Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Hinch Has Found A Home, and So Has Tagliani

It was probably one of the worst-kept secrets in IndyCar over the last couple of weeks, but Andretti Autosport officially announced that James Hinchcliffe will be driving the team's Go Daddy-sponsored car this season.

Good move, no make that, great move. Hinch, who drove for Newman Haas last season and had planned to do the same in 2012 until the team shut down operations a few weeks ago, is the perfect guy to take this seat, which was of course originally intended for Dan Wheldon, who had signed a contract to drive the No. 27 car the day he lost his life at Las Vegas.

Hinch at Indy...thanks IndyCar
He more than established his credentials as a driver as he posted seven top-10 finishes and ended up the season 12th in the points standings, good enough to squeak past J.R. Hildebrand for the series' Rookie of the Year honors. Not only that, he appeals to Go Daddy because of his outgoing personality and his comfort with social media.

While there were several drivers who would have done well in that seat (I would love to see Justin Wilson with a top-line team), I always thought that Hinchcliffe should have been on the short list to become Danica Patrick's replacement. Moving to one of the power teams in the series immediately makes him a threat to win races and stand on podiums, no doubt, and his higher profile will also make race weekends a lot more entertaining since he should run up front and be in front of the media more often too.

And, most importantly, I think his personality is a good fit for the team, as his laid-back style will mesh well with Marco Andretti (who I think needs to make another step forward himself) and Ryan Hunter-Reay. That kind of environment should be a good opportunity to flourish.

Also finalizing his plans was Alex Tagliani, who wrapped up his deal with Bryan Herta Autosport. It has certainly been an up and down last couple of years for Tagliani, who seemed settled for a long future with Fazzt only to see that organization fizzle, won the pole for Sam Schmidt at Indy before closing the season at BHA. He finished 15th in the final IndyCar standings and also placed second in a NASCAR Nationwide event at Montreal.

Tagliani has proven he can go fast, and given that BHA is a factory team for Lotus he will have plenty of resources to do that at his disposal.

While there is still plenty of silly season action left, it's good to see another couple of drivers settle into their plans for 2012. Hopefully Wilson and Oriol Servia, among others, get a phone call soon too.

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