Popular IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe is back with the Mazda Prototype team for the 55th running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona on January 28-29. The 24-hour race opens the 2017 season for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and is the debut race for the beautiful Mazda RT24-P race cars.
Hinchcliffe developed his career driving Mazda-powered cars and will again as he teams with full-season drivers Tom Long and Joel Miller in the No. 70 ModSpace/Castrol Edge Mazda. This will be his fifth Daytona race with Mazda.
But, Hinchcliffe was hardly a shoo-in for this opportunity.
In May 2015 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Hinchcliffe suffered severe injuries in an accident as the right-front suspension on his IndyCar failed. His car smashed into a concrete wall at more than 200 mph. A metal rod pierced the side of the chassis and into his legs. He was trapped inside the car until safety crews could extract him. Then, the medical team pumped 22 pints of fluids into him before reaching the Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital. (A human body carries about 11 pints of blood.) At one stage, they could not sense a pulse.
Hinchcliffe, who also suffered a concussion, awoke in the ICU, connected to a ventilator. He fought to survive through sheer will, helped by the fact that he had been in superb physical condition. He participated in an aggressive rehab and fitness program to ensure that he’d be fit enough to race again in 2016. In a remarkable reversal of fortunes, Hinchcliffe won the pole position for the historic 100th Indianapolis 500, one year after his accident.
His recovery and charismatic personality earned him an invitation to compete on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars (DWTS) in the fall of 2016. In a surprise to all — especially himself — “Hinch” made it to the finals, where he finished runner-up.
Hinchliffe has been hard at work to get himself back into “racing shape” after his time on the TV show, where he lost a lot of muscle mass. He has to be in peak physical condition to deal with the extended periods of time he’ll be in the race car for the 24-hour challenge.
“That’s a lot of hours driving in a short period of time,” he said. “I’m used to doing three-hour IndyCar races, so hopefully doing a three-hour stint in this car won’t be a huge deal. Except you’ve got to rest a few hours and then do it all again!”
Hinchcliffe isn’t here just to have fun.
“I’m acutely aware that this is a race that’s a part of a championship for the full-time guys,” Hinchliffe said. “It means everything to them and I want to do the absolute best job I can. I’ve known this team and this family for so long, and I’m as in it with these guys as ever. Trying to develop a race-winning program is a big deal, and it’s something we’re all working very hard to achieve.”
Watch the first three hours of the Rolex 24 at Daytona on FOX, beginning Saturday, January 28 at 2 p.m. ET. The complete race can be seen with segments on FOX, FS1, FS2 and the Fox Sports Go app.