I hesitate to write this.
Because I am superstitious.
I don’t walk under ladders. My Irish ancestry will not permit me to put and or see shoes on a table.
And I firmly believe if you talk about a hockey goaltender’s chance of a shutout, or a baseball pitcher’s no-hitter before the game is over, you jinx it.
So I wondered if I should talk about Oakville Ontario’s James Hinchcliffe before the finish of the 100th running of The Indianapolis 500, just in case I put the booga-booga on what would be a storybook/movie script ending to what’s shaping up as one of the greatest come-back stories in sports, not just motorsports.
But I have to salute his pole position for the 2016 edition of The Greatest Spectacle in Racing, because that accomplishment alone is one great tale.
I got rather vivid with the morning crew at our TSN 690 Montreal Raceline Radio Network affiliate the morning after Hinch finally grabbed the pole after falling short by one position twice in the past.
I wanted the boys to understand just how close we came to losing James in that awful practice crash at Indianapolis a year ago, and his incredible recovery that culminated with his 4 lap average qualifying speed of 230.760 mph to earn the right to start this years’ classic from the inside of the front row.
Hinch remembers coming out of turn 3 on that fateful lap in May last year.
Then the memory goes blank.
The suspension failed, and he clobbered the wall at 125 G’s, 125 times the normal force of gravity.
A suspension rod pierced the cockpit, passed through one of his legs and into his lower body.
He nearly bled to death in the car. And James’ surgeon told him they almost lost him when his blood pressure crashed on the way to surgery to repair the damage.
His season was over.
But within a week, Hinchcliffe was up walking. A few weeks later he was speaking and joking with the media and starting to work out again to regain muscle strength.
At an off-season test, he not only got back up to speed quickly, he told his team on the radio he wasn’t ever coming in… he didn’t want the realization he was indeed ready to return to active duty, to end.
Hinchcliffe started the 2016 IndyCar season a few steps behind, but he crept closer to the top 10, the top 5, and by the time the IndyCar Series rolled into the Brickyard at 16th and Georgetown Road in Speedway Indiana, he was fast enough to score a podium at The Grand Prix of Indianapolis on the road course, the perfect set up for the 500 classic on the fabled 2.5 mile “rectangular” oval.
But early practise sessions still didn’t show the velocity he needed to qualify near the front.
But the aero configuration changes, the domed skids on the under-tray that took away some down-force that Hinch didn’t like initially, a badly need power boost from the Honda engine boffins, and some spot-on adjustments from Schmidt-Peterson engineer Allen McDonald set the stage for part one of the miracle come-back from that crash.
James made the Fast-9 and on a track cooled a few degrees my some spotty cloud cover, The Mayor of Hinchtown cracked off 4 quick ones in an almost perfect qualification to register his maiden IndyCar pole for the biggest race in the sport.
Former Andretti team mate and Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay was one of the first drivers over to Hinch’s car to congratulate his friend. Ryan said it’s absolutely incredible for anyone to almost lose their life crashing at the same track, then turn around and be brave enough to run flat out through the same corner a year later at 240 mph!
Hunter-Reay didn’t use the word “miracle”, but he could have.
And that’s just part one of Hinch’s miracle at Indianapolis.
I’m too superstitious to tell what part two is.
Check back the morning of the 30th.
Tale Pipes: we welcome back our friends and partners at the Tissot/Swatch Group, who are with us again for their summer campaign with The Raceline Radio Network. A big thank you to double-watch-wearing Rick Ostrom, Adrienne Chan and everyone at Tissot! Swiss Watches since 1853… We were just talking about Hinchcliffe’s pole qualifying speed: 230.760 mph. Stout, but still slow when compared to our NHRA drag racing pilots, who are using their 10 thousand horsepower nitro-methane-belching monster machines to shatter speed records. At Topeka Kansas, Matt Hagan and recent Raceline Radio guest Brittany Force took down national barriers in qualifying. Hagan set new national Funny Car records for time and speed: a 3.862 second Elimination Time at 335.57 mph! Brittany reset the national Top Fuel record with an ET of 3.676 seconds! And the strips are only a thousand feet long now! Mind-bending!