 1995 Indianapolis 500 on television at home in Canada.

Canadian hero Jacques Villeneuve won the race, and it resonated deeply with the young Hinchcliffe.

“It’s actually one of my earliest racing memories of watching on TV and understanding what was going on, and a Canadian won the race and I get that, I’m one of those guys,” Hinchcliffe said. “I have this vivid memory on the cool-down lap, pumping his fist, and he had to come from two laps down. I didn’t know what that meant, but I knew it was a big deal.”

Racing is still a very big deal in Canada, and the country feted Hinchcliffe in the days after the season-opening race in St. Pete, where Hinchcliffe grabbed his first career IndyCar victory.

He made it two wins on the season on May 5 with a dramatic pass of Takuma Sato in the final turn to win at Brazil. The win was far more thrilling than the St. Pete victory, but the celebration in Canada was far different.

“The reaction was muted because there was playoff hockey going on,” Hinchcliffe said. “It doesn’t matter how good the race is, if there’s playoff hockey going on, you are taking a back seat. After St. Pete, I was on the cover of every single paper back home, whereas after Brazil, I was in the paper, but something far bigger was happening. My timing is terrible.”

Hinchcliffe starts on the outside of the third row Sunday as he seeks to join Villeneuve as the second Canadian to win the Indianapolis 500. Front-page exposure would be virtually guaranteed (and there are no Canadian teams remaining in the NHL playoffs).

Hinchcliffe drives No. 27, same as Villeneuve, although it’s a coincidence because it was the next number in line available when Hinchcliffe joined Andretti Autosport last season.

Had he been allowed to choose, it might not have been the number Hinchcliffe would have selected.

“If I could have picked any number I probably would not have picked No. 27, because I don’t think I am deserving of the number because of the heritage that number has in Canada,” Hinchcliffe said. “It is a huge honor to be able to have it.”

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