Indycar Season Preview, Part II: Teams That Should Improve

Here are four teams I think should show improvement over their 2019 performance. They are presented in no particular order.

Meyer Shank Racing

Michael Shank has finally reached his dream of a full time entry in the NTT Indycar Series.  Jack Harvey did well early in 2019 when the team ran virtually every race, culminating in a podium at the Indycar Grand Prix. When the team had a gap before their next race, their performance dropped off. The consistency of a full season will help the team do well in 2020.

Not hurting their chances is the technical alliance with Andretti Autosport. Colton Herta had this same arrangement last year, and he did all right.  Harvey had three top 10s in his first six races. He was 13th in points after the Indianapolis 500. I think he may have moved up a spot or two had he run every race in 2019.

Arrow McLaren SP

On the surface, it appears this team is doing everything the wrong way. They signed a rookie driver and one with eight races of experience. In the process, they fired their most veteran driver. They are bringing in a new engineering staff. Even the ownership has seen a shakeup. In the team’s favor is that all of the new pieces have a lot of talent.

Rookie Oliver Askew is a steady driver. The 2019 Indy Lights champion is  focused and analytical behind the wheel. Pato O’Ward had a roller coaster season bouncing from series to series. I think he will show his appreciation for having a full time ride. Both drivers were in the top 10 at Spring Training.

The third element that will help AMSP is engineer Craig Hampson, who joined the team after working with Sebastien Bourdais. Hampson and Bourdais won several championships together, and the pair gave the Dale Coyne team some relevance. The team may need a race or two to get their footing, but I think they will have enough good results to call their season successful.

From Yesterday- https://thepitwindow.blog/2020/02/27/indycar-season-preview-part-i-coyne-foyt-carlin-look-to-improve/

Rahalk Letterman Lanigan

This group seems to always be looking for consistency. Graham Rahal said on Content Day, “When we were strong at a track, both of ttling battling tus were strong. When we struggled at a track, both of us struggled.”

Takuma Sato was ninth in the final standings and Rahal finished tenth. They are not that far off from moving up in the top 10. Sato won twice and earned two poles. Rahal started on the front row at Barber but was sidelined by mechanical problems. It was a steady season for two drivers who still weren’t satisfied.

RLL should have a few better race results, but moving up in the final standings may be difficult battling the three teams that make up half the grid. Both drivers can win a race and I could see that happening in 2020.

Ed Carpenter Racing

The oval program is solid, especially at Indianapolis. Two spots on the front row last year and three poles in the 500 are a great qualifying record. The team is still looking to improve their road and street course performance. I think they are on their way to doing just that.

The road/street team of Conor Daly and rookie Rinus VeeKay are capable of turning the  team’s fortunes around. Daly seems to make any car he drives better. With a full season at the same team ECR should improve as the year goes on. VeeKay, the Indy Lights runner-up needs to focus his energy and adapt quickly to the nuances of Indycar. He is a talented, consistent driver.

How many more seasons will Ed Carpenter drive the oval races? Only Ed knows that answer. His runner-up finish at Gateway last August shows he isn’t ready to step out of the car yet. I think in a couple of years he will cut back to Indy only, but for now there isn’t any good reason to stop.

A good season for this team on the road courses would be some second round qualifying results and a few top ten race finishes. The talent is there. I can see this team putting it together, especially after Indianapolis.

 

Monday I’ll preview the Big Three. Tomorrow- a summary of all the great news that happened this week in Indycar.

Alonso Goes “Home” for Indianapolis 500 Ride

The announcement from McLaren:

https://www.mclaren.com/racing/team/arrow-mclaren-sp-and-fernando-alonso-join-forces-104th-indianapolis-500

Thoughts

I hope this team has its act together this year. Missing the race two consecutive years would be embarrassing.

Interesting that Alonso had a former Andretti sponsor on board.

We probably won’t see the same level of Fernandomania this time around. It’s great to have a former F1 champion enter the race, but I think the buzz of 2017 is totally gone.

What a strange relationship Alonso and McLaren have.

I hope fellow countryman Oriol Servia joins the entry list as well.

From Earlier:

A Bonus for Fans and penalties for the Grid: More Changes for 2020

https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/90591962/posts/2601821392

 

Arrow McLaren SP Liveries: A Taste of Mclaren and a Somewhat Retro Look; Carlin Returns

Arrow McLaren SP revealed their liveries for 2020. The number 5 car which Pato O’Ward will drive and the 7 of Oliver Askew have different color front end plates which will help fans tell the cars apart. The gold cockpit surround of last year has been replaced by papaya orange. I really like the number fonts. The majority of number fonts in the NTT Indycar Series have become rather generic, mainly block numbers in various colors. The fonts for this team are dynamic.

The orange and blue accents are a familiar scheme for McLaren, whose founder Bruce McLaren drove cars with these colors.

The design reminds me of Raul Boesel’s Duracell car of the early 90s, and it also has a hint of the MGD Light car. It’s always nice to have a bit of a retro appearance. The highlight of the reveal was when Mike Long said the new 5 year out plan is to get Robert Wickens back in a car. The technology is there and improving.. What an amazing day that will be for Indycar and Wickens.

screenshot_20200207-1309106966983911230427466.png
Oliver Askew’s #7
wp-15810987366212706208247986647057.png
Pato O’Ward’s #5

The aeroscreen seems less intrusive on theses cars than it does on some other entries. I am anxious to get an in person look at all the cars next Tuesday at COTA.

 

Carlin, Chilton Return

Carlin Racing also announce today that Max Chilton will be back in the 59 car with Gallagher sponsorship. Chilton will drive all road and street courses and the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500. There was no mention of a second car or whether someone else would drive the other four ovals. Carlin plans to have two cars at Spring Training next week.

 

Spring Training Schedule and Streaming

Spring Training from COTA will be streamed next Tuesday and Wednesday on the Indycar Mobile App and Indycar.com.

The schedule (all times Eastern):

Tuesday

11 am-1 pm

2:30 pm-6:30 pm

Wednesday

10 am- Noon

1 pm-5 pm

I’m will be on site Monday and Tuesday. look for my Spring Training preview this weekend and updates Monday and Tuesday.

 

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.