Well, now Hinch is here, teammates with Oriol Servia on a Newman/Haas team looking to regain their rightful, honored place among the top teams of American open wheel racing. He's starting late, and won't be at overseas races in Japan and Sao Paulo, but could he still win Rookie of the Year by finishing with the most points?
In a word, yes. It won't be easy; 3 races represents probably at least 30-36 points he'll have to make up elsewhere. But if he has enough positive results and finishes in the top half of the field, it could happen.
|Hinch finally gets his chance.|
In addition, right now, only Ana Beatriz can claim as talented a full-time teammate (Justin Wilson) as Hinch has in Servia. The two seem to work well together, and if that continues, that's a huge point in Hinch's favor. James Jakes has Sebastien Bourdais on the twisties, but currently no one on the ovals. JR Hildebrand and Sebastian Saavedra are currently going at it alone. Charlie Kimball has Graham Rahal, sort of, but it's a new Ganassi team and is still shaking out.
So, what does Hinch need to do? My feeling is the ROY awards isn't necessarily going to go to the rookie who gives us the biggest "WOW" factor of the season; it's going to be to the driver who can keep it in one piece for the most races. Avoid those 12 and 10-point weeks. Nab a couple of extra spots by taking advantage of Newman/Haas' speed at Indy and qualify well there.
Alex Lloyd won Rookie of the Year with only 3 Top 10 finishes and 7 results of 20th or lower. If James Hinchcliffe can show the speed he showed in testing this year, he can still be the IZOD IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year. He's got the team, he's got time in the ride, he's got a veteran teammate, and he's got the confidence of plenty of people around the series. And while JR Hildebrand, Charlie Kimball, and the other rookies won't make it easy, I think Hinch could pull it off. You finally have your chance, Hinch--go make the most of it.