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June 10, 2015

James Hinchcliffe

THE MODERATOR:テつ Welcome, everyone, to today's IndyCar media conference call.テつ We're pleased to be joined today by injured Verizon IndyCar Series driver James Hinchcliffe, who is recovering from his injuries sustained on May 18th during practice for the Indianapolis 500.テつ
James is normally the driver of the No. 5 Arrow Lucas Oil car for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.テつ
James, welcome.テつ
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE:テつ Thank you so much.テつ Appreciate it.テつ
THE MODERATOR:テつ James, I know many people have seen the video that was posted yesterday from the interview you did with Sports Net in advance of this weekend's race in Toronto.テつ How is the recovery going.
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE:テつ Honestly, it's going better than expected really.テつ Every doctor that I've seen, every specialist that we've been with has been very, very pleased and in some cases surprised at the level of recovery, which is obviously great news.テつ I guess we're quick in that sense, too, which is good.テつ
You know, still no dates on when we think we'll be able to get back in the car.テつ There's still a few things that have to happen for that to take place.テつ
By and large, recovery is going well, spirits are high, feeling pretty good.テつ
THE MODERATOR:テつ I know how competitive a guy you are, in the car as well.テつ How hard has it been to watch the last few races as Ryan Briscoe and Conor Daly have sat in the No. 5 car?テつ
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE:テつ It's been tough.テつ But at the same time Schmidt Peterson guys have good shoes in the car.テつ Both have done honestly a really good job.テつ It's great to see the team have success.テつ I still feel very much part of it.テつ I'm still included on as much as I can be from a distance.テつ
I had Conor over here at the house a couple days ago, or yesterday actually even, talking Toronto, trying to get him as prepared as possible.テつ As much as I want to be in the car, if I can't be, I want to see it running up front for everybody at Arrow and everybody at Schmidt Peterson.テつ
THE MODERATOR:テつ We'll go ahead and open it up for questions.テつ

Q.テつ James, this will be the first time since 1986 that you've not been at the Toronto Indy, or are there plans for you to be there this weekend?テつ
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE:テつ You know, it's obviously something I've been fighting with quite a bit.テつ In all honesty, I don't actually (indiscernible) has been made yet.テつ There are obviously a lot of people that would have to sign off on me going.テつ Me being me, I'd love to be there.テつ Unfortunately it's not just up to me.テつ We'll see.テつ
It's not an impossibility, but it certainly isn't a done deal yet.テつ

Q.テつ The seriousness of the injury, how soon after you hit the wall were you aware of the life-threatening nature of this injury?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE:テつ I think about five days (laughter).テつ
For whatever reason, I mean, I'm not sure if it's some sort of defense mechanism or biology taken over.テつ Despite being conscious throughout the whole process, I have mercifully been spared any memory of the accident whatsoever, of the extrication.テつ Even the first couple days at the hospital are a bit of a blur.テつ
For me, I remember waking up in ICU, knowing that obviously I'd had an accident, that I was somewhere I probably shouldn't be, all the rest of it.テつ
But it really wasn't until several days later when I'd been moved out of ICU, was kind of sitting around with some friends and family and some of the doctors, really hearing all of their first-person accounts of how that day was for them, that it really began to sink in just how serious the injuries were and how very close it was to being a different story.テつ That was a first time I had an appreciation of the severity of the situation.テつ

Q.テつ James, has actually the busy-ness of the schedule been a welcomed distraction for you with so many races to watch?テつ What is it about you and other racecar drivers that when you have a situation like this you're thinking about how quickly you can hop back in the car?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE:テつ I think it's because we're all absolutely insane, wired wrong.テつ We're all competitors.テつ This is what we live to do.テつ Despite the fact that something of this nature happened, it's something that we all acknowledge can happen, so if it does, it's not going deter us from getting in the car because we know before something like this happens that it's possible and we still get in the car.テつ I think that's just the nature of competitive people.テつ
The first part of the question, yeah, I think it has helped.テつ It's kind of the sitting down and turning the TV on and watching the race.テつ I love having it to watch.テつ I've still been kept as part of the team.テつ I'm still getting the pre and post race reports.テつ I obviously have a vested interest in it.テつ It does make it a little bit more interesting to watch.テつ
On the other hand you're wishing you were there and at least part of it, whether you're in the car or not.テつ A bit of a double-edged sword.テつ Obviously the show goes on.テつ I'm happy that I'm at least around to get to watch all the action.テつ

Q.テつ Hinch, I'm wondering what day-to-day is like for you.テつ What can you do, what can you not do?テつ
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE:テつ The biggest decision I have every day is how much time I want to spend sitting on the couch versus lying in bed.テつ It's very stressful and strenuous, as you can imagine.テつ
No, in all seriousness, my condition improves almost daily.テつ I still do spend a significant amount of the day kind of off my feet.テつ The nature of my injuries were such that it kind of makes (indiscernible) a little bit difficult, but that is improving daily.テつ I'm keeping track of a number of steps taken each day.テつ Slowly I've been given permission from the doctors to increase that.テつ
The pain level, again, has been going down every single day.テつ I'm almost completely off pain medication now, which is great.テつ One of the most uncomfortable parts of it has been the fracture to my pelvis.テつ Obviously there's not a whole lot you can do about that.テつ At the same time there's really nothing you can do to alleviate any discomfort either.テつ
Especially for the first few days, once I got out of hospital, that was the biggest discomfort, but obviously not the most severe injury.テつ
My days are spent doing a lot of recovery, doing a lot of reading.テつ I'm obviously not allowed to exercise any of my body, but I was told I could keep my forearm strength good, so I had my trainer drop off anything that was grip strength related so I can hold onto the wheel when I eventually get tossed back into a car.テつ It's largely an existence of trying to rest up and get better.テつ

Q.テつ Are you bored?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE:テつ Daytime television sucks in this country, that's for sure.テつ But I wouldn't say 'bored', no.テつ I've had a lot of visitors, which has been phenomenal.テつ Kirsten has kept me entertained as much as possible.テつ I've been reading a lot, catching up on things like that.テつ
It's almost like the best vacation you never wanted.テつ

Q.テつ Have you got to talk to Mike Yates at all?テつ After you heard the things they did, probably a steak dinner is in order for the boys at the safety team?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE:テつ If steak is what they want, that's what they'll get. テつThey'll get a choice of anything in town, anything out of town, we'll fly it in for them if they want.テつ For sure, they deserve anything and everything.テつ
The best part of those guys is they would never ask for it.テつ As far as they're concerned, they're just doing their job.テつ They don't think they're doing anything special.テつ
From where I'm sitting, they certainly did.テつ You know, me and my family have literally everything to thank them for.テつ
I haven't had a chance to connect with Mike specifically yet.テつ Andrew Stevens, who is a member of the team, managed to see him in town here.テつ I'm very anxious to get to the track.テつ Unfortunately, not all these guys live in Indy, so it's not easy to get them all together.テつ
When I'm able to get back to the track, have a sit-down with them, I still have a lot of questions about the day, to be honest, because I don't remember so much of it.テつ Look forward to chatting with them.テつ Then, like you say, look forward to treating them to a steak dinner, if that's what they want.テつ

Q.テつ A couple weeks ago, you walked pretty good up and down stairs.テつ You said they wanted you to walk as much as possible.テつ Is that daily now pretty much more and more?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE:テつ Yeah.テつ I mean, the kind of big first step was getting permission to get onto an elliptical machine.テつ Obviously when you have had injuries, you're not using your legs as much, the more you clot.テつ The fact I had a complete oil change makes that more of a risk as well.テつ The chance to get off the blood thinners, alleviate the risk of clots.テつ
Movement is very good.テつ At the same time you don't want to overdo anything or aggravate anything.テつ That has been a big challenge, trying to stay active, but at the same time giving the body the rest it needs to recover, making sure you don't push it too hard.テつ

Q.テつ Can you talk a little bit about the thousands and thousands of messages that you received from other teams, other drivers, even other series, and the fans not only across Canada but North America.テつ I know that was a lot to do with you regaining strength.テつ
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE:テつ Honestly, it's been probably the most surreal element of this whole adventure.テつ You know, as we talk, I'm sitting here looking at my mantel and bookshelf that is literally covered top to bottom, left to right, with get well cards, messages.テつ
Seeing the support from absolutely everybody, the giant banner that Firestone had done at the track, the amount of people that came to visit me in hospital, the number of people that have been by to visit since I've gotten out of hospital, the emails, text messages, comments on social media, whatever it is, the sheer volume of support from people has really just been the most overwhelming thing.テつ
I can't tell everyone how appreciated it is and how much it does help.テつ I mean, part of the reasons all of these cards are sitting on my mantel is because this is where I sit for a big chunk of my day.テつ I get to sit there and see reminders of people that care about you, people that are wishing you well.テつ For me, part of my motivation to get better is for the people that took time to reach out to me as much as anything else.テつ It's just been incredible.テつ

Q.テつ You mentioned steps.テつ How many steps are you up to today?テつ
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE:テつ Let's see.テつ Today I had to go to the doctor's office, so I wasn't walking around the block.テつ But today I'm up to 2,400, which is slightly below my best of just over 4,000.テつ That was a good day.テつ
We're getting there.テつ But you have good days and bad days.テつ You have days where it's a little easier to move, days where it's obviously a bit more difficult, you're managing pain a bit more.テつ Those days are getting fewer and fewer and further in between.テつ That's progress as far as I'm concerned.テつ

Q.テつ You mentioned on the video you'll have another surgery.テつ I don't need a graphic description.テつ What is entailed in that surgery still to come?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE:テつ Without going into details, it's another surgery where I have to be opened from the abdomen to undo some things that were done during the emergency surgery, just to keep me healthy and safe.テつ
Unfortunately it's the kind of surgery that is of the nature that will put me down again for another couple weeks.テつ Anytime you go into the abdomen, there's a lengthy recovery.テつ That's kind of the difficult part to swallow.テつ At the same time it's necessary to be done.テつ The sooner we get that one going, the sooner I can get the rest of the recovery, get back to the gym, think about getting back into the car.テつ

Q.テつ Does that have a timeline?テつ Next month?テつ Next week?テつ Anything like that yet?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE:テつ Well, found out today from the doctor that we're looking at sometime in the next four to six weeks to schedule that surgery.テつ There's some other things that have to happen, some other bits that have to heal before we can schedule that.テつ
But based on the progress we've seen on those areas, the doctor's confident that within the next four to six weeks we should be able to schedule that surgery.テつ Then it should be another four to six weeks before I'm kind of back to the gym and really getting back into a full training regimen.テつ

Q.テつ (Question regarding the knowledge of the safety team and how much that helped.)
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE:テつ I think that's just it.テつ Having an understanding of racing, having an understanding of the kind of injuries that can happen in a racecar.テつ It gives them such a leg up.テつ You know, you can have the best surgeon in the world, but if he doesn't have a grasp of what could potentially be wrong, it's going to take him that much longer to really diagnose the problem.テつ In a situation like mine, there wasn't any longer to diagnose the problem.テつ
So, you know, for us to have a group of guys like we do that have the experience, that have the particular skill set that they do, it's the best insurance policy, in a sense, that you can have.テつ It's tough to put into words how comforting it is as a driver to know that we have that on hand.テつ
I'm not just saying this because I had an accident.テつ I've said this for years.テつ I know other drivers, every other driver out there, mimics this thought.テつ We are so fortunate in IndyCar to have the safety team.テつ It is no doubt in my mind a contributing factor to me surviving that accident, was not only having a safety team there, but one with the kind of skills and experience these guys have.テつ

Q.テつ Do you think they would understand how much blood loss you were having better because they know some of the pieces that were involved?テつ
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE:テつ I mean, I think they saw the pool in the bottom of the car, and that gave them a good indication.テつ
I think, again, knowing that I've been speared by the suspension, once that was sort of established, they realized what that could mean, what kind of injuries come along with that.テつ Then certainly seeing, as I'm told, how pale I looked, the pool forming in the bottom of the car, they made quick decisions.テつ They were life-altering decisions in a sense.テつ For sure having that experience at the track is something that contributed to that.テつ I believe that's the truth.テつ

Q.テつ Have you had the time or the desire yet to get into the dynamics of the crash with the team, how it happened in the first place?テつ
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE:テつ Absolutely, yeah.テつ I mean, that's one of the first things I was curious about.テつ On a ventilator, I had to write on a piece of paper.テつ I asked what happened.テつ They told me part of the car broke.テつ I asked which part, trying to figure it all out.テつ
I sat with my engineers.テつ I sat with my chief mechanics.テつ I looked at the tub.テつ I've been to the shop and seen the tub, seen the damage.テつ
It's equal parts fascinating and terrifying, to be honest.テつ It was literally one of those one in a million situations.テつ The part that failed is a part that we have almost no recorded failures of ever.テつ I know a lot was spoken about mileage of pieces, this, that and the other in the aftermath of the crash.テつ I know a lot of teams changed rockers, whether they were mileaged or not, after my accident.テつ
That is literally a piece that has almost a zero percent failure rate, so it really was a bizarre situation in the first place.テつ Obviously with the suspension coming through the tub, again, another situation we haven't seen in quite some time.テつ
Immediately there were adjustments made and bits added and things done to prevent that from happening again in the future.テつ
But, honestly, I was just unlucky.テつ At the same time I was incredibly lucky, not only for the safety team being there.テつ As the doctors will tell you, if that piece had been five millimeters in a different direction, it might not have been a survivable injury.テつ I'm the luckiest unlucky guy, some combination therein.テつ
But it's massively fascinating to me to know what can happen and what did happen so that we know how to prevent it from happening in the future.テつ

Q.テつ How does that affect your mindset when you're laying there early in recovery?テつ Several unlucky things happened to you.テつ Does it ease your mind at all knowing it wasn't anything that was your fault?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE:テつ Yeah, for sure.テつ I mean, obviously, my number one goal is to not make mistakes.テつ But everybody out there is talented.テつ Everybody out there is fast.テつ Everybody out there has an opportunity to win.テつ Nine times out of ten it's the guy, the team that makes the fewest mistakes that wins.テつ
By definition I try to make as few mistakes at possible.テつ But the mistake I made led to something like this.テつ So it would be even harder to swallow than a tapping of the wall, so to speak.テつ
In a sense, yeah, there is some relief that it wasn't, you know, something I did.テつ On the other hand it's very sobering and kind of a scary thought that something out of your control can have such an impact on your life essentially.テつ
But, you know, that's the nature of the beast.テつ That's the game we play.テつ We play it willingly.テつ

Q.テつ Have you watched video of the crash?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE:テつ Yeah, absolutely, many times.テつ

Q.テつ James, how important is the Toronto race for the Canadian drivers, and how is it to be missing it?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE:テつ It's obviously an important race for Canadian drivers and Canadian team owners that we have.テつ It's incredibly difficult to be missing it.テつ There was a time we had three races in Canada.テつ That is something we would like to see again.テつ There's talk about Rick and I trying to push for another race in Canada.テつ But we'll do what we can in that sense.テつ
I think Canada really enjoys IndyCar racing.テつ The fans come out.テつ All the races have been successful.テつ We need to find a way to get more going up there.テつ
Yeah, to have been a fan and a spectator at that race for so many years, then finally kind of making that jump to the other side of the fence, be a competitor in it for the last bunch of years, six probably, it's definitely going to be tough to not be on the grid.テつ
You know, it is what it is.テつ I know I'll be back.テつ I live to race another day.テつ Even though I won't be there this one, I know I'll get a chance to race there again and hopefully get a chance to win.テつ That's definitely one on the bucket list.テつ

Q.テつ James, you're talking about an extensive off-season testing schedule.テつ When is that going to start?テつ Where are you going to be doing it?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE:テつ I think it's going to start in September, to be honest.テつ We'll be doing it all over.テつ The biggest difference from last year is last year we had test days, we just didn't use them because we were waiting for the aero kits to show up.テつ Now obviously we have all the bits so we can start testing in earnest as soon as the season is done.テつ
We go to Sebring a lot, we go to Alabama, we go to Texas for a test.テつ I imagine you'll be hearing a lot of IndyCar engines running around in the southern U.S. once the season is done.テつ

Q.テつ How are you and Rick coming along with the Calgary project?テつ Do you remain optimistic and hopeful it might happen in the next year or two?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE:テつ Yeah, there's always hurdles, definitely hurdles.テつ We've actually had some pretty positive feedback from some influential people that would be involved in making that happen.テつ
For sure we're optimistic it can still kick off at some point.テつ We're heads down and full speed ahead trying to make it happen.テつ

Q.テつ Other than racing and getting in a car, getting that feel and competing, is there anything that now in this time you've been able to reflect upon and realize that perhaps you took for granted that maybe you even appreciate the fact that you have been forced to kind of step back and say that that is something you'll never take for granted again?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE:テつ Honestly, I think it's just the people around me, whether it's family, whether it's friends, whether it's colleagues, whether it's complete strangers, fans, everybody.テつ I know how busy people are.テつ I know how stressful life can be.テつ To have seen the amount of people that took the time, might only be a couple minutes, but it's a couple minutes, to whether it's reach out, send us a card, come visit, whatever it was, it's never really something that I felt I took for granted.テつ It's probably just something I didn't give enough credit to, be appreciative enough of.テつ
That's definitely something, a perception of mine that's changed a bit in this whole thing.テつ

Q.テつ You're a guy that I think we all know has a bright future in the sport once your racing career aspect of it is done.テつ I think that's no secret.テつ You said you don't have a memory of what happened in the car.テつ But knowing that maybe you have kind of that crutch, for lack of a better word, of being able to stay in the sport when your racing days are over with, combined with still not knowing how you're going to feel psychologically, if it comes back to you once you get back into a car, does that give you some curiosity as to how you will react and whether it will cause you to think maybe you will accelerate the second phase of your career in auto racing?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE:テつ Honestly, no.テつ My one and only concern is more physically how I feel when I get back into a car.テつ It wasn't until four days ago that I couldn't put my pants on by myself.テつ When you reach the point where you're able to do that, that's a big goal.テつ It's the daily goals you set yourself in this condition.テつ Things like that are a big deal.テつ
I think about how physical it is to drive an IndyCar, how tough it is to do a race distance, race against Scott Dixon, Hunter-Reay, Will Power, Marco Andretti.テつ I've already registered a 12-pound weight loss since the accident, and I know that's muscle mass.テつ I know how difficult it will be to get that back because I know how difficult it was to put on in the first place.テつ
I don't have fears of second-guessing getting back into the car really.テつ The only thing I worry about is making sure I'm at the fitness level I need to be at when I get the chance and the approval and clearance to get back in.テつ

Q.テつ Historically injured drivers, when they're able to drive, tend to actually step up and perform better.テつ This has happened over and over again.テつ Do you have any idea why that happens?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE:テつ I can guess.テつ My best guess is that when something like this happens, your sole focus is recovery, getting back into the car.テつ When you're a healthy, active, gainfully employed racing driver, you're not allowed to focus fully on driving the car because you have sponsor commitments, media commitments, debriefs, all these things that not necessarily distract but take some of your energy, mental capacity to worry about.テつ
I'm literally in a state where the only thing I have to worry about is getting healthy and getting back into a racecar.テつ I think that drivers and athletes in general are so strong-minded and so strong-willed, if you give them that little bit extra than they would normally have when competing, it's amazing what you can accomplish with that.テつ
So that would be my best guess.テつ I obviously am hating the situation of not being in the car.テつ But you relish the opportunity to focus solely on the return and that first time back.テつ

Q.テつ You seem to have a full understanding of your injury.テつ Have you studied up on the recovery process?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE:テつ Yeah, absolutely.テつ I've been loosely associated a student of medicine for the last little bit.テつ I've been very fortunate that a lot of my injuries have healed ahead of schedule.テつ All the doctors are very pleased with the progress we've seen so far.テつ
I think it's a factor of my age, obviously being fit and athletic.テつ All these things kind of help the healing process from what I've read, what I've been told.テつ We're trying to milk that for all I can to get better as soon as possible.テつ

Q.テつ James, before this accident, what was the longest time you went without being in a cockpit?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE:テつ Man, probably in all honesty it would have been from last season until -- when the checkered flag fell at the end of last season till the first test with Schmidt in December was probably was the longest period out of the car.テつ
I'm hoping if we can get this next surgery over with soon, get the training and rehab going quickly, I don't have to match or beat that record by too many days.テつ

Q.テつ In the immediate aftermath of the accident, was there anyone saying or recommending to you that you maybe should retire? テつDid you ever contemplate that option?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE:テつ I certainly never contemplated it.テつ If anyone around me was thinking about it, they were smart enough not to say anything.テつ I think everybody close to me knows that wouldn't be something that was on my mind.テつ
As I said earlier, when I was fresh out of surgery, still on a ventilator, communicating by pen and paper, one of my first questions was, When can I drive again?テつ I think some people in the room found it so bizarre and confusing that somebody in the state I was in, hooked up to 10 different machines, recently sewn up would say, How can I get back into the machine that did this to me?テつ I think that's how racing drivers are wired.テつ
That's definitely not a thought that went through my mind.テつ Anybody that knows me well enough knows better than to bring that up to me.テつ

Q.テつ What have you been reading while you've been lying on the couch?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE:テつ Jack Harvey actually stopped by.テつ He knows I'm a big space nerd.テつ He dropped off a bunch of space books.テつ The latest one I got through was actually a book called The Martians by Andy Weir.テつ A guy gets marooned on Mars.テつ A pretty good read.テつ

Q.テつ Can you talk about the season you'd been having up until the crash and what was lost from your perspective?テつ You already had a win.テつ Until the crash, were you happy with the progression you were seeing with the team?テつ What had you been hoping for for the rest of the season?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE:テつ I think I was in a similar situation to a lot of the drivers on the Honda teams.テつ We were trying to close that qualifying gap to the Chevys.テつ That was kind of our big goal.テつ
If you looked at race pace, especially places like Barber and some others, it was actually pretty decent.テつ Grand Prix of Indy, a couple of those places, the Hondas seemed to have good pace on Sundays.テつ It was Saturdays we were getting beat.テつ
I've been thrilled with the team since day one, how we've been tackling this new challenge of the aero kits and all that.テつ Having the win from New Orleans in the bag was certainly nice.テつ But we want to be competing week in and week out.テつ To do that you have to start qualifying up front.テつ That's been the big challenge.テつ
I'm doing what I can, again, remotely, trying to be as active as I can in helping whether it's Ryan or Conor, obviously James in the 7 car, to tackle that challenge because this is still essentially my car and I'm still going to have to get back in it at some point.テつ
The more we can improve it in my absence, the better.テつ I'm trying to be as involved in that as possible.テつ

Q.テつ Even if you're not driving the car, do you anticipate going to any events throughout the season to lend a hand in any way?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE:テつ Oh, for sure.テつ As soon as I'm medically cleared to do so, I'll be doing that.テつ For me, being part of the pre and post race reports is one thing.テつ But being able to be on the stands, hear it out of the horse's mouth, so to speak, be able to sit in the debriefings, it's going to give me a much better understanding of what's happening.テつ
We're still developing this car.テつ If it was the same DW12, maybe that motivation would be a little less.テつ To me this is still a new beast, something we're trying to figure out.テつ The more I can be present for that, for all the learning that's happening, the more involved I can be, the better.テつ
As soon as the doc says it's all right, you're going to see me sitting with a headset on trackside for sure.テつ
THE MODERATOR:テつ This is all the time we have with James Hinchcliffe today.テつ Thank you.テつ

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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