Driven to Fail Podcast #2: James Hinchcliffe on near-death at 220 mph and more


What do you do when a dream isn’t working? Would you leave a big-league life behind for a chance to be happy?

Last week, Hagerty launched a new podcast, Driven to Fail. The show is about what happens when things go wrong—what we do when life falls apart, and what we learn while trying to put it back together. Each episode is about an hour in length, a candid and revealing conversation with a single guest.

I’m Sam Smith, the host. You can read more about the show and find a YouTube version of the first episode here.

Episode 2 begins streaming today. Our guest is James Hinchcliffe—a former IndyCar driver, a broadcaster for NBC Sports and Formula 1, and one of the nicest guys in Indianapolis.

Eight years ago, a 220-mph crash at Indy drove a suspension tube clear through Hinchcliffe’s leg and femoral artery. He lost 60 percent of his blood and came close to death but recovered fully and worked his way back to the cockpit. A few years later, he watched from that seat as a teammate and childhood friend was paralyzed in another violent crash.

Hinchcliffe has since wrapped his head around a lot. How that friend’s driving talent set IndyCar afire in a way that his own efforts simply didn’t, for example. But also what it feels like to walk away from something you’ve worked for your entire life. How brutal honesty can be vital in a course change. And what it really takes, once you reach the top of a game, to stay there.

Driven to Fail can be downloaded or streamed wherever you get your podcasts. This link will take you to the show’s Apple page. Its home on Spotify is here.

If faces are more your thing, video of each episode appears on the Driven to Fail YouTube channel shortly after the audio release.

If try our show and like it, please tell your friends. Even better, share a link or leave a positive review. This project is something of a trial balloon, and a warm response would help make a second season happen, so hearing from you matters.

Barring any of that, feel free to drop me a line directly: I always love hearing your thoughts.

Thanks for listening!




Note: This episode’s intro segment, recorded at time of interview, gives Hinchcliffe’s age as 35. Production delays postponed the episode’s release, however, and he is now 36. We apologize for any confusion.

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    In Indy car there are two types of drivers. Those what have it the wall and those who are going to hit the wall.

    Crashing is what separates those who want to race and those who have to race.

    The drive is different for all as you can have a guy just crash once and walk away or someone like AJ Foyt that has come close to death and paralysis but if he he could he would get in a car tomorrow to race.

    I hate to say it it takes a strong drive and a little crazy to get back in.

    I have noticed of late many drivers walking away early most with head injuries.

    I also think the death of Dale Earnhardt has gotten many to realize they have families and a lot of life off the road to live.

    I listen to many podcasts as part of my daily evening ritual (bourbon and a nice Nicaraguan cigar). Last evening I listened to the first episode, with Jason Vines. First, why haven’t I heard of this man? My fault no doubt. He’s a genuine superhero. Second, you were a topnotch interviewer, which was no surprise. You subordinated yourself, but you didn’t toss softballs. Each of us will have a favorite part of the exchange, but I most appreciated your working him into talking about his family life. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I, too, clean my bathroom with Scrubbing Bubbles.

    From Hagerty’s viewpoint, have they found your highest and best use? Thing is, you are the master of many trades. I prefer your narratives about people and places, others clearly like your machine porn best. Your self-deprecation is welcome to average car Joes like me, but is never mawkish. So I hope you will continue to wear many hats.

    As for production values, I had trouble hearing you, even at the highest volume adjustment. There was one brief moment when suddenly your voice rose to perfect clarity, but that wave ebbed. I’ll listen to the second episode this evening, and maybe the problem — if it is a problem — will be fixed. I am an ancient man who wears hearing aids, but the aids have excellent Bluetooth capability, and usually I have to turn the volume down.

    OK, anyone who keeps up with your pieces knows I’m a huge fan of yours. What they may not know is that I am capable of turning on you like a jackal if I think you’re dogging it. Forewarned is forearmed! 🙂

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