Hinchcliffe to drive for Sam Schmidt Motorsports
Canadian James Hinchcliffe will contest the full Firestone Indy Lights season in the coveted No. 7 machine fielded by series powerhouse Sam Schmidt Motorsports, team officials announced March 9. Hinchcliffe, 22, earned the ride after competing against a group of championship drivers in a multi-round shootout.
"I don't think the word 'excited' does justice to how I feel about joining Sam Schmidt Motorsports for 2009," Hinchcliffe said. "I really am honored to have such a successful team put their confidence in me. We have such a good group of people and I'm really looking forward to teaming up with Bia (Ana Beatriz) and Gustavo (Yacaman). I have never been looking forward to any racing season as much as I am this year."
The native of Toronto is no stranger to the formula car world having won races in the Atlantic Championship and competed for Team Canada in the A1GP Series. He's also recognized out of the cockpit having been a television personality for broadcast teams in A1GP as well as the former Champ Car World Series.
"The switch to Firestone Indy Lights for me was a no brainer," he said. "My whole career I have made my decisions to race based on where the competition is, and for 2009 there is no junior formula car series on earth that will be more competitive. Also, to support the IndyCar Series is an excellent chance to prove you can hack it in the big cars."
Though he has many years of experience in formula cars, the 2009 racing season will give Hinchcliffe his first taste of high-speed oval racing. He's received a preview of the atmosphere through limited testing he's done with Sam Schmidt Motorsports in the off-season.
"Ovals are obviously a new thing for me, but I have enjoyed them more than I thought I would. It is a completely different skill set, and I know I have a ton to learn, but with the experience of guys like (team owner) Sam Schmidt, (engineer) Tim Neff, and (team manager) Chris Griffis behind me, I know that my oval education is in great hands."
Hinchcliffe also gives Sam Schmidt Motorsports another quality driver in its quest to reclaim the Firestone Firehawk Cup after finishing second and third in the 2008 championship. The team is the winningest team in Firestone Indy Lights and claimed the drivers' championship in 2004, 2006, and 2007.
"We're really looking forward to taking back the championship this year," team owner Sam Schmidt said. "We've put together a great group of drivers with James, Bia, and Gustavo, who have a lot of talent, and I think all three have the potential to win races and be champions. We've got a lot of exciting things going on this year, and I can't wait to get down to St. Pete to get started."