Hinchcliffe hopes to ride high line to success at Kentucky
James Hinchcliffe used to watch Greg Moore drive around competitors on ovals and dream of making high-side passes like his racing hero.
Now a highly regarded racer in his own right, Hinchcliffe has used the inspiration of the late Indy Lights and CART star as a template for success on ovals, applying those lessons throughout his two years in Firestone Indy Lights, including his first oval win at Chicagoland Speedway on Aug. 28.
"I learned a lot watching Greg Moore when I was growing up," the 23-year-old Canadian said. "Greg used the high line, and I was awe struck watching him on an oval. Not for a second, am I pretending to have the gift that Greg had, but I sort of turned (running the high line) into my thing."
Another strong performance on an oval will help Hinchcliffe in his pursuit of J.K. Vernay for the Firestone Indy Lights championship. The French rookie leads Hinchcliffe by 53 points heading into the penultimate Firestone Indy Lights race and could clinch the Firestone Firehawk Cup by finishing ahead of Hinchcliffe in the Drive Smart. Buckle Up Kentucky 100 on Sept. 4.
"We'd like to take it to the last race and not let J.K. sleep comfortably for the next month," Hinchcliffe said. "I know championship is a long shot, so all I can do is focus on my own effort. That effort is going really well right now."
And while Hinchcliffe's confidence is high entering the race, Vernay has the advantage of knowing that the pressure is on Hinchcliffe.
"We're showing that we can be competitive on the ovals, and I enjoy the racing," Vernay said. "After testing in Kentucky and being very quick there, I'm very confident heading into the last two races of the season that we can still win another race or two and have a great result for the championship."
Vernay's confidence means Hinchcliffe may have to drive on the high-side, both in the race and in the title race, to get to his goal of winning the Firestone Indy Lights title.
"I was in a Sam Schmidt car at Kentucky last year, so I know how good a car J.K. has. Plus, they've been there. We may be behind those guys, but at the same time, I have faith and confidence in my car and I know we can be strong for first practice.
"Kentucky was most my competitive oval last year. I really like it. I just have to give it my best shot and see where it all works out."