Whether he's setting IndyCar fans a blaze with comic video stylings, working his way to Rookie of the Year Awards or taking over a sponsor for You Know Who, Canadian James Hinchcliffe (@Hinchtown) brings a refereeing sense of fun and fan focus to IndyCar.
So is life all yuks and videos about dog washing machines? Or is there a Dark Side to Hinch? Key quote:
Hinch: The biggest thing is, a large motivator behind creating Hinchtown to begin with was from what I saw of people in this business. Drivers they took themselves too seriously. Don’t get me wrong, I very much take my job seriously and my racing seriously. But at the end of the day, I have the coolest job of anybody on Earth. These guys were wandering around like they were miserable for even being there; I just didn’t get it. So I sort of created Hinchtown as a way to let people know that this is what I do and I really enjoy doing it and I’m going to be myself when I’m doing it.
Thanks to Andretti Autosport PR operative Ryann Rigsby for helping connect me with Mr. Hinch. Check the full interview below ..
Hinch: You know, in all honesty, I think I got it from my dad. He’s actually English and my brother, sister and I have sort of grown up with that sort of dry English sense of humor. It’s usually pretty sarcastic but it made for very entertaining family diners at the Hinchcliffe household and that’s sort of where it all comes from.
pressdog: Your dad he was from England or just his ancestors’ are from England?
Hinch: No he was born there. He came to Canada when he was about 25.
pressdog: Wow and then you mom’s Canadian?
pressdog: Or is she a transplant as well?
Hinch: No her parents were transplants, but she was born in Canada.
pressdog: All right, I always wondered -- I’ve seen your videos which are very hilarious of course. The one at the Sarah Fisher shop and then the most recent one with chasing Go Daddy sponsorship. Where do you -- do you have a posse that comes up with those ideas or do you sit around and think, I should do this video. How do those videos get going?
Hinch: They're all usually pretty off the cuff, you know, me sitting there and either somebody will say something or something will happen and they’ll give me an idea and I’ll say that sounds kind of funny. There is not a whole lot of planning that goes into it. I usually just -- it’s me and just my laptop and I’ll flip it open and just turn the camera on see what happens. There’s a not a whole lot of method there, not a whole lot of process it all. It just sort of comes.
pressdog: Do you do one take or do you do some notes or what do you just like start messing with it? How does it work?
Hinch: For the most part I started to do like, yeah, one take and you know cut it up (edit it) like however I feel like cutting it up or whatever. It’s, like I said, a very uncomplicated deal. It’s sort of just a guy on a laptop and go from there.
pressdog: So the next question is why in the world, why do you do them? What purpose is there to doing these videos?
Hinch: You know it all sort of came from and evolution, like when I first started Hinchtown I did a podcast and they were basically just pictures of the race weekend I’d just come from. I would voiceover the race weekend and the send it as a podcast. Then from there they became sort of video blogs so I just sit in front of the camera and talk about the past weekend.
I just always enjoyed making like little videos for school projects and stuff when I was in school. I had a couple ideas that the fans would like. Even with the podcast I try to have a humorous side to it because it’s really sort of who I am. I really am such a goof at heart. I made one video that was a little bit different and it wasn’t really a blog or a podcast. It wasn’t reporting anything it was just sort of for the fun of doing it and the fans thought it was really good so we just sort of kept doing it. I enjoy doing them so every time a new idea comes into my head I’ll find time just to pump it out just for the fun of it.
pressdog: It seems to me that one of the strengths -- and this from talking to you just now --is that, I mean, you just do it. You don’t give it a lot of thought and you just crank it out and there are not a lot of people that have to approve. Would you agree that that’s kind of the beauty of it?
Hinch: 100 percent, 100 percent. Not that long ago I was given a concept and asked 'hey do you think you can do a video like this?' I said yeah that’s a cool idea I could probably do something like that. They said well can you send us an outline of what you’re going to do and what you’re going to say? I sat there for four hours trying to come up with an outline and had three sentences in four hours. I said 'guys I can’t tell you what I’m going o do. I’ll just do the video and if you like it you like it and if you don’t I’ll change it.' I can’t actually sit there and come up with it ahead of time it all just sort of happens.
pressdog: That's a nice segue .. Does your approach to video translate to your approach to driving? Is it very feel-your-way-as-you-go and off the cuff? Or is (driving) it very planned out or are there parallels there?
Hinch: Yeah it’s funny. It seems like it’s the exact opposite because I, in the driving, I like being as prepared as possible as meticulous and analytical as possible so it’s sort of, maybe the videos are a release for me because the driving side is the exact opposite. But the videos and stuff are something I can sort of have some fun with and not have to worry about being too structured.
pressdog: So maybe it’s like a left brain/right brain thing?
Hinch: Yeah, there you go. Exactly.
pressdog: It’s like two parts of Hinch’s brain ...
Hinch: I’m surprised there's even one.
pressdog: Okay, so you don’t seem to be afraid of looking foolish. Is that a blessing or a curse -- or is that both?
Hinch: I’m sure, I mean it’s a double edge sword, anything like that is. It’s sort of gone pretty well so far. The biggest thing is, a large motivator behind creating Hinchtown to begin with was from what I saw people in this business. Drivers, they took themselves too seriously. Don’t get me wrong, I very much take my job seriously and my racing seriously. But at the end of the day, I have the coolest job of anybody on Earth. These guys were wandering around like they were miserable for even being there; I just didn’t get it. So I sort of created Hinchtown as a way of, you know, letting people know that this is what I do and I really enjoy doing it and I’m going to be myself when I’m doing it. So that has served me well, but for sure there’s people at some point that try to use it against you or you know; there’s always going to be, negative comments for anything somebody does. The positive ones so far have outweighed those so I will continue to do it.
pressdog: Your last video with the chasing the Go Daddy sponsors you gave us a little (impression of) Dario, you gave us a little Helio. Have you always been able to do impressions and mimic people?
Hinch: Kind of, yeah I have been good at accents probably because I spent so much time over in England when I was young. I can do English, Irish, Scottish pretty easily. I don’t know; it’s one of those useless talents that doesn't do anything for me but people seem to get a kick out of.
pressdog: So do they just pop out at you? Does Dario just pop out every now and then. When you talking or thinking do you bust into a Scottish accent or anything weird like that?
Hinch: Well, it’s funny. I went through a phase in like December or January where between hanging out with Dario and doing it 24 hours with Marino. You know when we were there he was always hanging out with McNish and then I was doing some sponsor appearances for TW Steel and that’s largely run by a group of Scotsmen. For about two months there I felt like and honorary Scott. I think that’s where it all sort of stems from.
pressdog: So you caught yourself starting to have a little bit of a Scottish thing going on just when you talk maybe?
Hinch: Yeah, I mean luckily it doesn’t pop out in everyday big speech because I think people would give me some funny looks if I did that.
pressdog: So now you have this reputation -- and I’ve talked to some other people who are known to be funny guys -- and do you find people are looking at you like 'say something funny?' Or 'hey, entertain us!' or any of that sort of vibe when you meet people? Do you feel pressured to make them laugh?
Hinch: No I feel pretty luck in that respect because people find some of the things I do amusing. They know that’s not my job. I’m not a comedian; I’m a race car driver. I think people probably give me more credit for being funnier than I really am because, you know, you expect a comedian to be really funny. You don’t always expect a race car driver to be funny so if he tells a joke it’s unexpected so it has a bigger effect. I think people give me way too much credit.
pressdog: So would people be -- you know if you went F-bomb on your radio or threw you laptop -- you think people would be kind of freaked out by that or shocked by that? Would you be shocked by that?
Hinch: Oh I wouldn't be; it’s happened. Let's call a spade a spade. It’s an emotionally charged situation on the race track. Sometimes your anger emotions get the best of you. Would that shock other people? I’m not sure. Maybe, but I don’t know a single racing driver that hasn’t done that over the radio at some point.
pressdog: Well that’s good. That comforts me, oddly. I like to know that you are normal in that respect.
Hinch: Yeah that’s probably one of few respects that people would call me normal.
pressdog: So there is sort of a dark side to Hinch. There is sort of a serious, pissed off, lap-top-throwing F-bomber that’s in there somewhere and makes an appearance every now and then?
Hinch: Oh yeah, I mean, you know it’s like I said, I take my job very seriously so when the visor goes down it’s all business. There’s not a whole lot of laughter going in an IndyCar race. You know I try to keep that temperament under control and only bring it out when it’s necessary. Sometimes when driving with these guys it’s necessary.
pressdog: So now the car -- you’ve been testing and you’ve been driving. How’s the car? What’s the realistic expectation for 2012?
Hinch: It’s so tough to make many because it’s so many unknowns. We haven’t run everybody together at the same place yet so it’s really tough to gauge where everybody will stack up. So we’re trying to temper our expectation right now until we get a better sense of where everybody’s at, but obviously I have a good team. They have a winning tradition and they know how to do it and they know how to do it right. I’ve got every confidence we'll walk up to St. Pete and hopefully the Go Daddy car will be quick right from the first practice on Friday.
pressdog: Are there a lot of adjustments? What are some of the biggest adjustments that you’ve made in this car with its turbo charged engine and the old car with its V8? What are some of the differences you’ve noticed, that sort kind of thing?
Hinch: The thing that been the biggest for me is actually the brakes. The move from steel brakes to carbon brakes. It’s given the team some things to work on and trying to optimize that system. It’s certainly forced me to change my driving style a little bit. So there has definitely being some work done there and that’s probably my biggest area to focus on right now.
pressdog: Are the brakes more effective or do they feel different or what?
Hinch: Yeah, well they are definitely more efficient. The car stops much better, but they also just behave and I guess the characteristics of them are a little bit different as well. So i'ts not just the function of braking later, you also have to adjust the way you brake.
pressdog: Interesting, yeah so, the fire suit -- now we’ve noticed a lot of similarities between the fire suit you wear and the fire suit that was worn by the previous driver of the Go Daddy machine. Are we sure that this is a different fire suit? It’s not like a hand-me-down is it?
Hinch: Well I made sure there was difference. There is some green on the leg of mine that she didn’t have. You can be sure that I’m not wearing her suit.
pressdog: So there’s not -- you can’t see where the stitches were pulled off on the belt -- you know the "Danica" stitches have all been pulled out -- there nothing like that right?
pressdog: I thought maybe you’d go with an all black suit with a green accent to really get away from the old look, but maybe you didn’t have that option.
Hinch: I did not, no.
pressdog: Any chances that you’ll be in some commercials for Go Daddy?
Hinch: Yeah absolutely. They surely plan on it. We’ve got some cool things that we’re working on as far as ideas in the pipeline. For sure you can see that in the not too distant future.
pressdog: Excellent. My last question is that on the area of facial hair. Now, the women want to know, Hinch, do you keep it at a two-day thing or is it clean shaven and then a mood-based thing? Or how does that work?
Hinch: No I try and leave it at about a three days length because if I cut it short -- The problem was when I was younger, if I were to completely shave my face I look like I was twelve. It’s really hard to get girls' numbers when they think you’re twelve.
pressdog: Yeah, exactly, sure.
Hinch: So I started that young and I sort of carry that on just because.
pressdog: It’s visual evidence that you are over 12 then.
Hinch: Exactly. Then I noticed at the start of the year my young teammate Mr. (Marco) Andretti decided to take up the style himself so now we’re working on (Ryan) Hunter-Reay to start growing a beard.
pressdog: So you guys will be like the stubble posse then.
Hinch: Exactly he’s the odd guy out right now so we’re trying to peer pressure him into it.