CHEVY INDYCAR AT BARBER MOTORSPORTS PARK: James Hinchliffe Press Conf. Transcript

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE, NO. 27 GODADDY.COM ANDRETTI AUTOSPORT CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Barber Motorsports Park and discussed celebrating his first win at St. Pete, his emotions after his first win, his outlook for Barber this weekend, and much more. Full transcript.

HOW DID YOU CELEBRATE YOUR FIRST WIN? “I had to be a bit reserved since my wonderful PR booked 8 o’clock phone interviews for Monday morning. (LAUGHED) There was a bit of a get-together on Sunday night. Sebastien Bourdais had planned a place and a lot of drivers showed up and lot of the crews actually got their flights cancelled because of snow in Indy so it was nice. A lot more people than originally planned got to be around Sunday night and got to catch up with some people. It was good. It was low-key, but it was good.”

TALK ABOUT YOUR OUTLOOK FOR THIS WEEKEND HERE AT BARBER. “We’re looking forward to a good weekend. Obviously, the test went well for the Go Daddy car. We were P2 and had a strong car last year as well. The race didn’t go the way that we wanted but we had certainly had the pace in qualifying. We can expect more of the same here this weekend. It’s going to be a little bit different. We have a new red (alternate) compound tire that we haven’t tried before, again, kind of a similar situation to St. Pete. It’s a bunch of question marks in some respect with the diamond grinding that they’ve done to the track as well. From the test and from last year, history would say that we should be competitive, and hopefully, I can put it all together in qualifying because that’s going to be key this weekend.”

ABOUT THE ADDED PRESSURE TO REPEAT. “I think some respects, yes, (there is added pressure). If anything, the external pressure has come down a little bit, but now my internal expectations have gone up because it’s easy for people on the outside to say, ‘When are you going to win? When are you going to get that first one.’ Whereas I know how hard it is to win at this level and how competitive the field is. Now that I’ve won a race, that question isn’t being asked externally anymore and I think to myself, ‘I’ve done it. I still know how hard it is and it’s just as hard as it was before, but now I know I can do it, I want to do it again.’ Luckily I’m, obviously, with a great team and I think we’re going to find ourselves in a position to battle for more wins this season. At the end of the day, it took my 32 tries to get the first one. Hopefully it won’t take 32 to get the next one. But you never know. It’s a very competitive series.”

ABOUT THE TEAM REACTION, ARE TEAMMATES RUNNING TO YOU FOR ADVICE? “We’re only one race into the season. It’s not quite there yet. We’ve all worked so well together. Marco (Andretti), Ryan (Hunter-Reay) and I last year and adding E.J. (Viso) this year has been a seamless transition this year. Everybody had a competitive car at St. Pete until Ryan had his troubles and E.J. bouncing back from his mishap on Saturday. It’s so very much a team effort. Everybody is taking elements from each other’s setups and that’s why everyone is running so competitively.”

WHERE DO YOU HAVE TO BE GOOD AT BARBER? “It’s a tough thing to nail down. This track requires such a compromise in setup. Obviously, anywhere, you want to secure a rear on entry, but with the long duration corners here, that can bring in a tremendous amount of understeer, which a lot of drivers hate. You have to find this balance in the setup between having a car you’re comfortable with at turn in but you’re not mowing the walls down on exit with understeer. Some guys can deal with one or the other better than others. Obviously it’s a fast, flowing track. You need subtle, smooth inputs guys that are more aggressive in their inputs struggle here more so than a street circuit. I can’t say what it is that Ryan likes or dislikes about this place. He’s the champion and he’ll figure it out and hopefully we’ll all be up front.”

WHERE DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU CAN FIND TIME? “I’m still looking for time in Turn 2 and 3 and a little bit in Turn 8 as well. That’s never been a corner in Lights or anything here that I’ve loved. I’m trying really hard to fix that. We made some gains in the test, but looking at where Mr. (Will) Power is quick, there’s definitely time in (Turns) 2 and 3.”

WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO UNSEAT PENSKE HERE? “Well the Penske guys have done a tremendous job in the offseason and got a handle on the new tires very well. If you look at St. Pete, there’s no doubt that they were the quickest car and we put together a better Sunday. I think we aren’t going to lie to ourselves and say we were the best in every category last race. We know there are still areas where we can improve. If you look at the test, both Penske cars were incredibly quick. We need to buckle down and I think having that win under our belts does give us a little bit more confidence that if we’re in that position near the end of the race that we know how to seal the deal and bring it home. Hopefully, we find ourselves in that position and see if that confidence does help.”

WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO BEAT WILL POWER? “I was asked that question before St. Pete and my answer was, “I think I might have to pee in his gas tank.” Luckily, I didn’t have to do that and it worked in our favor. It’s going to be incredibly difficult. He’s been incredibly quick here every year. Even when he had bad luck and started mid-field, he still managed to find his way to the front. We just need to the best job that we can do and at the end of the day, minimize mistakes just because that’s where this team has been strong. If you look at last year, some of Ryan’s victory didn’t come with the quickest car. They came with the best Sunday by running mistake-free races. That’s setup. That’s driving. That’s strategy calls. That’s pit stops and that’s where this team really excels. If we keep making the car better and closing that gap to Penske, topped off with the way we run on Sundays, we’re going to be strong by the end of the year.”

WHAT WERE THE EMOTIONS OF YOUR FIRST WIN? “Tough to describe. When I came off the last corner and was coming to the line, and first the first accepted it was going to happen, I had the same feeling you get where you’re winning a race. It’s that thrill of the moment adrenaline rush and screaming in the helmet. And then when I crossed the line, I was overwhelmed with emotions and spent a good chunk of the cool-down lap bawling my eyes out. It’s tough to admit, but it’s the truth. It was the culmination of a very long journey that me and my family and the people who supported me have been on for the last 17 years. To do it the way we did it and where we did it. There were a lot of things that added up to being a very emotional and special day.”
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Matt Cleary
Sunday Group Management

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