Hinchcliffe Wins Greg Moore Legacy Award James Hinchcliffe concluded his 2010 Firestone Indy Lights Series campaign last Saturday, 2nd October, at the Homestead Miami Speedway with his eighth podium trip of the season courtesy of a second-place finish in the ‘Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka 100’.
The 23-year-old from Toronto clinched the Runner-Up position in the Driver Standings, behind France’s J.K. Vernay, after a magnificent season with Team Moore Racing, which included victories in Long Beach, Edmonton and Chicago.
While ‘Hinch’ had his season recognized at the IZOD IndyCar Series banquet in Miami on Sunday night, he was awarded an additional prize to celebrate his accomplishments of 2010 – the Greg Moore Legacy Award.
The award, named in honor of fellow Canadian, Greg Moore – who tragically lost his life at the final round of the CART World Series in 1999, is traditionally given to a driver who best typifies Moore’s legacy of outstanding talent on track, as well as displaying a dynamic personality with fans, the media and the racing community.
Hinchcliffe, a previous recipient of the Gilles Villeneuve Award, was humbled to receive the award, not just as a fellow Canadian driver, but also as Greg Moore was a personal childhood hero growing up.
Reflecting on both a decorated weekend in Miami and a successful 2010, James fielded some questions to review his second season in the Firestone Indy Lights Series:
Q: You were presented with the Greg Moore Legacy Award at the IndyCar and Indy Lights Series banquet in Miami on Sunday night – what does this mean to you?
James Hinchcliffe (JH): “It’s tough to put into words what that award means to me. Greg Moore was my hero growing up, and still is today! He was such a good racecar driver, but on top of that he was just an incredible person. To have my name attached to an award that bears his is something that’s very special. And on top of that, the list of drivers that have received this award previously is also very special. It’s certainly something I’m very proud of!
Q: You wrapped up the 2010 Firestone Indy Lights season with another podium finish on an oval. Have your successes in this discipline perhaps been your biggest accomplishment this year?
JH: “It’s certainly been one of the most satisfying elements of my season. Obviously the ovals were new to me last year and while we did okay I really wanted to improve. We finished every oval on the podium with the exception of Iowa where we had an issue in qualifying. I think the big thing is that now I am at a level where I would feel really comfortable jumping into an IndyCar on an oval, and that’s obviously a big factor in moving up!
Q: With several wins this season, what was the overall highlight in terms of your ‘best race’?
JH: “Edmonton had to be the best race of the year for me, maybe even of my life! It was a super difficult weekend to be honest. It took everything I had on that qualifying lap to get the pole and it was only just enough, the gap being something like one hundredth of a second.
“And then in the race, J.K. (Vernay) was right on my gearbox every single lap. There was no room for error and it’s the fastest, toughest track we race on. The two of us were basically running qualifying laps the whole race. To come out of that fight on top, and especially being on home soil, was definitely the highlight for me!”
Q: What was the best ‘off-track’ moment from 2010?
JH: “It’s tough to top the Toronto race weekend in terms of off-track highlights. Having all of my friends and family there just means so much and then the support of the fans is just awesome. I love every minute of that event. To top it all off we had the Hinchtown.com after-party on the Sunday night and again, it was a huge success. It was really cool getting to unwind and hang out with all the people that you go racing with every weekend.”
Q: Do you think people were surprised by your move to Team Moore Racing for your sophomore season?
JH: “I think at first, yes, they were. I was coming from Sam Schmidt Motorsports in 2009, the most decorated team in the series, so I think people were possibly scratching their heads a bit. Mark Moore has always run a really good team and is highly respected in the paddock. I think though when people saw who we started to pull together for our effort in 2010, the engineers and mechanics, they started to think ‘hold on, that could be a really good combo’. That’s exactly what happened.
“We had a great year and every single one of the guys on that team played their part. A lot of credit belongs to Mark, but I also want to thank the others. Firstly Lee Dykstra who is just as motivated to win now as he was thirty years ago. He is a phenomenal engineer and it was a privilege to work with him.
“My mechanics, Tom, Mike and Elliot never put a foot wrong and I’m proud they’re all close friends of mine. Mike C., JR, Drew and Graham on Adrian’s car all did a lot for both cars this year so thanks to them for that. Sylvia Moore was the team mother and put up with us all year. Finally it was great working with Adrian (Campos Jr) this season. He improved a lot and I think he’ll be a big factor in 2011.”
Q: Given your successes this season, how optimistic are you that you can step up to the IZOD IndyCar Series for 2011?
JH: “Well I certainly think that my on-track performances have shown that I’m ready to make that step. I want to make that step! And it’s been good to see how much the IndyCar teams pay attention to what’s happening in Indy Lights. But, let’s be frank here, the budget is still the number one factor.
“We started working hard months ago and I still have a lot of faith in the approach we’re taking. I would say I’m optimistic and that we’re working harder than ever to make it happen. I want nothing more than to be an IZOD IndyCar driver in 2011!”
Final 2010 Top-5 Driver Standings (R13/13): 1st Vernay (FRA) – 494pts, 2nd HINCHCLIFFE (CAN) – 471pts, 3rd Plowman (GBR) 392pts, 4th Kimball (USA) –388pts, 5th Mann (GBR) – 313pts