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Hinchcliffe ready to race childhood hero Villeneuve at Indy 500

Feb 27, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT

Jacques Villeneuve will be making his first return trip to Indianapolis since winning there in 1995 -- and only his third race ever there -- for this year's Indy 500. AP

During his time in the IndyCar Series, James Hinchcliffe has shown that he respects those that have raced before him.

We all know about his deep respect in particular for late Canadian driver Greg Moore, which we see every weekend in the cockpit as he wears a pair of red driving gloves like Moore did.

Then there’s Hinchcliffe’s paint job on his No. 27 United Fiber and Data Honda, which appears to somewhat echo Moore’s classic Player’s No. 99 Champ Car.

But as a proud Canadian, Hinchcliffe was also a big fan of Jacques Villeneuve, who himself took a Player’s-backed machine to the 1995 Indianapolis 500 and CART titles before he went on to the F1 World Championship in 1997.

Now, almost 20 years after his “500” win, Villeneuve is heading back to the Brickyard this May as the third driver for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

Since the news first broke Monday, fans have debated over why Villeneuve is returning and whether it’s a good thing (he’s certainly a marquee name) or a bad thing (he hasn’t raced an open-wheel car since 2006).

But Hinchcliffe, for one, is happy for the apparent time warp.

“Selfishly, I am kind of happy he is going to try it,” Hinchcliffe said to the Toronto Sun’s Dean McNulty on Wednesday while making the media rounds in his hometown.

“He was one of my heroes growing up. I was part of the Jacques Villeneuve fan club – I got my letter every month through his IndyCar years and his F-1 years.”

That said, he’s not exactly sure why one of his childhood idols has chosen to go for it one more time in the “500” after such a long layoff from IndyCar racing.

“As a Canadian, it is going to be fun to race against one of my heroes,” he added to the Sun. “But as far as why he is doing it, it is beyond me, man.”

Villeneuve appeared to give an insight into that matter yesterday, when he mentioned the desire to race for his children in a teleconference.

“I don’t want to be for my kids just the guy that used to race, that they can see in books,” he said. “I want them to see and live what I’ve already lived, to see it through my doing it actively. It’s actually a positive effect to have kids.”

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