Season Review: James Hinchcliffe

In a series of blogs that will be featured throughout the offseason, I review and talk about 21 full-time drivers in addition to extended part time drivers (Carpenter and Conway) in an honest and opinionated format. I would ask you to share your opinions on my thoughts as well as your thoughts on the driver and their season. Enjoy:

James Hinchcliffe
#27 Andretti Autosport

12th in points scoring 456 points

Best finish: 3rd (Mid-Ohio)
Worst finish: 28th (Indianapolis)

Wins: 0
Poles: 0
Avg. Start: 8.2
Avg. Finish: 12.3
Change in position: -75

Grade: C

James Hinchcliffe had an up-and-down 2014 season. Expectations were high for Hinch as he entered his third season with Andretti Autosport, notching three wins in 2013. Unfortunately, his ambitions to make a championship run were quashed early in the season and never got going in the mid-to-late portion of the season. Where did his season go wrong?

James had three DNFs (the only DNFs he had on the season) in the first five races. Hinch was a victim of the infamous Ryan Hunter-Reay pass attempt on Josef Newgarden that ended in tears, resulting in a P21 finish. A big scare happened at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis when a piece of debris from a front wing struck James in the head, knocking him out momentarily and sending him to the hospital. Thankfully, he was okay and recovered in time to race in the Indianapolis 500. In the 500, Hinch, who qualified second, crashed with Ed Carpenter (the pole sitter), ending the race of two potential winners. Blame for the crash was never determined. Some say it was Ed, some say it was Hinch, and others say it was Townsend Bell. Whoever was at fault, Hinch's championship hopes were virtually crushed.

Hinch did okay at double point races in 2014. As mentioned, he wrecked at Indianapolis, finishing 28th. An average race at Pocono saw Hinch finishing 12th. And an impressive race at Fontana capped off an up-and-down season for Hinch, as he finished 5th.

A number of good qualifying efforts during the season went out the window. Hinch averaged a loss of four spots per race, This is not something that can be happening if you want to make a championship run (unless you qualify on the pole every race, in which case you could probably pull this off).

Despite his lackluster season, I have faith that Hinch will rebound in 2015. Hinch has since moved on from Andretti Autosport, replacing Simon Pagenaud at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, a team James raced for in 2009 in Indy Lights. This team and car have proven that they can win and fight for the championships. I went as far as to say that Hinch was on my top five best driver list in the series at the moment. A lot of people gave me crap, but Hinch has everything I look for in a driver. Gutsy on the track, awesome to the fans off of it. He is passionate about what he does and hates to lose. If he sees a win in his grasp, he goes for it.

So while I gave Hinch a "C", I know that he will come out firing in 2015 and be a contender once again. He has the makings to be a legend. Hopefully he proves me right!

James Hinchcliffe - Honda Indy Toronto: Day 1
Photo: Robert Laberge / Getty Images North America

2014 grades so far:

Stay tuned for P11 Ryan Briscoe!

-Matthew Hickey