James Hinchcliffe steps away from full-time IndyCar racing

Sports

FILE – James Hinchcliffe, of Canada, waits in the pits before a practice session for the IndyCar auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Friday, Aug. 13, 2021, in Indianapolis. Hinchcliffe, one of IndyCar’s most popular drivers, said Tuesday, Dec. 14, he’s stepping away from full-time racing in the series. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, File)

James Hinchcliffe, one of IndyCar’s most popular drivers, said Tuesday he is stepping away from full-time racing in the series.

The 34-year-old Canadian said he is not retiring and will explore other types of racing. Andretti Autosport did not renew his contract for next year.

“With a decade-plus of incredible memories in the bank, I am happy to announce I am stepping away from full-time IndyCar competition,” Hinchcliffe posted on social media. “This was not a decision taken lightly and it was one made with the full support of my family and closest supporters. There were many factors, both personal and professional, that led me to this decision but it truly felt like the time was right.”

Hinchcliffe had a rough season in his return to Andretti this past year and scored just one podium finish, third placeon the street course at Nashville. His next best finish was 14th twice, at Detroit and the Long Beach season finale.

The “Mayor of Hinchtown” is a two-time most popular driver in IndyCar and was a runner-up on the 2016 season of “Dancing with the Stars.” He’s a six-time IndyCar winner and started on the pole for the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 in 2016, a year after he was nearly killed in a crash at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

He started on the front row for the Indy 500 three times in nine appearances. Hinchcliffe in 2018 failed to qualify and in 2015 watched from the hospital after a broken part from his car pierced an artery in his upper left thigh.

Hinchcliffe lost 14 pints of blood as he was rushed to the hospital following the crash during a practice session.

He made his IndyCar debut in 2011 with Newman Haas Racing, spent the next three seasons driving for Andretti, and then five years with Sam Schmidt. He was released with a year remaining on his contract after the 2019 season, and made six starts for Andretti the next year.

Hinchcliffe had a fulltime ride with Andretti this season, but was replaced by Devlin DeFrancesco last month. He was 20th in the series standings.

“In 2011, I realized a lifelong goal of becoming an IndyCar driver,” Hinchcliffe said. “I remember almost every minute of the journey getting there. There were many ups and many downs. Through all the challenges and uncertainty there were two constants, my unabated desire to make it in IndyCar and my family’s unwavering support. In the 11 years that followed, I lived out my dream in a way that a nine-year-old kid, sitting in a kart for the first time, could never have imagined.”

He said he does not plan to retire from racing. Hinchcliffe could also be headed to the television booth. He’s done analyst work previously — his wife is also a Canadian actress — and excelled in the booth for CBS this past summer during Tony Stewart’s all-star racing series.

NBC Sports, which holds the rights to IndyCar, just parted ways with former driver Paul Tracy, also a Canadian.

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