(Watch Hinchcliffe talk about signing on with Andretti Autosport).
INDYCAR Nation readers will remember that, in December, we held a panel in which we discussed possible fits for the Go Daddy-sponsored Andretti Autosport machine. We unanimously agreed that James Hinchcliffe should be signed into that seat.
Earlier this week, “Hinch” was indeed confirmed in what was, arguably, the most coveted drive in the paddock. In the official announcement, the young Canadian was very enthusiastic about the chance offered to him. “I'm so excited to be driving with the Andretti Autosport team and representing Go Daddy next season,” he said. “Go Daddy is one of the best sponsors in sports, in terms of their activation execution ... plus Go Daddy is a world leader in just about everything they do. I have to thank Michael [Andretti] and Go Daddy for providing me this opportunity to compete for the championship and an Indy 500 victory."
“Hinch” is obviously a great talent behind the wheel. However, as both he and Michael Andretti elaborated on during Wednesday’s teleconference, there were a number of other variables that were a part of the equation.
Between 2003 and 2005, with drivers Dan Wheldon, Tony Kanaan, Dario Franchitti, and Bryan Herta, the outfit known as Andretti Green Racing may have had the best camaraderie any team has ever had among its driver lineup. However, with a number of changes to that lineup since then, that chemistry dwindled, with several highly-publicized rifts between the likes of Marco Andretti, Tony Kanaan, and Danica Patrick. As Michael explained, Hinchcliffe’s personality will help endear him to new teammates Marco Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay. “When you have a multi-driver team, it's very important that everybody gets along. We feel that the three of them are going to get along really well,” he explained. “I think James' personality, you can tell he's a team player. And the other guys, asking opinions of Marco and Ryan, they both had high marks for him. That made it a no-brainer.”
Hinchcliffe’s quirky sense of humor (easily visible from his website) will also help him in other areas. Go Daddy’s edge and style have become a staple of their marketing. The fact that Hinchcliffe shares such characteristics (he quipped that Patrick had big heels for him to fill) makes the match between them seemingly a perfect fit. “I'm excited to get a chance to work with a company that likes to be a little bit edgy, pushes the boundaries,” said Hinchcliffe. “I've never been an inside-the-box kind of guy. Anybody that goes to Hinchtown.com can see that. That's why we created that in the first place, to get my personality out there a little bit, to be a little different and stand out. Ultimately with Go Daddy it's a bit of a match made in heaven. I think we have a lot of the same principles and ideas on that, so it could be cool.”
His charisma and humor made him an obvious fit. However, there is also a more serious element to the story. As we all know, Dan Wheldon was slated to drive for the Andretti squad in the Go Daddy entry prior to his untimely passing. The emotions and sensitivity surrounding that made the situation with the Go Daddy car all the more complex. Hinchcliffe, along with his humor, possesses a great amount of respect and humility, which was at the forefront when he spoke with USA Today about the deal.
“There's no doubt that weighed on me from the first phone call," he told Nate Ryan. "It's pretty common knowledge Dan was a shoe-in with Go Daddy and Andretti. I look at Dan Wheldon as a tremendous racecar driver and a champion but also a tremendous person and human being. And if that's the guy that Go Daddy wanted, to know that I was the next guy in line and thought of along the same lines is an incredibly humbling thing, and it makes me really proud. I'm going to think about him every time I get in that car. There's no doubt that a part of me will be driving for Dan this year."
In all, there were a number of elements that made the situation with Andretti Autosport and Go Daddy very complex. However, in signing James Hinchcliffe, they have in place a driver more than capable of tacking all of those elements, both on and off the track.