NEW YORK — James Hinchcliffe once likened Indianapolis Motor Speedway to a cruel mistress.

A few days ago, he found out just how cruel when he was bumped from the race that means the most to him – and really, any IndyCar driver.

One of the circuit’s most popular competitors and a likely contender for the overall championship, Hinchcliffe and his No. 5 car did not make the field for Sunday’s Indianapolis 500. But he isn’t expressing any animosity toward the 21/2 mile oval, however. Nothing even close.

“The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a tricky track, a very temperamental track,” 31-year-old Canadian star said Tuesday. “It is super sensitive to weather and car setup. You can have a perfectly good car one day and roll it in the garage, and the next morning roll out the same car and the thing is trying to kill you.”

Hinchcliffe will be at the track Sunday, helping Indy 500 teammates Robert Wickens, Jay Howard and Jack Harvey in any way possible. He will honor commitments, and recognizes there will be media requests. He will consider them on a “case-by-case basis,” but he has no idea what emotions he will be feeling.

Well, actually, he does.

“I expect Sunday to be one of the hardest days in my career, to be honest,” Hinchcliffe said.

NEARLY THREE decades after Al Unser Jr. and Scott Goodyear played follow-the-leader for the final few laps in 1992, ABC is poised to bring the Indianapolis 500 into homes across the country for the final time.

The 103rd edition is headed to NBC next season, the first time it will air on any other network, as part of a sweeping new multimedia rights package.

It ends an era that began in 1965 with black-and-white, tape-delayed packages, and ushered in color a few years later.

“Every year it becomes one of those benchmark telecasts that I know our network has used to see where the next horizon is, and where we can push that limit of taking people where they’ve never been before,” said Allen Bestwick, who will handle lap-by-lap duties for the fifth time this Sunday.

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