He's armed with a higher level of confidence and it's paying off with a breakout season. The subtle change in his mental approach is something Hinchcliffe really noticed just before picking up his second victory in four races last weekend in Brazil.
"I think that the biggest thing is just knowing yourself that you can do it," Hinchcliffe said Wednesday from Indianapolis. "That you've been in that position and you came out on top."
The 26-year-old driver from Oakville, Ont., saw an opening on the last turn of the final lap at the Sao Paulo 300 and took advantage.
He squeezed past Japan's Takuma Sato for the win.
"That little extra bit of confidence — it doesn't affect anything in the weekend up to that point," he said. "It doesn't change the way you practise, it doesn't change the way you qualify, it doesn't change the way the first seven-eighths of the race go.
"But if you find yourself in a position to be fighting for the win in that last couple of laps, just having done it and having been in that position, you just know you can do it. Whether or not it falls your way on that day or not, you never have that doubt. I think that's very important."
The Canadian recorded his first win March 24 in the season opener at St. Petersburg, Fla. He's now fourth in the driver standings behind Sato, Andretti Autosport teammate Marco Andretti and Helio Castroneves.
"I think such a big part of it is being able to come back with the same team for the second year in a row and know the guys that I'm working with right off the bat," Hinchcliffe said of his recent success. "It really let us hit the ground running."
Hinchcliffe was named rookie of the year in 2011 after picking up three top-five finishes with Newman/Haas Racing. He added five more top-five results last year with Andretti.
Next up is the Indianapolis 500 on May 26.
"It's good to have got that one sort of tangible goal out of the way (with the win)," he said. "Now for us it's really just about being consistent. We want to keep being competitive week in and week out.
"We want to keep having mistake-free races. I think if we do that, we might find ourselves in a good position come the end of the year. It's still just about learning for me."
Hinchcliffe started racing in karting competitions over a decade ago. In 2003, he competed in the Bridgestone Racing Academy F2000 Series.
It was a steady rise from there, with the affable Canadian moving up to the Atlantic Championship and Firestone Indy Lights before jumping to IndyCar in 2011.
So now that he has two wins under his belt, what's next?
"Who knows? This sport is so fickle, there are so many elements that are outside of a driver's control that it's really tough to set specific goals career-wise," he said. "I hope to have a long career in this sport. I love IndyCar racing.
"It was always my dream to get here so now it's my dream to stay here as long as possible."
Hinchcliffe said he's still got a lot to learn and gets "another lesson" every weekend he races. He wants to build on that knowledge and continue to make progress regardless of the results.
"My biggest thing is I want to leave this sport with the respect of the people that I respect in it," he said. "I think that's one thing that no matter what kind of position you're in — good team, lower-end team, winning races or finishing 20th — that's something that you can control."Suggest a correction