James Hinchcliffe enters busy month in top gear

David Goricki
The Detroit News

James Hinchcliffe is home again, driving for Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports.

And he couldn't be happier as he prepares for Indianapolis 500 pole day Saturday, a precursor to not only the big race May 24, but the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix doubleheader May 30-31.

"I watched the operation grow a lot and was always impressed with how quickly they were competitive after they graduated and made the move from IndyLights to the big stage," Hinchcliffe said of Schmidt-Peterson. "They were winning races and finishing in the top five (in the series championship) and when the opportunity came up for me I jumped at it."

Hinchcliffe began his IndyCar career with Sam Schmidt in the IndyLights series in 2009, finishing fifth in the points race.

But after breaking into the IndyCar series with Newman-Haas in 2011, he moved to Andretti Autosport in 2012 to replace Danica Patrick, winning three races during his second season.

Now he's come full circle thanks to the departure of Simon Pagenaud from Schmidt-Peterson to Team Penske.

And it didn't take long for Hinchcliffe to reach Victory Lane in the No. 5 Honda, winning at New Orleans on April 12. He is tied for seventh in the points race.

"The team is really jelling well," Hinchcliffe said. "You have to have everyone working together to have the right connection, and the team has faith in me and I believe in them and we all know what we're capable of doing."

Hinchcliffe said May is challenging with Indianapolis 500 qualifying, then the Memorial Day weekend race, followed by the Dual in Detroit.

"We have 10 straight weeks, either competing in races, testing for the Indy 500 or qualifying for it, then the doubleheader in Detroit," Hinchcliffe said. "It's tough to balance everything out."

Especially since the balancing goes from running an oval at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to a road course a week later at Belle Isle.

"It's one of the toughest things to do," Hinchcliffe said. "A lot of people enjoy it, and I love to come to Detroit."

Hinchcliffe was sixth in Race 1 last year, and fifth in Race 2.