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Hinchcliffe still has hopes for IndyCar ride
2011 Rookie of the Year James Hinchcliffe
Despite the shock announcement Thursday by his employer, Newman/Haas Racing of Chicago, that it wouldn't participate in the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series, Canadian Indy car racer James Hinchcliffe of Oakville remains optimistic he will be on the grid when the season opens next March.

"I'll have to regroup but there are still some seats available on good teams," said the young Canadian, who won the series Rookie of the Year title in 2011.

Hinchcliffe and his teammate, Spanish veteran Oriol Servia, were left high and dry Thursday when their employer issued a terse, two-paragraph statement in mid-afternoon.

"Newman/Haas Racing announced today that it will not enter cars in the 2012 IndyCar Series," the statement said.

"The economic climate no longer enables Newman/Haas Racing to participate in open wheel racing at this time,” said Carl Haas, owner and co-founder of Newman/Haas Racing."

Hinchcliffe edged young American J.R. Hildebrand for the top rookie award. Hildebrand is under contract with Panther Racing for the 2012 season.

It's a huge disappointment for Hinchcliffe, who showed the IndyCar world in 2011 that he was ready to join the big time after a half-dozen years in the minors. He only found out the bad news himself on Thursday afternoon.

"About 10 minutes before you did," the racer told me in an interview. "It's a sad day for the sport."

Hinchcliffe said he's thankful that the announcement came on Dec. 1 instead of Jan. 1 because there is still time to find a quality ride for next season.

"A lot of people (in the series) had approached us in the off-season," he said. "But because we were under contract to Newman/Haas, obviously we couldn't go too far in the discussions.

"But this has changed things and so I'll make a few phone calls. In fact, the phone has been ringing off the hook for the last 20 minutes."

Hinchcliffe said he feels badly for the 40 or so full-time employees of the team who now find themselves out of their jobs. "They're a great group and worked so hard and I'm so sorry for them."

Asked specifically about the openings at Michael Andretti's team, Hinchcliffe was bemused, saying only that they were among several of the quality seats still available and he would just have to regroup. Toronto Star

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