Hinchcliffe promotes blood drive while unsure of Indy 500 drive

Hinchcliffe blood drive
Hinchcliffe Hundred Challenge Blood Drive

SPEEDWAY, Ind. (WTHR) – James Hinchcliffe did not participate in Monday’s practice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and did not want to speak about whether a ride will develop for him for Sunday’s Indianapolis 500. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports said there was no timetable for a decision on if the team would purchase another Honda car in the field for Hinchcliffe to drive.

After being bumped out of the starting grid Saturday for the Indianapolis 500, Hinchcliffe had more time to promote the American Red Cross Hinchcliffe Hundred blood drive on Legends Row near Gasoline Alley at the Speedway.

"I've been wanting to give you a hug since Saturday,” said one young fan as she embraced Hinchcliffe at the event.

IndyCar fans gave Hinchcliffe hugs and blood. Many of his supporters offered their arms and wrapped their arms around the popular driver who was left in the qualifying line Saturday as the clock for qualifications ran out.

"It's kind of sad and I'm sure for a lot of fans it's disappointing,” said Garrett Muhlstadt from Mooresville as he donated blood. “But I think it's just so cool how he handled the whole thing. He's just moving on and not letting it get him down."

"I've had bad days in the real world and so it's real easy for me actually now to put it in perspective,” said Hinchcliffe. “If anything, what happened to me in 2015 makes things like last weekend and other things like that a lot easier to deal with."

Three years ago, on the Monday after Indy 500 qualifying, Hinchcliffe hit the turn three wall in practice and needed 22 pints of blood to survive his injuries. He’s become an advocate for blood donation since then. He has a five-year goal of creating a mobile blood unit to collect donations at every race on the IndyCar circuit.

While the rest of the drivers set up their cars for race day Monday afternoon, Hinchcliffe and his girlfriend, actress Becky Dalton, were meeting and greeting blood donors.

“Don't get me wrong,” said Hinchcliffe. I'm an advocate of the cause. But at the end of the day it would be nice to be in the race."

Rae Ann Panther from Bunker Hill, Indiana, wore an autographed Hinchcliffe t-shirt and hat as she lay flat on a medical cot. She got light-headed during her donation.

"I closed my eyes for a second and I opened them and 'James Hinchcliffe! Oh God! Now I know I'm dead.' He just gave me that smile and when I realized I wasn't dead, it was probably one of the most thrilling things in my life,” said Panther. "Maybe he's not going to be in the 500. But he's a champion in our hearts."