Photo: Action Sports Photography, Inc.

Hinchcliffe Returns Full Time with Andretti Autosport

By Luis Torres, Staff Writer

“The Mayor of Hinchtown” will once again have a larger presence in the NTT IndyCar Series grid as James Hinchcliffe will run the entire 17-race schedule in Andretti Autosport’s No. 29 Honda-powered entry.

Genesys also returns with the driver/team pairing as they’ve expanded their involvement in the sport, going from three races (Texas, Indy GP and Indy 500) last year to now 10, including the 105th Indianapolis 500.

Team Chairman and CEO Michael Andretti is really excited having both Hinchcliffe and Genesys, knowing how they’ve been tremendous assets to his operation.

“Having Hinch back in the family has been great. He did a few races for us last year, but it’s like having him come back home because he gets along with everybody and performs really well,” said Andretti. “We’re excited to finally announce this deal. We’re so happy to have Genesys back with us as well. They’ve been great to work with. It’s so fun to work with a company that’s so excited about the sport and getting behind it.”

Hinchcliffe said that it’s a dream come true expanding his partnership with Genesys due to their instant commitment which began with a series of Instagram messages.

“It’s a dream come true in so many ways. It’s a culmination of a lot of hard work from a lot of people,” said Hinchcliffe. “For a company to move that quickly is unbelievable. They took it a step further by sponsoring the race at Texas and now jump up to a 10-race deal is incredible. It shows the commitment they’re willing to give and the faith they have on us in this program. We’re so proud to be partnered with them.”

Genesys CEO Tony Bates said after seeing how all parties morale chemistry blossomed, it reminded him what the company’s main goal which is providing a “winning customer experience.”

“We’re building upon our tremendous partnership with James Hinchcliffe and Andretti Autosport. The success we have seen together goes beyond the deep connection Genesys has with the Indianapolis community,” said Bates. “James and the entire Andretti team are leaders on the track because they’re empowered with the right technology and data so they can make informed decisions at the right moment. That’s at the heart of every winning customer experience too, and what’s driving our momentum at Genesys.”

Bates’ remarks were highlighted with a strong Month of August as Hinchcliffe made it to the Firestone Fast Nine at Indianapolis where he rolled off sixth. From there, he had a noble 200-lap race where he finished seventh, which proved to be his lone top-10 result of 2020.

Genesys’ Chief Marketing Officer Joyce Kim commented when she was asked why the company were sponsoring Hinchcliffe’s Indy 500 efforts last year, she tied it back to their business.

“We are in awe of sort of the amount of data and real-time things that are required, the split-second decisions that the drivers and the pit crews and everyone has to make,” said Kim .”I kind of liken it to what we do for our customers at Genesys with customer experience, the data, the artificial intelligence, predictive capabilities.

“It’s all about the team, empowering with technology and data. We’re really just honored to be a part of this. I can’t wait to watch James and Andretti Autosport flying around the track in our Genesys orange No. 29 Honda. Hopefully this year we’ll be able to be in person.”

Hinchcliffe’s season didn’t end in August as he wound up running an additional three races (both Harvest GPs and St. Petersburg) after the team released Zach Veach from the No. 26 Gainbridge machine, a car Colton Herta will drive this year. In those three races, a 13th in the second Harvest GP race was his best result.

Fast forward to Tuesday afternoon, Hinchcliffe said “the band are back together” following their “reunion tour” as the six-time IndyCar Series winner previously raced for Andretti full-time from 2012-14, scoring his first three wins (all in 2013) and 7 of 17 career podiums.

“To be back full-time with Andretti is kind of like a homecoming. This team has been like family to me since I joined the first time back in 2012,” Hinchcliffe on being back full-time with the team. “I’ve always said we’ll get the band together. We did a little reunion tour last year, but we’re now fully back together. To be with both Genesys and Andretti Autosport has been incredible.”

While it would’ve been fun for Andretti to have Hinchcliffe stuck around after 2014, it wasn’t meant to be at the time, but is looking forward of having him compete for race wins once again.

“We had to go our separate ways there for a little bit. Yeah, it would have been fun to keep James within the team,” Andretti on Hinchcliffe departure from the team. “It is what it is. We’re just happy to be back together. Hopefully we still have some more, bunch of more wins together.”

When the original chapter with Andretti Autosport closed, Hinchcliffe spent the next five years with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, where he scored three more wins, including his latest at Iowa in July 2018.

However, he would controversially end up being kicked to the curb once McLaren joined forces to form ARROW McLaren SP and went with an all-rookie lineup in Pato O’Ward and Oliver Askew. With ride availabilities being slim to none, it left Hinchcliffe no other choice but be with the NBC Sports’ broadcasting team for much of 2020.

Hinchcliffe commented his determination of winning races and being a part of an all around team effort hasn’t changed. No matter how many races it was then and now.

“You go with the same mind set and that’s trying to win,” said Hinchcliffe. “You’re trying to go there and help the team be better over the weekend and obviously in the race, try to take the victory.”

While the team only mustered a single 2020 victory with Herta at the second Mid-Ohio race, Hinchcliffe remained confident the team began rebounding at the end of the season. Something he’ll hope carries into 2021 with him, Herta, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi being competitive for top results.

“When you look back the way Andretti Autosport improved over the 2020 season, it’s no secret that it was a little bit of a struggle during the first part of the year. But the last half of that season, the team really came out strong and were really competitive,” Hinchliffe on the team’s performance.

“That gave us a lot of positive momentum going into the offseason. There’s nothing that would stop us from saying that we should be running up front right from the drop of the green flag at Barber. Podiums, race wins, I would love to see all the cars running up there with a decent shot at the championship with about four rounds to go.”

The races Genesys will be sponsoring Hinchcliffe are Barber (April 18), St. Petersburg (April 25), Texas Race No. 1 (May 1), Indy 500 (May 30), both Belle Isle races (June 12-13), Road America (June 20), Indy Road Course (August 14), Gateway (August 21) and Laguna Seca (September 19).

Andretti confirmed the partnership is just a sponsorship deal, but hopes to one day evolve into a technological effort.

“We’re always looking to see if there’s ways that we can use our partners to make this a better team,” said Andretti. “Our guys are always thinking about that.”

Sponsorship for the other seven races (Texas Race No. 2, Indy GP, Mid-Ohio, Toronto, Nashville, Portland and Long Beach) wasn’t confirmed, but expected to be announced at a later date.

The season opener at Barber Motorsports Park commences Sunday, April 18 with live coverage now being aired on NBC.

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From the Pacific Northwest, Luis is a University of Idaho graduate with a Bachelor's degree in Broadcasting and Digital Media and a three-time National Motorsports Press Association award winner in photography. Ever since watching the 2003 Daytona 500, being involved in auto racing is all he's ever dreamed of doing. Over the years, Luis has focused on writing, video and photography with ambitions of having his work recognized.