With many recent graduates either starting some boring job that they may hold down for the rest of their lives or still searching for a position in their field of interest, rookie IndyCar racer James Hinchcliffe is a 24-year-old college dropout living the dream. After all, the guy gets to spend time in certain parts of the world that you only see on the Travel Channel, he can request the assistance of hot women for the most unnecessary tasks, and, oh yeah, he gets to legally race a car at 200 miles per hour? So, what have those four years in college done for you?
Before signing a deal with Newman/Haas racing for the remainder of the 2011 season, Hinchcliffe took a rather interesting path into IndyCar. Initially, the Ontario native attended college in Canada but eventually faced difficulties trying to balance out his true passion and with the rigors of college life. So after two years under his belt, James dropped out to pursue a racing career full time. After successfully competing in the developmental Firestone Indy Lights Series, Hinchcliffe finally reached the big leagues and now finds himself as a member of the "Young Guns of IndyCar," alongside Charlie Kimball and J.R. Hildebrand. No pressure, huh?
What is your favorite song at the moment?
James Hinchcliffe: What’s that new Chris Brown one with Busta Rhymes?
"Look At Me Now."
James Hinchcliffe: That one. I heard it on the radio the other day and I thought it had a nice flow to it. Plus, it has Lil Wayne. It’s a decent song.
So would you consider yourself a hip-hop fan?
James Hinchcliffe: I genuinely like a little bit of everything. I know a lot of people say that and they got no sort of set genre that they like, but if it’s a good song, it doesn’t matter what it is. I can appreciate a good piece of music that has been well put together and well-written.
What’s your favorite type of clothing to wear?
James Hinchcliffe: I’m a casual kind of guy. Pretty much what I got on, jeans and a casual button-up or something like that. I like dressing up when the occasion calls for it, but usually I got a pretty laid-back style.
What’s the most expensive article of clothing you ever bought?
James Hinchcliffe: I bought a pair of jeans. I can’t even tell you what they were called. The brand is by a Canadian guy, but they were like $310. They’re nice jeans, but I just regret ever spending that much money on a pair of jeans.
But do you still wear them?
James Hinchcliffe: I still wear them. They are still one of my favorite jeans.
How long have you owned them?
James Hinchcliffe: Coming up on…three years now, so they’re probably out of style. I should probably stop wearing them, but I figure I mind as well get my money’s worth. [Laughs.]
What are your favorite type of sneakers to wear?
James Hinchcliffe: I really like Pumas. Actually, I’m wearing a pair right now. And I got a pair of Converse back home. Anything simple. My style is not too crazy. My favorite shoes that I ever had were actually a pair of Dunlops. A couple of years ago, I got them in England and I was not able to find them online or anywhere else. But last year, I was back in England and I saw them again. So I bought another pair because I just couldn’t find them anywhere else and they’re the best.
Before breaking into racing, you went to college. Where did you go?
James Hinchcliffe: I went to McMaster University, which is in Hamilton, Ontario, just outside of Toronto.
How did you like the whole college experience?
James Hinchcliffe: You know, I didn’t really get the whole college experience because I was already racing so much that I was gone on weekends, missing a lot of classes and partying. I only got two years in and then I had to put it on hold because racing took over. I’m glad I went, and got a taste of what it was like, but there’s no doubt that I didn’t get the full experience.
Do you think you will go back and try to finish getting your degree?
James Hinchcliffe: I’m one of those personalities that has to finish something you started. So whether it’s a book, even if it’s terrible, I got to get to the end. It doesn’t matter what it is. At some point in my life, I want to get it done—whether it’s night classes or online courses—so that I can have that piece of paper. So I will have my own piece of mind. I can put it in a box, never look at it because it will never serve me anything. Just knowing I did it.
What is your favorite country to visit?
James Hinchcliffe: My favorite country, in general, is probably Australia. I love the people. I love the place. I love everything about it. If it wasn’t so far away from where I grew up, I would probably live there now. But I’ve been to some real cool places. I got to go to Bali in Indonesia, which was gorgeous. And Bula Sia, which is kind of a random place. You never thought you would a) ever go there in your life, and b) ever really like it, but it actually ends up having a lot of character and it's pretty cool. I'm also a big fan of London. I spend a lot of time there. And obviously, Toronto, which is where I grew up. I’ve had the chance to travel and see a lot of cities but it’s still one of my favorites.
Who is the most famous person in your cellphone?
James Hinchcliffe: Frankie Muniz is kind of a big deal in a lot of places. [Laughs.] Everybody knows Malcolm. I talk to him once and a while. He's a good dude.
Is he still trying to break into racing?
James Hinchcliffe: He tried it and abandoned that to be in his band now. So he’s gone from actor to race car driver to rock star. I mean, if that guy can’t get laid, none of us have any hope. [Laughter.]
How long do you plan on racing?
James Hinchcliffe: The thing is, I’m such a fan of this sport and this business that even if the race car driver thing hadn’t worked out, I would still be involved somehow. This is my rookie year in IndyCar, and I want to be here for a long time, maybe the next 15 years. But even after that, I still see myself being involved in the business somehow. Whether it’s in team ownership or in commentary because I’ve had some cool opportunities to do some commentary within the booth and from pit lane. It’s the other side of it that I really enjoy. So I’ll always somehow be involved with the sport.
Do you have any other career goals outside of racing?
James Hinchcliffe: I want to travel the world. I like scuba diving. That’s one of my other passions. There’s a couple of places I want to hit on my bucket list to go diving before I die. Also, I want to learn to play the guitar well. [Laughs.] I own a guitar, and I can sort of make noise through it, but I want to have an actual teacher, take a year, and just play a lot of guitar to the point that I’m satisfied with what I can do.
And then maybe you can go the Frankie Muniz route?
James Hinchcliffe: Uh, no. [Laughter.] I will never do it in front of people. Again, this is just for my own peace of mind.