LONG POND — He climbed from the cockpit of his wrecked GoDaddy Chevrolet limping with a banged-up knee.
But it turns out the thing that really got hurt in James Hinchcliffe’s early mishap was his pride.
“It’s the ego bruising and emotional damage that’s much more worse than the physical,” Hinchcliffe said.
It’s easy to see why his self-certainty was shaken during Sunday’s Pocono IndyCar 400 fueled by Sunoco.
The IZOD IndyCar Series laps leader didn’t even make it through one at Pocono Raceway, losing control of his car in Turn 1 and crashing its rear end into the SAFER barrier.
His first day at Pocono was over almost as soon as it began.
“We weren’t even fully up to speed yet,” Hinchcliffe said. “I was just being cautious and it snapped. We got loose. It’s devastating, man.
“One, two, three, we didn’t last too long.”
Victory hopes for his Andretti Autosport teammates didn’t go the distance, either.
Ryan Hunter-Reay, running in third place on lap 61, was trying to pit when Takuma Soto blasted into his DHL Chevy while attempting to fly by on his right side on pit road. After extensive repairs, Hunter-Reay re-entered the race, but was never a factor in the front of the field again.
“Extremely sorry. It’s all my fault,” Soto said.
And pole-sitter Marco Andretti, who actually led the most laps Sunday, was slowed by fuel strategy at the end and finished 10th. That was the best finish among a trio of teammates who swept the three front-row starting spots in Saturday’s qualifying.
But the heartbreak for Andretti Autosport began with Hinchcliffe’s early spin.
“It’s just so weird,” said Hinchcliffe, whose 226 lead laps this season rank first on the IndyCar Series circuit. “I had a moment kind of like that in qualifying.”
His actual race qualified as a disaster. Hinchcliffe hinted it may have been a problem with the car’s preparation which sent his plans into a wild spin.
“We badly miscalculated on a hot day,” Hinchcliffe said. “We were planning for the car being a bit more perky than it ended up being. We’ve kind of been aggressive on setup. Maybe be overestimated it a bit.”
In the blink of an eye, a day that began with such promise for Andretti Autosport started turning awfully painful.
“I’m all right, I banged my knee a little bit,” Hinchcliffe said after hobbling out of the track’s medical center. “We had high hopes for the GoDaddy car. We’ve been on a good streak. Obviously, the car just snapped loose on me.
“Hopefully, this bad luck’s out of the way.”