Fast Friends: Jared Thomas and James Hinchcliffe Connection Continues Away from Track
 April 24, 2024| 
  • Series News
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If you’ve followed the ‘IMSA Drivers Reacting to MX-5 Cup Highlights’ video series, you may have noticed that former IndyCar driver and NBC Sports commentator James Hinchcliffe has a clear favorite when it comes to Whelen Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by Michelin races: Jared Thomas.

 

Following Hinchcliffe’s guest drive with JTR Motorsports Engineering at Watkins Glen last year, the two have remained friends. Their rapport seems to have started even before that race weekend.

 

“Prior to the test and going to Watkins Glen we had quite a few phone calls, figuring out what he likes: seat position, height, weight,” Thomas said. “We were getting the car ready for him because he’d never sat in one before. We started that dialogue pretty early.”

 

WGI_062423-4405Thomas was pleased to discover that the Hinch he saw on TV was the same Hinch in person. Even better, he fit right in with the JTR team.

 

“I always heard great things about him and obviously I’ve watched him on TV on IndyCar weekends,” Thomas said. “The guy that you see on TV and the guy you meet in person are exactly the same. He’s a lot of fun and jokes around a lot.

 

“Tests are laid back and you have a lot of down time, a lot of time to chit chat. He fit in with the group of guys we had like he’d been there for years.” 

 

The feeling was mutual.

 

“My first impression of Jared was that he was an old-fashioned racer and I liked that about him,” Hinchcliffe said. “He is in the business of going racing and winning, and you feel that with the whole team. The group at JTR was immediately super welcoming and a lot of fun to work with, but also very passionate and hard working. It’s a really impressive operation he has put together.”

 

Hinchcliffe and Thomas had many conversations leading up to Hinch’s Mazda MX-5 Cup debut at Watkins Glen. The Canadian ended up finishing sixth in Race 1 and ninth in Race 2, though he could have been in podium contention had he not been required to pit to remove debris hanging from his car.

 

WGI_062223-8150“I think for the amount of time he had in the car he did pretty good,” Thomas summarized. “Watkins Glen is like a superspeedway race for us. There’s a lot of intricate things that, being in the car a lot, you get comfortable with. One of the things he struggled with was turning into the Bus Stop on someone’s bumper, because you have no sight and you’re doing it just by muscle memory.”

 

Following The Glen, Thomas and Hinchcliffe kept in touch and kept tabs on each other’s professional careers.

 

“I try to catch as many MX-5 Cup races as I can,” Hinchcliffe said. “I’m always cheering for him and Aaron (Jeannsonne) and everyone under the JTR tent.”

 

“It’s just casual conversation like you’re chatting with your buddy you’ve known for a long time,” Thomas said. “We joke, a lot of maple syrup jokes, he loves Canadian jokes. Anytime he’d see us racing, he’s tuning in to watch and finding out the details and vice versa. When he’s running sportscar stuff I check in with him and see how he’s doing.”

 

WGI_062423-6667With Hinchcliffe joining WeatherTech Sports Car Championship team Pfaff Motorsports for three races this year, he and Thomas have had the luxury of being at the same track at the same time (Daytona International Speedway and Sebring International Raceway), making it easy to catch up and debrief.

 

“I saw him at Daytona and he was texting me asking what time we raced and where we were starting and stuff like that,” Thomas recalled. “I saw him before the Rolex race and he was telling me what times he was going to be in the car and stuff like that. Afterwards we kind of did a debrief on our races, what went right, what went wrong, and it sounded like we both had a bad Daytona weekend.”

 

They both agree that if the right race were to come along at the right time, they’d love to team up again in the future.

 

So what made these two fast friends? Hinch points to their similar personalities. 

 

WGI_062423-2886“He and I share some traits in how we approach what we do,” Hinchcliffe said. “Both of us take the job and our preparation very seriously, but at the same time we’re able to not take ourselves too seriously and manage to really enjoy going to the track every day.”

 

Thomas had a harder time pinpointing where the connection comes from.

 

“With friendships there’s not one particular thing you can put your finger on,” the two-time Mazda MX-5 Cup Champion said. “It’s a bunch of little things.”

 

Hinchcliffe and Thomas will be able to check in with each other in person during the season finale, Petit Le Mans event at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, October 9 – 11.

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