Thursday, September 23, 2021

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James Hinchcliffe cleared to drive in Indianapolis 500

After being re-evaluated on Thursday by Medical Director Dr. Michael Olinger, James Hinchcliffe has been cleared to drive for the Indianapolis 500.

In last Saturday’s Grand Prix of Indianapaolis, the Andretti Autosport driver suffered a concussion when a piece of debris hit him on lap 58 of the 72 lap race.

“Obviously very excited,” the Canadian commented. “It’s been a long couple of days sitting at home and not even really watching. I was banned from electronics and I was getting little updates and snippets here and there, and that made it tougher because you don’t know exactly what’s going on. But I knew everyone was running and I was sitting at home. Getting better was the No. 1 goal and the effort we put into that is paying off because we even surprised the doctors with how quickly we’ve been able to come back. All of the testing has been good and everything we’ve done is pointing in the right direction, so I’m feeling good.”

Olinger stated that Hinchcliffe passed the ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) test on Thursday. Each driver takes the test at the beginning of the season to set a baseline, and then must retake it and be close to that baseline to resume driving duties if they suffer a concussion. The neurocognitive part of the test includes verbal recognition memory, design memory, visual processing speed, symbol matching, color matching and three-letter memory.

With regards to his recovery period, Hinchcliffe says that he woke up on Sunday with a little headache.

“I did a really intense day of resting, which is kind of an oxymoron, but a lot of sitting around,” he commented. “My girlfriend (Kirsten Dee) and my sister (Rebecca) and my family were there and they took really good care of me and made sure I didn’t have to lift a finger.”

He said that he was feeling perfectly fine by Monday, but also knew that they still needed to take their time rather than jumping right into it. As a result, he was given permission on Tuesday to do some ‘light training’.

“I just went lightly to make sure my head was fine with the heart rate coming up and yesterday, no sorry, this morning – I swear my memory is fine – I got back in the gym and working a little harder and got that heart rate threshold up to where it would be in the car and everything was great,” he continued. “I did some reaction training and I was on the upper end of average of the previous runs and then came here for the ImPACT Test. That was the toughest thing knowing it was kind of make or break and seeing everyone driving. It was the first time I’d been here for any on-track activity and it was tough to watch but it’s all come good. Looking forward to getting out there.”

Hinchcliffe made one-installation lap during today’s session as an engine change to his No. 27 United Fiber & Data car limited on-track activity. E.J. Viso has been testing the car so far this week and currently ranks 16th on the overall speed chart with a lap of 40.0478 seconds. 

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