On Monday IndyCar fan favorite James “Hinchtown” Hinchcliffe was injured in a crash during practice for this Sunday’s iconic Indianapolis 500 race. It was the fourth crash within a week at the facility in anticipation for the race.
I think it hit a lot of us fans (and even drivers), hard because of James’ youth and that he was the only person injured in any of the four crashes there in the past week.
The crash appears to be mechanical failure but James hit the wall at nearly 200 MPH and was expertly taken care of the Holmatro safety team. James has pelvic and thigh injuries and is officially out “for the foreseeable future”, per IndyCar.
I’ve been around racing my whole life, I grew up in the shadows of the old Raceway Park on Ashland Ave in south suburban Calumet Park. I grew up so close to that track we could hear the engines racing as they made their laps.
Crashes are part of racing but you never get used to them.
I’ve actually strapped into a drag racing car and have gone down the quarter mile track at Route 66 dragway in Joliet in less than nine seconds at over 150 MPH, you don’t think about crashing when you climb in the race car.
Just like you don’t when you climb in your own car.
Those of us that love speed and racing we know what can happen but it’s the thrill of the sport.
I’ve been to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (twice actually), I’ve “kissed the bricks”, made a lap at a scalding 35 miles an hour in a tour bus and have walked that hallowed racing ground.
When you are there you “feel” the history, you also know the sacrifices, not just time but physically what people have given to the sport.
You know there have been drivers (at other tracks), who never made it home after a crash like Indycar favorite Dan Weldon in 2011 and Nascar legends “Fireball” Roberts (1964), and Dale Earnhardt Sr. (2001), and many others forced into retirement like four time champion Dario Franchitti after a bad crash.
Life is short, our health is not a given but a blessing.
It’s been sobering to see the video of James crashing into that wall, seeing the car catch on fire and flip over and yet he is still with us, granted in intensive care after surgery but in previous years with less than great equipment we would mention him in the past tense.
This week and this month is always the celebratory lead up to the great race that is the Indianapolis 500, there is nothing like it sports, the pageantry, history and 200,000 people gathering for a high speed event.
See in racing, whether it be Formula 1, Nascar, Rolex or IndyCar, drivers crash all the time, climb out of the car and get into ambulance and go to the “infield care facility” and walk out and give interviews.
But James did not and that’s what is a hard reminder, that our sport in inherently dangerous and that being a driver is special and even watching this sport takes nerves sometimes.
We wish all of the best for James in his recovery and the sport rolls on.
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