Like His Driving, The Hinch-Healing is Fast!
Oakville’s James Hinchcliffe continues with his rapid recovery from that devastating Indianapolis 500 practice crash back in May.
Serious leg and pelvis injuries and blood loss ended his season, but his healing rate has been remarkably quick as he works to return to the cockpit of the # 5 Schmidt-Peterson Racing entry in the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2016.
We caught up with “The Mayor of Hinchtown” in a recent Raceline Radio Network interview for a health update.
Give us an update on how your recovery is progressing…
“We’re pretty much ahead of schedule on everything. But it’s been tough because I’ve gotten better at such a rate that I feel ready to go, but unfortunately there are still a few things to get through before that’s possible. I have one more surgery left and that’s scheduled at the end of the month, but I can’t wait to get that done and out of the way because honestly everything is going well. I’m feeling great and I can’t wait to get back to it. It’s been a long road to this point, but with the condition that I’m in, as far as I’ve recovered, I think the second surgery should go pretty smoothly with a relatively short recovery time.”
Can you give us an idea of the fitness program you’re following? In the early days of your recovery, doctors let you do some upper body work. What have you been allowed to do to stay in the best shape possible?
“That’s also been a bit of a struggle. I feel I can do a lot more than the doctors want me to at this point. I want to push harder. But I am at the point where they’ve released me to at least do some light weight and cardio training. The big challenge right now though, is they don’t want me gaining back the muscle loss from sitting out so long, because when you do that you’re fatiguing your body and that takes time to rest and recover. With another surgery coming, they want me to be as healthy and as rested as possible for that recovery.”
What about your diet?
“The best advice from doctors was to consume as much protein as possible. As athletes you eat a lot of protein in muscle gain mode. I guess it’s the same after an injury. It’s got that same effect helping to repair muscles. Having some of my muscles separated unintentionally in the crash ( laughs ), the idea is to cram as much protein into my diet as possible.”
Lots of red meat, steak then?
“Ya. Exactly right!”
Let’s talk about your visit to Toronto in June during the Indy. Your movements were restricted because of the fatigue factor. The re-union with IndyCar’s Holmatro Safety Team that was instrumental in your quick transport to hospital after the crash, the emotion of that. And just seeing the fans and listening to their loud support and affection. How therapeutic was that for you?
“It was great on a couple of different levels. It was the first glimpse at a return to normalcy for me, being able to travel to Toronto from Indianapolis was very special. I often talk about going to the Toronto Indy since I was just over a year old and being at every one since, so I really didn’t want to break that streak! It was great to get up there to be part of the team again and feel a bit more hands-on. And also to see some of the fans and the people of Toronto who’ve been so supportive not only throughout my career, but also through the accident and the recovery, so it meant an awful lot to me.”
You’ve had regular contact with your Schmidt-Peterson IndyCar team. Once you were up and around, there are visits to the shop to work with your substitute driver Ryan Briscoe and the crew. I can imagine that has had a lot to do with your quick recovery.
“Absolutely! That really helps with the mental side of it. We’ve been going to all these tracks for the first time with this new aero kit so there’s still a lot of learning that we’re doing. Just being there for the actual sessions before the races and hearing straight from the drivers and not just reading about it in the post race debriefs is invaluable because we’re going to come back next year and have to start off where we’re ending. Just being there to see it, hear it and feel it and to throw my experience in there where I can is important. Even in Toronto, I had Conor Daly and my engineer Allan McDonald knock on my motor home door saying we’re kind of stuck, what do ya think? It’s just great to be able to contribute that info.”
You no doubt have opinions on some of the current IndyCar issues. The criticism from some of the drivers against the “dangerous” pack racing at Fontana for one. It was incredible racing! Should IndyCars be on tracks of this size? You’ve heard it all. What are your thoughts?
“When you see the quality of the racing, it’s really hard to argue that we should be on tracks that size. I think that’s a no-brainer at places like Fontana, but it’s definitely a delicate balance. I think we over-stepped it a little bit at Fontana, but that’s not something we could have predicted. IndyCar did a lot with the information they had, but we got there and the temperatures on race day were a lot cooler than expected. That would have had massive impact on the amount of grip these cars were producing and how long you could maintain the race pace. I think that’s what ultimately led to the style of racing we saw. IndyCar and everyone knows this is something that needs to be adjusted. This was the first time at Fontana with this new aero kit and in all honesty, for as dangerous as that could have been, I think all the drivers should be commended for the quality of the racing because it took an awful lot of skill, talent and bravery to not have any major accidents.”
The Series now has a new code of conduct to stop drivers from making remarks that could damage the integrity of IndyCar, its sponsors, etc. Sometimes drivers are caught in the heat of emotional situations. How do you look at this? Can IndyCar control what you guys say?
“I don’t know if you can always control what a driver says. Everyone has opinions and has a right to voice them. But there is a time and a place to do that. Coming off an event like Fontana when you’ve had nothing but adrenalin pumping through your veins for 500 miles, it’s not easy to get a guy coming right out of the car to speak sense, good mood or bad mood. There needs to be a little bit of a grace period for the drivers to gather their thoughts and think about what they’re saying. I know one of the drivers at Fontana watched his interview a week later and was kind of shocked at what came out of his own mouth. It’s the nature of competition. You see it in any sport. It’s not to silence opinion, it’s now it’s presented.”
The convalescence sounds like it’s going amazingly well and we’re very encouraged by that! We’ll check in again soon. You know the entire country and The Raceline Radio Network family is behind you 100% and has been from the beginning. We know what’s meant a lot to you!
“It sure does! I really appreciate it ET!
Talepipes: Our friends at Ransomville Speedway and The DIRTCar sanction have announced Wednesday September 2nd as the rain-out make up date for The 31st Annual Alex Friesen Summer Nationals Super DIRTCar Big Block Modified 100. I’ll see you there. No umbrellas!