James Hinchcliffe describes breakthrough victory on Friday at Barber Motorsports Park

Mark Vidreiro

James Hinchcliffe won the IndyCar Series season-opener at St. Petersburg. He described the emotions of his first-career victory and the pressure it adds to his season on Friday prior to Grand Prix of Alabama practice.

LEEDS, Ala. -- James Hinchcliffe hasn't had a lot of time to celebrate since winning his first IndyCar Series race two weeks ago at St. Petersburg. Fellow driver Sebastien Bourdais planned a small get-together on the night after his breakthrough but a 7 a.m. wake-up call the next day -- for media obligations -- cut any celebration considerably shorter than probably deserved.

"A lot of drivers showed up," Hinchcliffe said. "And a lot of the crews actually got their flights cancelled because of snow in Indianapolis, so it was nice. A lot more people than originally planned got to be around on Sunday night and got to catch up with some people. It was good. It was low-key, but it was good."

Now his attention has shifted to this weekend's Honda Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park.

One would think that the pressure is off now that Hinchcliffe has finally won in the IndyCar Series, but that's not the case according to the Andretti Autosport driver, who says he's adding pressure on himself to repeat his performance the rest of the season.

"The external pressure has come down a little bit," Hinchcliffe said. "But now my internal expectations have gone up. ... Now that I've won a race, I think to myself, ‘I've done it. I still know how hard it is and it's just as hard as it was before, but now I know I can do it and I want to do it again.'

"Luckily I'm, obviously, with a great team and I think we're going to find ourselves in a position to battle for more wins this season."

Hinchcliffe is still finding it difficult to describe the emotions he felt after taking the checkered flag at St. Petersburg. He says he didn't accept that it was going to happen until he drove off the last corner and saw the checkered flag -- that's when it became real.

"It's that thrill of the moment adrenaline rush and screaming in the helmet," Hinchcliffe said. "And then when I crossed the line, I was overwhelmed with emotions and spent a good chunk of the cool-down lap bawling my eyes out.

"It's tough to admit, but it's the truth. It was the culmination of a very long journey that me and my family and the people who supported me have been on for the last 17 years. To do it the way we did it and where we did it. There were a lot of things that added up to being a very emotional and special day."

Hinchcliffe is hoping to get back as soon as possible, so he can better describe how it feels. But for now, he's going to hold onto the memory and work as hard as possible to follow-up. And after posting the second-fastest overall time in preseason testing at Barber, Hinchcliffe appears poised to make an honest run at two-straight Sunday in Alabama.

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