IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe stays laid-back

Wed, May 18

James Hinchcliffe always has been lighthearted, which is just a nice way of calling himself a class clown. In school, he was the one to talk back to the teacher or make an inappropriate comment. In college, he superglued door handles, plastered dorm rooms with shaving cream and rerouted cars' windshield-wiper fluid through air-conditioning vents. And just last year, the IndyCar driver took a bath in a washing machine for dogs.

Just another day in sunny, funny Hinchtown.

The self-proclaimed mayor of Hinchtown -- "I've rigged every election up until this point, and it's worked well for me so far" -- Hinchcliffe is bucking the trend of race car drivers who take themselves, in his words, "way too seriously." After getting tired of other drivers' mundane websites, the 24-year-old Canadian created, an online hub with "10% more Hinch" that showcases his creative side, including the trip inside his sister's Pet Spa Cabin, an industrial-sized washing machine for cats and dogs.

"A lot of people think it's funny because they can't picture someone like Helio Castroneves or Dario Franchitti doing something like that," Hinchcliffe said. "There are a lot of funny guys out there, but there's a stigma floating around that you have to be super proper and super [politically correct], but if you get yourself out there, the fans respond well to it."

Think of Hinchtown as Hinchcliffe's unique way of reaching out to his fans, to build a brand as laid-back as the driver with the hilarious personality who, yes, takes dog baths to promote his sister's business.

"It brings a new dynamic, and when it comes to racing, a lot of the fan interest generates from having a favorite driver to cheer for, and a lot of the time you can do that based on results. But a lot of the time it comes from personalities," he said. "We're in the entertainment business, and you have to be entertaining, whether people find you entertaining because of the way you drive or interviews you give or how you tweet. I'm trying to be as much a well-rounded person as possible."