CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Canada’s James Hinchcliffe said he was “shocked” to learn Arrow McLaren SP was dumping him from his 2020 seat in the IndyCar Seriesthis week.
The native of Oakville, Ont., first joined Sam Schmidt’s team in 2015 and had repeated public assurances that the final year of his contract would be honoured even after McLaren partnered with the team for next season. The team abruptly changed course and informed Hinchcliffe on Sunday evening he was not getting a car for next year.
“It goes without saying the happenings of the last 48 hours have been difficult,” Hinchcliffe wrote in a Thursday social media post. “We were shocked to learn we would not be in the No. 5 car for the 2020 season.”
Arrow McLaren will instead field cars for Pato O’Ward and Oliver Askew, the most recent two Indy Lights champions. The IndyCar season ended in September and Hinchcliffe, a very popular IndyCar star, is scrambling to find a new job.
Had he been told he was not going to be retained when McLaren came aboard in late summer, Hinchcliffe might have had opportunities at other rides. The Canadian is a spokesman for Honda in North America and wanted to retain that relationship but was not going to keep his personal services agreement driving a Chevrolet for the new team.
An effort would have been made to keep Hinchcliffe with a Honda team had his management been aware Schmidt was going to let him go. Conversely, teammate Marcus Ericsson knew as soon as McLaren came aboard that he would not be retained and he landed a ride with Chip Ganassi Racing.
There are few open seats remaining in IndyCar, and almost all options would require Hinchcliffe to bring considerable funding. He remains under contract to the McLaren/Schmidt group, and the last year on his contract will be paid for the final year.
“Obviously it’s very late in the game, but my team is working flat out to try and salvage a full 2020 IndyCar campaign,” Hinchcliffe wrote.
Hinchcliffe also made reference to his IndyCar history, which includes a near fatal accident at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2015 followed by a pole-winning run for the Indy 500 the next season. He also failed to make the Indy 500 in 2018.
Hinchcliffe is one of IndyCar’s few crossover stars and was a runner-up on “Dancing With the Stars” in 2016. He also represents Canada in the series and remains loyal to his home country, making reference to the NHL Toronto Maple Leafs in his statement.
“Disappointment aside, I still have my health, incredible family, friends and fans supporting me, and at the end of the day, there’s not much a little maple syrup and a Leafs game can’t fix,” he said. “We’ve been kicked down before and came back stronger. This is simply our next fight.