The self-proclaimed mayor of Hinchtown is back at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where he nearly lost his life in a horrific practice crash for the Indy 500 only to return the following year and lord over the 33-car field by winning the pole.
He is back walking the familiar steps under the shadow of the famed pagoda, and taking the well-worn left-hand turn into Gasoline Alley. He is back to sliding into the cockpit of an IndyCar, rather than the plush seat of the broadcast booth. He is back where he belongs, where he feels most normal, even during this most abnormal of years.
“It feels great to get back to my real job,” says James Hinchcliffe, the popular Canadian who lost a full-time ride with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports after last season and is driving an extra car in Sunday’s race for powerhouse Andretti Autosport.
Hinchcliffe’s ease behind the microphone, coupled with his natural charm and good looks, have made him an instant hit on NBC broadcasts of IndyCar this season. It was a side gig that he picked up when his old team decided to field cars for Oliver Askew and Pato O’Ward, a pair of promising young rookies, something to the pass the time between his own races.
He signed a three-race deal with the Andretti team, and one of those happens to be the 104th running of the Indy 500.
It is a race at a track that has given some of Hinchcliffe’s highest highs and lowest lows. He nearly won an Indy Lights race at the famed Brickyard more than a decade ago, and he finished a strong sixth in his first run with Andretti Autosport in the 2012 race. Three years later, missed the race entirely when a piece of suspension failed, sending him into the wall at over 200 mph and impaling him on a piece of metal — the quick work of safety crews kept him from bleeding to death.
Hinchcliffe returned the following year to triumphantly win the pole, and his career again seemed to be taking off. He wound up seventh, parlayed his sudden notoriety and unparalleled charisma into an appearance on “Dancing with the Stars,” and he won races each of the next two years to firmly establish himself as one of the series’ top drivers.
But last year was a struggle for Hinchcliffe, who finished in the top five only once. He failed to crack the top 10 in the final points standings, lost his seat for this season and was left wondering what to do with the rest of his life.
The broadcast booth called. So did team owner Michael Andretti, who made him an offer to run at Texas and Indianapolis before the coronavirus pandemic caused the entire IndyCar season to be shuffled around.
“It’s been weird. We showed up at St. Pete fully expecting not to race, and I was accepting to be part of the broadcast team,” Hinchcliffe said. “Then I was in the first race at Texas. I was in the second race at the Grand Prix (in Indianapolis). And it wasn’t until Road America that the role switched, and I think I was less mentally and emotionally prepared for that weekend than going into St. Pete, because I felt like I started the season and I should have been out there.”
Hinchcliffe doesn’t want to discount he opportunity afforded him by NBC. There is a good chance broadcasting is a career that can carry him long after his driving days are done. And besides, he will be right back in the booth a week after the Indy 500, when the series heads to St. Louis for a doubleheader weekend.
It’s just that Hinchcliffe still feels as though he has plenty of laps left in the tank.
“I got really comfortable with everyone at NBC. They did a great job of taking care of a newbie,” he said, “and I’m going to have to put on the other shoe next weekend. But hey, it’s not the weirdest thing that happened in 2020, so I can’t complain.”
It wouldn’t necessarily be weird to see Hinchcliffe in Victory Lane on Sunday, either. The entire six-car stable from Andretti Autosport has been fast all month, headlined by Marco Andretti winning the pole for his famous family.
Hinchcliffe will start on the outside one row back after qualifying sixth.
“James has been very successful here in the past, obviously pole in 2016,” said another teammate, Alexander Rossi, who will start right behind Hinchcliffe in Row 3. “He brings a lot of energy and excitement to the engineering room.”
It’s not his style to be brash or boastful, but Hinchcliffe does exude a quiet confidence about himself. He knows that he has the skill to win the Indy 500, and he knows that he has the car under him to get him to the finish line first.
He also knows what that would mean for his career — and landing another full-time ride — beginning as soon as next year.
“The conversations have been happening in conjunction with the season, going on behind the scenes. But we don’t want to take away any focus of what we’re trying to do here at the speedway, so it hasn’t been totally full-on,” Hinchcliffe said. “Once we get through the 500, I think regardless of the result, we’ll get a little deeper into those conversations.”
After a brief pause, and with his trademark wit, he added: “Getting a ‘W’ on the board wouldn’t hurt things.”
More AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-AutoRacing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Lee withdraws from U.S. Open after 18th hole meltdown – Yahoo Canada Sports
(Reuters) – New Zealand golfer Danny Lee withdrew from the U.S. Open citing a wrist injury after a disastrous finish to his third round on Saturday left him 13 strokes behind leader Matthew Wolff.
Lee fired rounds of 70 and 75 to make the cut at an unforgiving Winged Foot but carded an eight-over par 78 in the third round as his campaign unravelled spectacularly.
Lee was three over heading into the par-four 18th but six-putted from four feet to sign off with a quintuple bogey nine.
The 30-year-old missed putts from four feet, five feet, five feet, six feet and three feet before finally holing from seven feet and announcing his withdrawal shortly after.
(Reporting by Arvind Sriram in Bengaluru; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)
Celtics top Heat, cut East finals deficit to 2-1 – TSN
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Getting big leads has been relatively easy for the Boston Celtics in these Eastern Conference finals.
This time, they also found a way to finish the job.
And just like that, the East title series got a whole lot closer.
Jaylen Brown scored 26 points, Jayson Tatum added 25 and the Celtics got right back into the East finals with a 117-106 victory over the Miami Heat in Game 3 on Saturday night. Kemba Walker added 21 to help Boston pull to 2-1 in the best-of-seven series.
Marcus Smart scored 20 points for Boston, going 9 for 9 from the foul line in the fourth quarter. The Celtics — who also got 14 rebounds and eight assists from Tatum — outscored Miami 60-36 inside the paint, led by as many as 20 and never trailed.
The Celtics held Miami to 39% shooting.
Bam Adebayo had 27 points and 16 rebounds for the Heat, who fell for just the second time in 12 games in these playoffs. Tyler Herro scored 22 points, Jimmy Butler had 17 and Duncan Robinson 13.
The Heat rallied from 14 points down to win Game 1 in overtime, 17 points down to win Game 2, but never caught up Saturday — though they put together a late run to make matters interesting.
They got within eight on a 3-pointer by Robinson with 1:12 left, setting the tone for the Celtics to scramble at the end. Brown committed a flagrant foul nine seconds later, and Robinson made one of two free throws to cut Boston’s lead to 109-102.
Adebayo scored on the ensuing possession to get Miami within five and cap a 24-9 run, but the Heat got no closer.
Herro had 16 points in the second quarter alone to keep Miami close, the last of those 16 coming on a 3-pointer with 3:22 left before halftime to cut Boston’s lead to 51-48.
That’s when the Celtics started to run away.
Boston got three consecutive fast-break scores in a span of 48 seconds to push its lead back to 10, and after a late 3-pointer by Walker it was 63-50 at the break.
And when Miami tried another comeback in the third, Boston again had a late-in-the-quarter answer.
The Heat went on an 11-1 run to get to 82-73 on a layup by Herro with 1:08 left in the third, and Boston answered with the next seven points — needing just 32.9 seconds to get them.
Goran Dragic had 11 for Miami and Jae Crowder finished with 10. The Heat were 12 for 44 from 3-point range.
Celtics: This is the 124th series in Boston playoff history, and the Celtics have trailed 3-0 in only seven of them. … Brown and Tatum now have eight games each of at least 20 points so far in these playoffs. … Gordon Hayward made his return after missing a month with a sprained right ankle, scoring six points in 31 minutes.
Heat: Even with the loss, Miami matched the best 12-game start to any postseason in team history — now 10-2. The Heat also started postseasons that way in 2005, 2012 and 2013. … Miami never led, marking the first time that happened in the team’s last 70 games. The only other instance of that this season for the Heat was Nov. 23 against Philadelphia.
ROAD, SWEET ROAD
Games in the bubble still count toward “home” and “road” records. The road-designated team has won the last 12 games in which Boston has played — and in the playoffs, road teams are now 39-31. That ties the NBA record for road wins in any postseason; teams were 39-50 on the road in the 2014 playoffs. The road winning percentage this postseason (.557 right now) would also be an NBA record; the current mark is .519, set in 1966 when road teams went 14-13.
Partly to allow the Western Conference finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets to catch up, the Heat and Celtics won’t play Game 4 until Wednesday. Game 2 of Lakers-Nuggets is Sunday, followed by Game 3 on Tuesday. From there, both series will have an every-other-day format.
More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Matthew Wolff, 21, set to make golfing history as he seizes the lead at the US Open – CNN International
Connor McDavid Deserves More Respect From Hockey Media – The Hockey Writers
Lee withdraws from U.S. Open after 18th hole meltdown – Yahoo Canada Sports
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