Schmidt: “An Opportunity That We Couldn’t Pass Up.”

Sam Schmidt explained why the newly formed Arrow McLaren SP team decided to go with Pato O’Ward and Oliver Askew  for 2020 and let James Hinchcliffe go.

“…it’s a gut-wrenching decision, but we were faced with an opportunity to pick up these two young guns coming out of Indy Lights that already have 13, 14, 15 years worth of experience…” Schmidt said.

Hinchcliffe is still under contract, which the team will honor. If Hinchcliffe needs a release to drive for another team, it will be granted. Schmidt has no doubt that he will find a ride somewhere.

Robert Wickens is still part of the team as a consultant and driver coach. The car number 6 is still reserved for him, and Schmidt expects him at the majority of races next season. AMSP still has rights to the numbers 5 and 7, but hasn’t determined which driver will will have which number. No decision has been made on who will drive in next week’s aeroscreen test at Sebring.

The drivers are looking forward to their opportunities.  O’Ward has run eight Indycar races and Askew debuts at St. Petersburg. O’Ward is excited to restart in Indycar with a newly organized team.

IndyCar Classic at Circuit of the Americas

Pato O’Ward at Sonoma in his Indycar debut. Photo: Stephen King, Indycar

“I think we’re going to make a really good  team. We’re both hungry for all the success. I think at his point both the team and we are growing, we’re
starting a new chapter in our careers and I think thesky’s the limit. So we’re going to be pushing, pushing, pushing and I know that with hard work and really
dedicating lots of time and thinking into our future and into our season we should be, we should definitely be up there,” O’Ward said.
askew
Oliver Askew at Indianapolis. Photo from OliverAskew.com
Askew added, “I’m very excited to be partnering with Pato for 2020. I think we both get along very well and we have a very, like you said, a very similar driving background and very similar driving style coming from the Indy Lights car and working with Andretti Auto Sport as well. Our — we have the same drive to be successful, as does the team, and we plan on working very closely with one another to help each other grow and help each other get better in the series.”
The team plans to run a third car at the 104th Running of the Indianapolis 500 as they have done for the past 12 years. Fernando Alonso “remains an option” but nothing is confirmed.

My Thoughts

AMSP could be an exciting team to watch in 2020. We have an idea of what O’Ward can do, and I’m interested to see how Askew adapts to Indycar.

The team has a lot of PR work to do with the fans. I think they could have handled the Hinchcliffe situation better, but this is a business, and tough personnel decisions happen a lot.

McLaren especially needs to demonstrate that they can run an Indycar team properly after last year’s Indianapolis debacle.

While Schmidt seemed to be the team’s lead spokesman during the teleconference today, I still wonder how much he and Ric Peterson will be involved in 2020 and beyond. I’d feel better if their names were more a part of the the team name and logo.

An Arrow Through the Heart

I just love it when I have an article in mind and have to do a 180 degree spin in the middle of a turn. As I began setting up my post on the current status of the 2020 NTT Indycar Series grid, the grid experienced a seismic change. James Hinchcliffe, one of the most popular drivers in the paddock, lost his seat at Arrow McLaren SP. The team will announce Oliver Askew and Pato O’Ward as their drivers for next season. The news from Racer magazine’s Marshall Pruett and Robin Miller around 9:15 Monday night sent an earthquake of outrage through the Indycar fan community.

There have been whispers since Labor day that Hinchcliffe’s job was in jeopardy. The rumors persisted despite team owner Sam Schmidt saying at Portland that Hinch would be back with the team.  Everyone knew Marcus  Ericsson would not be back and that the team was interested in O’Ward. In the last month, Askew entered the picture.  My thought was they will pick one of the two rookies and keep Hinch for his experience.  Now, we have essentially a combined new team consisting of  McLaren, which didn’t qualify for the Indianapolis 500 in 2019 and Arrow Schmidt Peterson, which barely squeaked in.

Hinchcliffe’s choices of a ride are very limited.  His Honda choices are cars that  currently don’t exist. Dale Coyne looks committed to Santino Ferrucci’s return in the 19. Coyne has said he will not run a third car and is not interested in an alliance. Ganassi has talked about a part time  fourth car. I’m not sure that interests Hinchcliffe. Rahal has third car in mind but is still looking for funding.  Hinchcliffe and Honda Canada probably don’t have enough money to pull that deal together. Will HPD help? Rahal seems like the best fit at this moment on the Honda side. Hinchcliffe needs to stay in a Honda car for a couple reasons I’ll discuss in a minute.

Chevy rides available are Carlin, Foyt, and the Ed Carpenter road course only car. None of these rides are great options for him other than keeping Hinchcliffe in the series.

The Honda Indy Toronto may take a bit of a hit without a Canadian driver on the grid. Hinchcliffe’s contract with Honda Canada and his Honda commercials in the United states are also on the line here. On a fan basis, Hinchcliffe is a good river who can races, he’s generous with is time, and ha a sense of humor the paddock and the fans enjoy. He has always taken time to talk to me and i appreciate his time.

Conor Daly may be squeezed out of the paddock again. He was looking to be the last driver left with a decent amount of experience.  Now there is a six time race winner on the market who has had a full time ride for several years.

I really like O’Ward and Askew. I hope they have  great seasons next year. . At the same time, I will  find it hard as a fan to root for Arrow McLaren SP as a team. McLaren has entered the team and from my view, they have been a PR disaster already. The new logo left me cold with its starkly corporate look and the exclusion of the SP from the official team name. While I understand the business side of choosing drivers, Hinchcliffe could have been told a month ago and had more time to put something together.

It is sad to see what looked to be a rising team that in 2018 seemed to have found its soul when Robert Wickens joined but  lost it in his’ horrific crash at Pocono that summer and never found it again.

 

 

New Name, New Logo – Thoughts

The name change is now official. 2019’s Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports is now Arrow McLaren SP. The new logo above was published via twitter this morning.   I find the logo rather blah. It is simply a block A with the bar bent to resemble an M.

Sam Schmidt founded the team after his racing career ended after a practice crash in Texas left him a quadriplegic.  After success with his Indy Lights program, Schmidt has been a full time team in the NTT Indycar Seriessince 2011. I understand it’s a business deal, but I think Schmidt deserves  more recognition in the team name and logo.

The logo does not give any recognition to Sam Schmidt or Rick Peterson. Even the new team name gives the original team owners little recognition.  I would have thought companies like Arrow and McLaren together could have come up with a more dynamic looking symbol for their team. This just doesn’t say this is a racing organization to me.

Arrow McLaren SP has not announced the driver of its second car, although pato O’Ward is now the front runner for that seat. As of now James Hinchcliffe is still in the number 5 car.