James Hinchcliffe may not have taken the Mirror Ball on “Dancing With the Stars,” but last season’s runner-up clinched a major victory back on his day job last weekend.
The IndyCar driver-turned-reality star won California’s coveted Toyota Long Beach Grand Prix, marking his first win since his near-fatal accident in 2015.
“To finally do what was the goal No. 1 when we set out at the start of the season, to get back into winner’s circle, to do so as early in the season as we have, as convincingly as we did, was great,” he said after winning the historic street race course on Sunday, according to ESPN.
“The greatest of the greats have won here. Toronto, Indy and this place were on my bucket list to win before I die, and it’s nice to check one off,” added Hinchcliffe, who nearly did die during a practice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway two years ago.
New England Patriots Super Bowl champion Julian Edelman, actress Chloe Grace Moretz, sportscaster Rich Eisen and “DWTS” pro Sharna Burgess were among the celebrities who turned out to both watch Hinchcliffe’s victory and to meet racing legends such as Mario Andretti.
Edelman, who scored a jaw-dropping fourth-quarter interception during Super Bowl LI in February, even went for a thrill ride in the pace car.
Before the race weekend, Josef Newgarden, who came in third for Team Penske driving a Chevrolet, revealed what it takes to be an IndyCar champion.
“It’s hard for people to relate to the physicality of our sport like baseball or football,” the 26-year-old told TheWrap. “Our training is very specific for what we do in IndyCar, whereas the NFL guys, they are conditioned for short spurts of energy, speed and power. We’re not geared for that.
“The car produces 6,000 pounds of down force but only weighs 1,500 pounds, so it is producing four times the amount of force that it weighs. On top of that — there is no power steering, there are no power breaks, it is all incredibly heavy,” he explained. “It is like going into the gym and picking up a 30-pound plate and trying to steer it for two hours.”
With the big races held in hot and humid locations such as Daytona, Florida, and Indianapolis, it can also reach up to 110 degrees in the cockpit.
Due to the small confines of the cars, drivers have to be physically fit but smaller in stature than most professional athletes, with Newgarden weighing in at 175 pounds and six foot.
While Newgarden was impressed with Hinchcliffe’s success on “DWTS,” he is in no rush to follow in his footsteps, despite having appeared on “American Ninja Warrior.”
“If the opportunity came up, I would think about it for sure. For me, everything else is secondary to racing,” he said.