TORONTO, Ontario — Every career in racing has it’s highs and lows, and one of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers who has learned that quickly is James Hinchcliffe. While he has won events, there was also a serious crash that left him on the sidelines for months, along with moments like not qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 in May.
Going through the adversity, it’d be easy to watch his attitude swing away from the positive direction, but hasn’t happened for the Canadian.
“One of the important things and it’s a cliche thing but the worst day of my job is still better than the best day at other jobs,” he told a group of reporters in Toronto. “At the end of the day, we’re racing cars for a living. We are so lucky to do what we do. Yes, there’s a lot of crap that goes along with it and a lot of stuff that you have to do that you don’t want to deal with, and that’s the price that we pay to get to do what we do on Sundays. I was always very appreciative of that and the position that I am in, and I always promised myself that I was never going to take it too seriously and let 20 years of my life – the best 20 years – go by being miserable all the time because you’re a tenth off in corner six.”
Hinchcliffe admits that it isn’t easy at times to keep the positive attitude as he “can get into those bad places,” but he knows he has to for himself, and performance as he runs better when he’s happy.
The ability to continue working his way forward comes from working with a mental coach when he was younger, who taught him how to compartmentalize things by separating emotion and distraction, among other things, so he could do his job. Some times this hasn’t worked out well for him, though, as he admits it affected personal relationships at times.
“My reaction to certain things in my personal life was not what a normal person would have, and that really deterred some people in my life,” he said. “I’d be like, ‘I don’t get why everybody is so upset’ because I programmed myself for years to not get upset about stuff, or give myself 60 seconds to be upset and then move on since that’s how you have to be in the car.”
Perspective also comes from knowing that he won’t be able to do this his entire life as eventually – hopefully a long time down the road, the day will come when he has to hang up the helmet.
“I also acknowledge that I don’t get to this until I’m 65, and from my first lap in an IndyCar, I was already thinking about what happened after my last lap and finding the balance of focusing on what you’re doing today, but not totally losing sight of tomorrow,” he said. “It’s a balance and a struggle, and some do it better than others.
“I know this could be gone tomorrow – as if I didn’t already know it, I learned it a couple years ago. I could’ve already raced my last race and not know it. I could get hit by a bus crossing the street after lunch, and for me, it’s always been important to think two steps ahead but focus enough to get the job done today.”
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